Old Ex-Pat Blues
“I woke up this morning
My woman and my dog were gone
The pick-up truck won’t start again
And I ain’t got no whiskey,
Sure do miss that dog.”
A caricature, for sure (and I don’t even like dogs) but these are some thoughts on having lived as an ex-pat and the difficulties on returning to ‘mainstream’ life. They may not be inappropriate in view of Stick’s recently expressed views as to his future and a feeling I have picked up recently from several of the more venerable Stick posters.
I lived as an ex-pat for five years (2005 – 2010) after a ‘conventional’ earlier life in the UK. Fairly common story, I think – I was newly retired on a reasonable pension, recently divorced (not stung too badly), kids were adult, and I was young enough (50) and fit enough to make a ‘new life’. I went to Cyprus, which of course has bugger all to do with a South-East Asia (and particularly Thai) centred site except that for the first time I met South-East Asian ladies (Filipinas for the most part but also a TGF). The results of those encounters have been recounted here and there’s no need to go over them again, except to update that UK Border Agency have lived up to their reputation and my ex-wife #2 (a Filipina lady) is now apparently back in the UK with her new husband. Is there such a word a ‘trigamous’?
My experiences as an ex-pat were, I think, similar to those of many. Friends and family ‘back home’ couldn’t understand why I should want to pack my world into a suitcase and move away – but many were envious. I was heading for a life of sun, cheaper beer and no responsibilities.
And the life was good to start with – sun, cheaper beer and no responsibilities. In common with ex-pats anywhere, I assume, I met the good, the bad and the ugly. I met many people from countries and cultures that I wouldn’t have done had I retained my comfortable life in the UK. This includes, of course, Filipina ladies and the TGF, and there’s no doubt that my behaviour was influenced by being an ex-pat in a different world. Caution was cast to the winds and some thinking with the wrong part occurred, I admit. But it was all experience, and all experience is valuable.
I returned to the UK at Christmas 2010 with my ‘new but slightly used’ Filipina wife to re-settle here. It didn’t work out (as previously recounted here) and since then I’ve lived here – but I’m thinking of moving on again.
It’s hard to explain, but in many ways I just don’t feel that I ‘fit in’ any more in the society I left. I returned to the small town I left and many of my contemporaries stayed here, are still working, married, have their homes coming to the end of their mortgages, etc. They, of course, have something I don’t – stability. Whether they want it or not, and whether it’s something I want, is a different matter. I live in a very nice rented house on which I can give 30 days notice, have an adequate pension which I can draw anywhere in the world, and that’s what sets us apart.
There’s also the state of mind, of course, which is probably the biggest difference. I suggest that being prepared to go off somewhere and live as an ex-pat stands us apart from those who have contemplated (dreamed?) of doing it but for whatever reason never did it.
And the experiences – no, of course, they weren’t always good but they were different. I made some stupid mistakes with women (as many ex-pats seem to do) but I don’t regret for one moment having made love to some beautiful women I would have never have met, and in circumstances I would never have encountered, had I not ‘taken the plunge’.
And perhaps that’s part of the reason why it's difficult to ‘fit back in’ after being an ex-pat. I don’t tend to talk too much of my experiences, but they’re there. Male friends want to ask (sometimes they do) what it’s like to make love with a South-East Asian lady 20+ years your junior, is it true what they say about Thai women (I don’t know, what do they say?). Women tend not to say anything, but they give looks which vary between ‘How could you?’ and ‘I wonder if you learned anything which could give me my first orgasm for many years?’. (‘Every case is treated on its individual merits, madam’.)
But the biggest single difference is that you have (or had) the cojones to give it a try, when so many dream of it.
And then there’s the settling back down again. I try, I really do, but having done it once I know that I can do it again, at least while my age and health permit it. I’m currently contemplating a move to France. I definitely wouldn’t move somewhere accessible only by air again. I have some options in mind and it would take very little to bung some essentials in the car and go…
Is it just me or is it ‘once an ex-pat, always an ex-pat even if only mentally’?
I think there is something in the expat lifestyle which makes it addictive in the same way that international travel i.e. long-term travel i.e. "being on the road" is. Once you have experienced one set of exotic sights, sounds, smells and tastes, you yearn for more – and you know that wherever you go next you will discover more. It might not be exactly what you're looking for but serendipity is addictive and it's hard to give it up… Some are aghast that I will be leaving Thailand within 12 months and when I try and explain that it's not Thailand I am hooked on, but the discovery of a new place, a new people, a new language and going through the whole learning experience again they just look at me like I am crazy to even contemplate leaving their idea of paradise.