State Department Weekly Roundup: So Many Hats!

I hope it's okay that I switcheroo the topic for this week's roundup. We'll get to "favorite places" in August, but as a new transplant myself I have been thinking a lot about the different roles we assume when we enter the foreign service lifestyle - whether of our own choosing or because of circumstance.

In our "regular lives" aka, before we joined the Foreign Service, I'm sure we all fell into patterns of how we went about living our life and how we operated in our family unit.  But life abroad forces many of us to take on different roles and sometimes that is a welcomed discovery and other times it's a source of stress and anxiety.

Even though hypothetically I might be a little more outspoken than my husband or willing to make a stink when I've been crossed back in the states (only hypothetically) it's a lot harder when you don't speak the language. Thus, public tasks formerly performed by moi get shuffled to the husband who might not enjoy sending back an undercooked steak or demanding a refund as much as I do.  Because of language skills or gender or any number of things, public task duties may shift between couples when they move overseas not to mention negotiating a whole new routine when it comes to domestic tasks.  Grocery shopping is harder when you aren't sure if a particular red spice is Cayenne or Paprika.

And these are relatively small things.  They make a noticeable difference and add up to stresses that are sometimes hard to articulate, but many spouses or partners of foreign service officers have to choose between their own career or education and being with their significant others.  The State Department is good about creating opportunities for spouses to advance their career, but a two year job in the Embassy's IT department just isn't the same as designing software for Microsoft like you had hoped to do with your degree.    

On the other hand, there are many hats that I probably would never have worn if not for moving overseas.  In my particular situation I will have work opportunities in the library and information sciences that I never conceived of when I started my Masters degree in the public library track with the intent to work at a small suburban library for the rest of my career.  Hosting people at my house was something that scared me spit-less for most of our married life, but I am really learning to love it as time goes on and see the tremendous value in building a sense of community.  I never thought much about traveling before we moved overseas, but as evidence by my countless price comparing spread sheets and maps marked with every sight of interest to me within a three country radius, traveler is  a role that suits me better than almost anything I thought of myself as back home.

So here is the topic for this week's roundup/discussion:     

What are some ways you have seen your role change in your family, community, or marriage because of foreign service living - both good and more challenging?  What have been some of your unexpected joys?  How have you coped with challenges and learned to establish new routines and expectations overseas?

Feel free to comment in the comment section below or, even better, write up something related to this on your own blog and leave me the link in the comments.  I think there is a lot to be learned from each other and a lot of comfort to be gained from realizing we all have these types of experiences. 


  1. My family is undergoing an "extreme makeover" for the impending FS. I touch upon some of the changes in my latest blog:


  2. That's an interesting post. It's kind of comforting to hear others articulate these types of thoughts as it helps me feel that some of the overseas discomfort I felt in Jordan wasn't just me being a baby. I think we had a shift similar to yours, where I was required to behave more assertively, in the neighborhood, at the store, with embassy "fix-it" staff, than I'm naturally comfortable with. It was a tough role to assume, but I think healthy, so long as I didn't become a perpetual complainer-I-want-it-my-way-now-and-always type.

  3. Sorry I am late! Here's mine http://smallbitsfs.blogspot.com/2011/07/roles-180-of-365.html