According to Expat Expert Robin Pascoe, the trailing spouse is “the ultimate portable wife, and probably a mother too. […] She is also the last person anybody really thinks about until all the clean underwear runs out.”
And she would know. As the trailing spouse of a Canadian diplomat, the author lived in Bangkok (where she gave birth to their first child), Taipei, Beijing, and Seoul, with re-entries in Canada in between, and a final move to Vancouver, British Columbia, all in a span of 15 years.
In this revised and updated edition of the book that first came out in 1992, Robin Pascoe shares her extensive experience, along with the lessons learned (often the hard way) with the reader, taking us through all the stages of a move abroad, from the preparations and research about the host country, the arrival and the various stages of culture shock all the way to the return home.
Chapters have telling titles like “Pre-Moving Day Jitters,” Making the Cultural Transition,” “Maids and Madams,” and “Home Leave to Hell,” with short, but always informative entries like “Why Did I Come?”, The Absent Husband,” “Your Children and Household Help,” “Doctor Disasters,” etc.
On the cover of the book, Robin sits in what looks like a huge box attached to a bicycle, an open packing box on the pavement next to her, in a street of Amsterdam. She’s ready to go. As all trailing spouses usually are, carrying so many conflicting emotions, along with their passports, and whatever belongings they’ve chosen to take across the world.
Robin’s talent lies in her ability to express feelings in a way that is at once honest, sensible and witty. She says it the way it is, which is what I love about her, and most likely what appeals to the enormous following she’s created over her years of writing and talking about expatriation. The chapter where she tackles the very sensitive issue of culture shock is a must-read for anyone even remotely concerned with expatriation.
A Broad Abroad is an essential book for any expat’s wife (and if you have children, Raising Global Nomads by the same author – interview, here – is another indispensable book to have and read, over and over again). Whether you’re new to the “job” or old-timers, you will not only find practical and useful everyday advices, but also, and here comes Robin Pascoe’s invaluable gift to us, the kind of empathy that we all so desperately need while facing the turmoils and challenges that go hand in hand with the joys and beauty of living the expatriate life – a voice that says: Don’t you worry. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I am telling you: you’re NOT crazy.