Younger expat / repat kids can sometimes make an innocent comment in front of relatives or family friends back home that will expose the stark differences of their expat life (and leave their parents cringing).
Where’s the driver?
When one expat family returned home to Europe for summer, they visited some relatives, who suggested taking a walk in the countryside. A great idea, the family agreed. But when it started to rain, the youngest expat child, used to being chaperoned from his expat compound to an international school, whined: “Daddy – where’s the driver?” The other kids were floored: “You… have your own driver? Like, a chauffeur?”
So much help
It will always feel awkward when your child abruptly draws attention to the apparent privileges of expat life without giving any context. A repat mother told us that she once overheard one of her kids talking to a friend’s son who was super excited about having just flown on a plane for the first time. The repatriated kid, who after many years flying long haul, and the occasional upgrade (thanks to all the air miles the family had accumulated), blithely replied: “Business class or economy?” When the local kid didn’t understand, the repat kid said: “Well, when you entered the plane, did you turn right, or left?”
Sometimes expat / repat parents might also realise that their kids appear rather naïve when it comes to very basic matters in their home country. Using public transport. Going to the shops to get groceries. Washing dishes. One serial expat partner told us her son (having lived in spacious villas in compounds all around the world) wanted to know why the houses in his grandparents’ neighbourhood were ‘all attached’. Mum’s razor sharp conclusion: “My kids are world-wise, but not so streetwise.”
A little prep-talk?
Is there anything parents can do, but cringe? Sure, you can do your best to explain to friends / family that drivers are necessary for security / safety reasons; or that employing a domestic contributes to the local community. But it might be more prudent to discuss some of the differences your kids might observe or experience in advance. The more they can visualise the differences, the less likely it is they will say (very loudly) something like: “Mum, dad – why doesn’t uncle Tom have a swimming pool in the back garden?”
This article was originally published for the thousands of expat partners that Global Connection supports around the globe. It is reproduced here in its original form.