Book Review – “Expat Women: Confessions”

I was contacted by Suzanne at ExpatWomen.com and asked to review their brand new book – “Expat Women: Confessions”, by Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth.

{ISBN 0980823609, Expat Women Enterprises Pty. Ltd., May 5, 2011, 274 pages}

“Confessions” stems from 50 questions posted by real women struggling with real issues on ExpatWomen.com.  The book covers a wide range of topics and is divided into 6 chapters: (1) Settling In, (2) Career and Money, (3) Raising Children, (4) Relationships, (5) Mixed Emotions, and (6) Repatriation.  Each chapter is further divided into individual sub-topics.  For example, “Settling In” has questions regarding culture shock, how to fit in quickly in your new home, what it’s like to be a “trailing spouse”, and more.  The chapter on relationships addresses questions faced by women who are overseas with their spouse/partner, such as what to do when your husband is the “trailing spouse” and isn’t happy about it, divorce, domestic violence, loneliness in a relationship, and other issues.

“Confessions” functions both as a preparation guide and a reference for those already overseas.  It’s part marriage counselor, part financial adviser, part parenting guru, and part coffee club all rolled up in one book.  The overwhelming theme for its female readers is “you’re not alone, you aren’t the only one going through the struggles of an expat life, and you can do it”.  The authors offer hope for women who are hurting, gentle encouragement for those who are feeling indecisive and unsure, congratulations in light of success, and suggestions and helpful resources for women who have transitioned back to their “passport country”.

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I was a bit hesitant to do this review.  At 38 weeks’ pregnant, it seemed like the last thing that I should be thinking about was adding something else to my “to do” list.  Still, I’d heard about the book on the Expat Women website and was intrigued by it.  The fact that I could get it on my Kindle was an added bonus – instant reading!

I finished the book in about 2 1/2 days.  It’s an easy read, and there were several “confessions” that resonated with me.  Not all of them, but enough to make me feel like this book was relevant to me, a married, American, soon-to-be-new-mom living in New Zealand.  I agreed with much of the advice given and realized that I’d employed several of their suggestions on my own.  For example, making sure to research-research-research before moving overseas.  So important!  I started reading one of the major newspapers online months before moving here so that I would be up to date on local issues.  I studied maps.  I looked at real estate to get an idea of what rentals were costing.  I reached out to other expat bloggers and viewed church websites to see if there were any that we might be interested in attending.  All of this helped me adjust once we made the move, and its the same advice that the authors give to their readers.

The topics on giving up your job or putting it on the back-burner in order to follow a spouse overseas was another “confession” that hit home with me.  I’ve ended up quite happy with my job here, but it was an adjustment at first and I struggled with the differences in healthcare practices.  However, as I’ve mentioned on here before (and as the authors mention in this book), it’s important to give yourself 6 months – 1 year to feel settled in any new situation, and I’m glad that I did that.  It’s turned out to be a great position for me.

The chapter on children struck me particularly.  I’ve wondered about having a baby abroad and what life will be like for our son.  To say that it shouldn’t be that different because, after all, they speak English in New Zealand, is just plain old naive.  New Zealand has a unique and varied culture, and children raised here have different experiences than what I had being raised in the States.  It was good for me to know that other women struggle with this very issue, and I enjoyed reading the suggestions made by the authors.

As I stated before, not all of the “confessions” applied to me, but I came away with the impression that this would be a good book for any expat woman to have on her bookshelf.  You never know when one of those “inapplicable” subjects will suddenly apply – a death overseas, caring for sick parents when you’re thousands of miles away, substance abuse, depression, or some other life crisis.  Even if it doesn’t affect you personally, you may know someone who is dealing with one of these issues and needs advice.  This is a good book to have around in situations like that.

If this review has interested you and you’d like to read the book, then head over to ExpatWomen.com to find out where to purchase a copy of your own.  While you’re there, be sure to check out the “confessions” link, and look up blogs listed in your new country to connect with other women like you.

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In exchange for doing this review, I was provided with an e-copy of the book and will be entered into a promotional drawing.  All of the opinions above are my own 🙂

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