In Expat Life Slice by Slice Apple covers the spectrum of a life spent abroad in thirteen bite size pieces, from giving birth overseas to caring for ageing parents, from looking after pets to raising children, and from friendship to food. And then she brings the cycle full circle by ending with retirement and repatriation, about returning to a 'home' that is unfamiliar. She openly recounts how returning to a former life, one you haven't lived for many years, is tough, as difficult as taking that initial step to an expat life in the first place. However, Apple tells us, the magnitude of repatriation is all too commonly dismissed. It's something I can imagine, but am yet to go through.
She also relays how expat life was before the internet, something that I guess is unthinkable to expats today. She talks about groups that served as her lifeline time after time. She writes about the strains of parenting overseas and education choices, of leaving children behind. She discusses cultures and customs that are hard to stomach.
Apple guides the reader through a well-lived expat life with sometimes incredibly heart wrenching personal anecdotes from her own escapades overseas. In 1980 she lived in the Netherlands, and her daughter Kate was born in Emmen.
Her stories are ones that make you smile, or shed a tear, or sit reading with your mouth open in astonishment. In short, Apple shares the real ups and downs of expat life, and also shows just how many types of and aspects to expat life there are.
At the end of each chapter, she shares a tip, or an overview about an element of expat life - a takeaway slice, as she puts it. Like this one:
"Does it really matter where children grow up as long as they feel secure, loved and listened to? The opportunity for young children to benefit linguistically from early exposure to different languages is surely of huge benefit in later life, as is early exposure to different cultures."
I couldn't agree more. Expat Life Slice by Slice is a fascinating read, particularly if you are what I call a traditional expat, or accompanying partner, moving from one international assignment to another.