An interview with Cloudhoods - The Women Empowerment Network
Updated: Jun 2
Tell us a bit about you & your journey and why you consider yourself a serial expat?
As a child I was an expat, my father was a hotel manager. At that time, we stayed in French-speaking Europe, except for a short stay in German-speaking Switzerland. It was only when I finished my studies that I went first to Germany and then to England. At the age of 24 I met my future husband, whom I followed to Africa for love. We got married and lived in Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and now my two children and I are based in Dubai but my husband worked first in Pakistan and now in India.
I identify myself as a serial expat, not only because I have traveled the world but mainly because of all the life experiences the daily life has brought me. I sincerely believe that for the expat life to be successful, the expat woman must also make real efforts, some compromises and adopt a certain mindset.
What challenges have you faced as an expat, and how did you overcome them?
I think that the transitional phases are important stressful moments in the life of an expatriate woman. As soon as the announcement of a new expatriation is made in the family, a thousand questions, fears and doubts start to clash in our minds. Whether it is the schools (if we have children), the friends, the family that we will leave behind, the fear of the unknown, the distance, the language that we don't speak, the culture, the food etc... everything that makes the richness of the adventure of a life in expatriation but that is scary at the beginning. Even if none of my expatriations looked like the previous one, with time I started to have my to do list, to know my priorities and my habits, I knew what worked for me and what did not. I organized myself in my own way to live the transitions at my own pace and that of my family. It's important to remember that in these moments, the mother is constantly solicited, she is really the pillar of the family, home is the space where all the emotions are released.
Your book mentions that being an expat is not for everyone. What should people consider before leaving for a new country?
Expatriate life is not just about being a princess on a beach sipping a cocktail... it is a life that also requires a lot of strength, courage and creativity. It requires a lot of effort, concessions, acceptance of things and reinventing ourselves wherever we go.
I think it's important to start by making an exploratory trip to the country where we are going to settle. Come with some clear questions, identify your needs that will be non-negotiable, know what you are willing to give up and, above all, understand the advantages that are offered to you in order to accept the conditions of expatriation.
What advice do you have for couples who have moved recently to the UAE?
We all arrive in Dubai with different life stories. For some Dubai is the umpteenth expatriation, for others it is the first. Everyone's expectations are naturally different. My advice is the same for all arrivals in a new host country: go out there, keep an open mind and give yourself the chance to integrate into your host country by learning the basics of the language (if necessary) and their culture. Keep reinventing yourself, don't compare your life with the last one, live in the moment and above all "have the thrill of discovery"...
Any advice for mothers on how to smoothly plan life transitions such as career moves, schools etc
I have good news for you, you are not alone, many women have gone through the same challenges and the same emotions that will happen to you... This is certainly one of the reasons why social networking groups are so numerous, diverse and easy to access to connect with other expats who have a similar journey and interests to yours. For every question there is a group to exchange with. People like to give advice and there will always be people ready to help you directly or to find the answer to your questions. On your side, the most important thing is to take the first step and reach out to others because no one will come looking for you if they don't know you are there, what your needs are and where to find you.
In Dubai, as everywhere else, there are groups of expat women who meet regularly and have a very diverse programme of activities that allow you to connect with women have similar interests and plans to you.
Tell us a bit about your book " Expat Wife! Happy Life"! How did it come to be?
"Expat Wife! Happy Life, The Journey of a Serial Expat"! was written in 12 weeks at the end of Covid.
It was a project that came together very quickly because the subject had always been with me and I was guided by a book coach. As this was my first time writing and publishing a book, I could never have done it without her support.
Also, I didn't need to do any research, this book is extremely authentic. It brings together two subjects that are very dear to me: life in expatriation and coaching. I share my life experience, my encounters, my challenges and my successes. I also invite the reader to reflect on the themes I share.
In Dubai for 6 years, I felt that my nomadic life was coming to an end. I was afraid I would no longer be connected with this expat world I love so much. This community has always been part of my daily life and it has helped me grow enormously. Instinctively, I felt the need to give back a little of what it has offered me. This book is a bit of therapy, my transition,I pass the baton to other future or current expats who, like me, would have loved to read a similar book at some point in our expatriation. It is a book that reassures, encourages and above all resonates with our lives, our present expatriate lives.
When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
This question makes me smile...
The truth is that I never imagined I would become an author. My idea at the beginning of this journey was to pass on a message, to share my experiences and it is by eliminating other communication tools, that the book remained my best option.
It was my friends who always encouraged me to share my experiences which they found so rich and useful for others. I feel so grateful to have heard them!
During Covid, I read a book in which the author said that she could never have written her book without the help of a book coach. That was the trigger!
As an expat coach by profession, I knew that if I wanted to achieve my dream, I needed help and a book coach was my solution. I soon contacted the same book coach. Her deal was that I would write my book in 12 weeks. I trusted her, I knew she had already published over 400 books on this model. I remained stuck in my chair and wrote for 12 weeks... Once a week I had a coaching session and received the feedback I needed to keep going. As planned, 3 months later the manuscript was written, then came the proofreading, the layout, the cover, the printing and the book was launched on October 8th 2021, my 50th birthday!
Since then I have been living an extraordinary adventure, as I hoped I would, reconnecting with expatriates from all over the world who can relate to my life experiences and state of mind and who are happy to recommend my book to others. Also the adventure is not about to end as I have been asked to translate my book and I am now working on translations in Spanish, Portuguese, German, French and Italian...
Do you ever read your book reviews? How do you deal with positive and negative reviews
I love reading all book reviews, I actually look forward to them! It is for me the most beautiful reward to know that I could touch someone's life with my sharing.
Also, according to the public reviews, the public, both men and women, have received my book very well and the comments are very positive.
Although my book is based on my own experiences, following my background, my encounters, my situation, my life story, this book aims to offer a practical and psychological perspective on what expatriate life is like. I have written this book with the awareness that all expatriates have different life stories and do not all go on expatriation under the same conditions. I have therefore been very careful to address the themes in a way that all expats can relate to.
What is also very important for me is to invite the reader to reflect on the theme I share in his or her own context. That is why at the end of each chapter you will find 3 coaching questions that allow you to think objectively about your situation and your solutions.
Do you have any advice on the process of publishing a book? Have you faced any challenges?
My first advice: if you have a dream, go for it, the stars will eventually align...
The exercise of writing my book is not at all the same as writing a novel. I am not a writer, I simply wanted to convey a message that was dear to me. I chose to write it in English even though I am a French speaker. The reason: to focus on the message and less on the form. You'll understand it very easily, English is very simple, I really wanted to connect with my international reader. I wanted the reader to imagine himself drinking tea with a friend who shares her expatriate memories.
My second piece of advice: get help from an expert! Let yourself be guided! Do your job, they’ll do theirs! My book coach didn't write a single line of my book, but she gave me a plan, feedback and deadlines that made me move forward and achieve my dream. In her contract she included all the steps from writing to publishing and distribution of the book. All that happened in 8 months!
The most important thing is to know your subject and to be willing to commit yourself 100%.