x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Straddling two worlds, an expat wife tries to keep her balance

My Life: There is never really a moment to feel at ease when home is in two very different places, and keeping hold of your identity can get confusing.

Life as an expat wife is deemed to be rather enviable, viewed from the outside, particularly when the posting is somewhere such as Abu Dhabi. The sun always shines. The maid and the driver are always on hand to dispel the menial tasks. The shopping is amazing and the parties endless.

But the reality is of course different, especially if you spend a great deal of time travelling backwards and forwards to your Other World, where you singlehandedly try to keep the pretence of a normal existence going for the sake of the dependants in your family, and where you run the homestead for the time in the fictional future when you might land there again as a unit.

It demands the ability to shed skins, and to don the attire and the attitude to fit the role of the day.

Don't imagine that all those friends back home are lining up to listen to your tales of gaspingly outrageous exhibitions of wealth that you have witnessed, or that they will be impressed by how many evenings of fine dining that you have had in your absence. They will instead be talking among themselves about the latest local scandal and the horror of their inefficient commute, how they dealt with the excesses of their teenage offspring and how much their latest oil bill was. So you quickly cover up your suntan, put on your Wellington boots and get out with them to walk in the woods.

Once back behind the pile of unattended maintenance issues, you soon don extra layers of clothes without thinking, renew your acquaintance with the heating system and sigh resignedly at sitting alone yet again at the school concert. Before you know it, the phone begins to ring with invitations to participate in local charity events, and you are asked to play in the tennis league. Your chic haircut has grown out and the beautifully manicured nails are chipped from working in the vegetable garden.

You feel back in the swing - meaning it must be time to depart again.

Your friends are unimpressed by your protestations at being uprooted from the planting schemes in the garden, or the projects on the house, as they gaze enviously at your suitcase packed for the sun.

As you land back in the heat, the contrast never fails to hit you and you wonder if you can locate the necessary kit to re-enter the World of the Expat.

Will you be in touch with the issues of the day over here? Have there been contracts signed in your absence, deals secured?

Where is the skin you need to make your reappearance seamless? You find it and head off to deal with those chipped nails before attending the first dinner, where your support is required and your smiles expected.

An invitation arrives to an exclusive opportunity, and you realise the advantages that your posting to a foreign land brings. Your photo albums are rich with the images of wonderful trips and events that your neighbours back home can only read about in glossy magazines, and you find yourself chatting around the dinner table to people from worlds that you couldn't imagine yourself accessing.

You reach for the phone to call your friend to share thoughts on the event but remember that she has moved on to her next posting.

So off to prepare for the next reception. What are the requirements for this one? If only you could remember in which wardrobe you left that favourite shirt, and in which drawer you put the real you...

Jane Goodhue is the wife of an expatriate businessman in Abu Dhabi.