An interview with EXPAT WOMAN.com
Updated: Jun 2
After many years as an expat, where is home to you now?
"Home is where my family is and where I live. Home is where I decorate my house as if I was going to stay there for life. 25 years ago, we arrived in Africa with a few boxes, we were not even engaged. I had followed my boyfriend out of love and curiosity, it was the beginning of an adventure for two, the beginning of our expatriate life. We had an allowance to decorate our house, we managed to find local artisans. From Africa, we moved to Indonesia with our first real move and so on until today, six countries later. Our home tells the story of our life, our adventures, our experiences. Each object has its own story, it represents a specific memory of our expatriation. Our two children were born and raised in this setting, a frame of memories that follows them from country to country, they are naturally attached to it. Nevertheless, we are lucky enough to return to Switzerland and Austria every year and we love to meet our friends and family there. We continue to pass on our values and customs to our children, they both feel Swiss and Austrian and cherish the time we spend there. They are very attached to their cousins and grandparents but are excited to get back to their lives when they return to their room, their friends, their routines."
What was the light bulb moment for you to start working on 'Expat Wife, Happy Life'?
"A New Year's discussion where everyone had to share their projects for 2021. I found my answer bland and boring. The reflection made its way and I imagined a real challenge: to find a way to share my rich experience of life in expatriation and especially that it be useful to other aspiring or current expatriates. Both the podcast and the blog impressed me. By process of elimination, I concluded that I would write a book. The book would be in English, easy to read and accessible to any expat regardless of their level of English. English is the primary language of communication in the expat world."
What is one key lesson that you want your readers to remember the most from your book?
"In reading readers' reviews, we observe that each reader relates to different messages in the book. This is explained by our uniqueness. We all react in very personal ways to the situations we encounter. This comes from our own life experience, culture, beliefs etc. However, what brings us together is that we all have to deal with emotions, frustrations and we face many similar challenges. I know that some readers have read it twice because their life situations had changed and their questions were not the same anymore. I think that expatriation is an important life decision and that it is not for everyone. It is a decision that needs to be thought through, discussed and evaluated. Once the decision is made, I would like to encourage the expat to be open minded, positive and appreciate the unique charm of the place."
What is your best writing advice?
"Think about your message and your target audience first. Are you an expert in your field? If it's your first book, get help, it's the safest and fastest way to get it on the shelves of a bookstore! Personally, I could never have written my book without the support of a book coach. I would like to remind you that a book coach does not write your book, she simply guides you from A to Z in the project. She is your "co-pilot", she helps you build your plan, your chapters, identify the most important messages, convey the strongest emotions, select the funny anecdotes. A book coach also helps you to keep a rhythm by encouraging, being present and listening. My contract with Mindy, my book coach, was to write my book in 12 weeks... I knew she had done it with over 400 authors, so she knew her job. From the first meeting, we had a good connection, we trusted each other and we quickly started the project. Once a week, she coached me for an hour per zoom. I would send her my chapters and she would proofread them before the sessions. During the coaching session Mindy would give me feedback on what ideas I had to develop, what she thought was redundant, what she thought was unnecessary for the reader or what was missing. 12 weeks later, my manuscript was written, proofread and ready to go to the publishing house. I take this opportunity to remind our readers that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness!"
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) you experienced for ‘Expat Wife Happy Life’?
"As the subject was entirely within me, I did not do any research. I even avoided doing any research in order to be influenced by ideas that would no longer be mine. The form and content of the book are as authentic as possible. The emotions are mine and the experiences are real. My challenge has been to make this book a positive and reassuring book that invites the reader to think about the themes shared from their own perspective. An exercise that I was able to complete thanks to my experience as an expat coach."
What was the scariest part of the final publishing process for you and the most rewarding?
"Launching a book is a bit like jumping into the lion's den... but my apprehension very quickly gave way to gratitude, enthusiasm and happiness. My friends, at the beginning, and very quickly expatriate women and men, from the four corners of the world, sent me messages filled with empathy and thanks often accompanied by beautiful photos of them reading my book. This enthusiasm gave me wings and confidence. I felt that I had a voice, that my book was useful to a large number of readers, ironically both women and men. I took advantage of this momentum and went further. I recorded podcasts, wrote articles in specialized magazines, participated in summits... These experiences have made me even more aware of the extent and common difficulties faced by partners in the expatriate community. I realized how little support expatriate partners feel from their sending organizations when a little help would make the integration so much easier and faster. So there is still a lot to do..."
Outside of work and family, what do you enjoy doing?
"It's an interesting question but I'm not sure if the answer is what you expected... The truth is that I am living my passion. I have made my family and professional life my happiness bubble. My family is my source of energy and my professional activity is my main occupation by choice. The book, the volunteering I do for international companies or expatriate groups in Dubai, are activities I chose to undertake in order to give back to the expatriate community some of what I myself have received all these years. To this I can add other sources of well-being and balance such as pilates, golf, the sea and many precious moments with friends. In Dubai we are lucky to have a lot of help and facilities. I like to take advantage of this. I also like the dynamics of Dubai and because of the climate I spend a lot of time outside."
What would be one word of advice you'd give for a woman planning to move to Dubai for work?
"Great opportunities don't come along every day. Recognise them and seize them as soon as you have the chance. As Richard Branson quotes: If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later."
Do you have any current projects?
"This year has also made me realize that even if one loves to read, language remains a barrier and one prefers to read in one's mother tongue: so I have some good news to spread around the world: the book is being translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German. I am still looking for translators for Italian and other languages."
Without spoiling too much for new readers, what is your favourite line from the book and why is it so?
“I am busy being happy!” "These words are those of a friend of mine whom I had asked how she felt in her new host country. This answer totally resonated with me as I felt both the effort and the positive state of mind she was putting into making this new adventure joyful and successful.