Why do I call myself “chameleon”?

March 31, 2010

How did I choose my username for this blog? Since moving overseas, I have always referred to myself as “the trailing spouse”. However, that username was already taken as it is commonly used in the expat world. In looking for a new “nickname”, I started researching synonyms and quickly realized they were all quite negative, including terms like “drag along”, “tow”, or “haul”. I realized that these words did not appropriately describe who I am!

Was I being dragged to another country against my will? Of course not! I have encouraged my spouse to take these new opportunities, and gladly viewed them as adventures for our family. Though I have had to take a break from my career to do so, more often than not it has been a positive experience. I have done everything in my power to make it a successful and enjoyable experience for my spouse, our children and myself.

I recently heard someone use the phrase “supporting spouse” which I like better but still defines this group relative to their spouse and not as individuals. Yes, we manage the “back office” work that makes the working spouse successful – e.g. the move, getting the children settled, finding the house, the school, the grocery store! In addition, we are the ones who usually learn the language because in many cases because it is a necessity for everyday household management and survival. In most business situations, the working spouse can get by using English and not the local language. However, we also do much more than that.

In talking to other expat spouses, I find many feel this way. Most are not being “hauled” to their new environment and are not just “supporting their spouse”. Many trailing spouses are the ones who volunteer at school, and start-up or support various local charities. Often expat spouses talk about “renewal”, reinventing themselves in their new environments. Personally, I have learned new sports, studied new languages, taken the photography course I have dreamt about for 20 years, and started this blog! I know others who have started new businesses or earned degrees while overseas.

Yes at times I have been homesick, but that comes with the territory. However, I seek friendship and support from those who have been successful and who have learned to adapt and adjust. It is then that the expat network is at its best. Everyone knows what you are going through because they have been through it themselves and are willing to listen, but also to let you know that you will get through it.

Therefore, I have chosen “chameleon” as my username because that is what best describes me at this point. According to one on-line dictionary, a chameleon is “someone who is able to quickly adjust to new circumstances” (1). In my opinion, this describes the type of people who choose to live in a foreign country and make it a positive experience. We are very good at adapting to our surroundings.


(1)    Source for definition: http://www.ninjawords.com


One Response to “Why do I call myself “chameleon”?”

  1. […] Why do I call myself “chameleon”? (livinginaforeignland.wordpress.com) […]

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