This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot, but only now have I found (hopefully) the right way to put it into words. The question I’ve been asking myself is whether expat women experience more judgment than women who don’t live abroad. I think there is no definite answer to that question, but I’ll try to look at this from different perspectives.
First of all, women (and oh yes, men) everywhere get judged and shamed every day. I don’t know anybody who didn’t experience being judged at some point. Especially when you’re a mom, suddenly the whole world is watching you, to see whether you are raising your child “the right way”- whatever that means.
In case of expat women, on top of the regular parenting judgment, there is judgment based on cultural differences. Different cultures have different ideas of how a child should be raised, and expat women often raise their children differently from societies they live in- which again results in judgment. Schools, languages, friends, the topic of integration are also all common to expat women, and may also be a source of judgment.
Then, I think that expat women may experience judgment on more than one level. For example, they may be judged by people from their countries of origin, their new home country (and by their husband’s country) and by the expat community, all at the same time. Many women, who are already struggling with their new life abroad, may find this really hard. On the other hand, expat communities are often very open-minded, tolerant and less judgmental.
Then, it may depend on your country of origin. So, you may feel more or less judged, based on where you come from and where you moved. If you felt judged in your home country, you may be relieved and empowered by not feeling the social pressure anymore. It may be more difficult for you if it’s the other way round.
Another aspect is the subjective feeling of being judged. So often we feel judged even though the other person doesn’t mean it that way. Especially if we’re already struggling with some aspect of raising children, an innocent comment can make us feel judged and unsure of our decisions. Expats (and women here are no exception) often feel like outsiders wherever they go. Hence, judgment may not affect them as much- because they have learned to cope with it.
So, are expat women judged more? I don’t know. While writing this, I have realized that the problem is not in being an expat or being a woman. The problem is in judgment. So, maybe, I should ask other questions: Why are women being judged? Why is anybody being judged? How can we deal with judgment? And what can we do to stop it?
Do you have any ideas? Have you felt judged as an expat? How did it make you feel, and what did you do about it? Please share your experiences in the comments!
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Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and 3 trilingual children. In the past, Olga has lived in several countries (including Germany, Canada and the Netherlands), and learned to speak 5, that’s right, 5 languages.
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