Creating a Happy Life Overseas: Beauty Routines and Losing Friends

(painting by Edmund Dulac)

Beauty Routines

I am on record as not really believing in the efficacy of beauty treatments; I think they have a lot in common with feng shui. Putting this particular product on your face might help your skin; it might not. But the act of putting special lotion on your face, rubbing it in, smelling a nice scent and smiling at yourself in the mirror will definitely help you. You have an intention to look nice and you acted on it. Yeah you!

In the same way putting a water feature in your foyer might not create positive vibes ipso facto. But looking at it, knowing you put it there for positive energy, that will help you.

This is why 4-step beauty routines are useful in hard times. In good times, you can just splash some water on your face, dab on sun screen, spritz some perfume and you are good to go. But in bad times, you need armor. You need a portable defense system.

For those days when the hot water heater AND the AC decide to stop working at the same time, you need A 4- (or more) step beauty routine to ground you – it’s like putting on your armet, hauberk, gauntlets, greaves, sabatons and picking up your lance. Toner, serum, eye cream, moisturizer, sunscreen and you are ready for battle. (At night: make-up remover, serum, eye cream, night cream and sweet dreams).

When the 90% humidity is crushing your will to live, having non-frizzy hair will prevent you from causing mayhem by attempting to nap in the ice cream section of the grocery store.

Keep citrus-scented body spray in the fridge and apply liberally – use the most water-proof mascara and eyeliner you can find and never reply to work e-mails without a sip of iced coffee.

Better than you have fallen apart in 115 F/ 46 C degree weather – douse yourself in 4711,  grab your sword and onward.

Losing Friends

One of the difficulties of living overseas is that it is fairly easy to make friends (as you have a built-in group of people who probably want to meet someone from their own country), but whoever you meet, you will lose. Either you or they will move back home or to another country. From the first ‘hello’ – the ending is written.

And there is another level of melancholy, you never know who will stay in touch after you or they leave.  It doesn’t matter if your bestie or an acquaintance, once they get on a plane it’s a crap shoot as to whether you will hear from them again.

Your dearest, closest confident for may disappear forever, not a card, not a call, not a message. Your e-mails are not answered. The memories of ten years of friendship shimmer and change shape as you realize that the person you talked to once a week for a decade is planning to never speak to you again.

On the other hand, a minor player in your life might become a main-stay who stays in touch with witty missives and charming photos of their garden. You never know. You might meet up again in foreign climes, walking into each others’ arms in a Hong-Kong bar or by a North Woods lake. Or they disappear and there is no one on Earth who knows the stories and characters from years of your life.

The first time a close friend leaves, something shifts and you realize that every relationship is fraught. Of course, if you live in the same town your whole life, you will lose friends – a death, a fight, someone might move away, but there is always an expectation that you will be part of the end of the story. You will know about the illness, you will be in the fight, you will hear about what happens.

When expat friends leave, they close their local phone number. Their work e-mail is suspended and you don’t know anyone else in their home country. Are they ok? Did they ever fix their relationship with their brother? Did their son get into college? Did they decide to put that addition onto their house? Did she ever get to Paris as she always dreamed?

They left in the middle of the story – you will never know the ending.