Ladies, Ladies, please….

January 18, 2011 — Leave a comment

Ladies, ladies, please…… we must start our meeting, or lunch, or dinner, or knit group or book club. How many times have we heard that entreaty? It doesn’t matter if the group meets in a village hall, a lavish ballroom or a marque. It doesn’t matter if we are in Bangkok or Bangalore, Singapore or Stockholm, and it really doesn’t matter what language it is said in. It is the same worldwide. Women, when we get together, talk!

It is this sisterhood that has proved to be a lifeline for me in posting after posting. As an adult there have been twelve moves and the only one that proved difficult was where there was no lady’s group to prop me up. No friendly face and wise voice to say, it’s okay, your baby will be just fine – give her coconut milk; no older voice to reassure me that it does get easier as I waved goodbye to my husband as he left for a six-week stint on the other side of the world, while I was left holding the baby and the bath, but with no water on a Caribbean island that did not fit the picture of tropical paradise in the guidebooks.

BAMBI, Babies and Mothers Bangkok International, was the first time I actually decided I ought to start giving back, so I joined their committee. It was in their fledgling days though Robin Pascoe ( was there just before me. Our babies were brought into the world by the same doctor, and whose wife started the group. BAMBI recently celebrated 25 years of helping young women cope with the demands of motherhood far from home, wherever that was.

From those baby steps I progressed to the British Women’s Group, fondly known as the Bitches and Witches, also in Bangkok. That was my first exposure to a group of ladies all from the same country. They were caring, supportive and had fabulous lunches at the luxurious hotels around the city on the Chao Phrya. There have been women’s clubs in every other country I’ve lived in and all have supported me with friendships formed, new cultures learned and recipes exchanged.

New expatriate husbands learn very quickly to respect the role of women’s clubs in their spouse’s lives. Women who may not have been seen dead at a WI meeting in the village at home would come to realise it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, a friendly face and voice are sometimes the difference between a successful transition to a new life, and a total fiasco.

Expatriate living sounds wonderfully glamorous to sisters left behind with the soap suds and the ironing. But leaving that sister behind can be one of the biggest wrenches. Who else will put up with your moaning? Who else can you ask the most probing of questions when life plays tricks on you?

Living a global life makes women sisters very quickly. With no family within a twelve hour flight we learn to accept an offer of help, a hand stretched out, with alacrity. A friendship that matures rapidly. There is no time for slow early pleasantries to become deep and intimate conversations. We might not be in the same city, the same country for very long. We have to make the most of our time together.

Goodbyes are hard. Promises to write regularly fall by the wayside as the chaos of packing, unpacking and making new friends while keeping children on track and supporting a husband takes over either life. The intensity of the relationship lessens over the miles and the years, but the memories don’t. And if by chance you happen to bump into one another again in some distant country, at some other women’s club you will pick up just where you left off. A few more grey hairs, a few more hard-earned life lines, a trunkful of experiences that you have to share before one of you moves off again.

It is easier now. Those clubs are still vital as a human link in a new posting, but with the internet came expatriate websites that help prepare us for what’s happening in Tokyo or Toronto. Some like cater just to ladies, though of course men are most welcome to check it out. Four years old today ExpatWomen is now the largest global website helping women abroad with country resource pages, blogs, readers’ stories, and motivational pieces telling stories of women just like you, in a new country trying to make a go of it. Started by two young expatriate women, and now run by one of them, Andrea Martins, it is the go-to website for any woman about to embark on the expatriate trail, or for any woman looking for guidance and a welcoming face at a new posting.

Happy Birthday ExpatWomen, and ladies, ladies, please……

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