Saturday, April 28, 2007

Profiles of Expats - Mother Hen and Father Goose

This is the twelfth (I went back and counted them all) in a series on Profiles of Expats. I hope to show the good, the bad and the ugly side of expat personalities. You may know them, you may have seen them or you might be one yourself (I am.)

Disclaimer: I have lived as an American Expatriate for more than 10 years in several locations and come across numerous “characters” in my travels. However, this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


Both Mother Hen and Father Goose are good people to know. They are typically very friendly and helpful, frequently taking newcomers under their wings. Between the two, they can guide a new expat through all the setbacks they are about to encounter. Whether it’s the local laws, negotiating with the local (and many times corrupt) Human Resources Department (H.R.) or the best places to shop, they are the ones to know. They’ve been around for a long time, they’ve seen it all and are more than willing to tell you about it too.

The Mother Hen:
The one who takes over when the Executive wife is absent, too intoxicated to perform her duties or just not that into husband’s corporate culture. Usually dressed impeccably and in pearls. Very organized; arranges coffees, teas, cocktail hours and tennis get-togethers, with a full layout, sometimes pot-luck style. Does not put servants on display like executive wife. Very proper, very inclusive, knows everybody’s grade when they move in – often comparing accommodations, etc with others of the same "grade." Knows the system and how to get around it. Husband has hit the silver ceiling, which they’ve both accepted, and are just biding their time until gardening leave. Quite possibly more knowledgeable than she lets on, about the lethal poisoning of the compound manager’s vicious guard dog. Mother Hens come in all ethnicities. She might even be the H.R. representative who works on her own (no staff), knows the lay of the land and can laugh with you about the tedious frustrations that occur on a daily basis, especially with government red tape.

All are very familiar with local H.R. practices and personalities. It could be the head of H.R. on the take; his assistant who gets all the leftovers when you’re denied the required lift-vans you need to move all your belongings for your departure; or when the authorities decide to hold your possessions for ransom. A Mother Hen will know how to maneuver through all these obstacles.

A Mother Hen can provide advice and solace. Mother Hens have many friends and know everybody’s business since they happen to be good listeners. Favorite saying, “Let’s see, if your husband is grade such and such then…you should have this and that.” Implying you should be receiving better service or setting you up for a major letdown, though it’s not intentional, mind you. She actually is being sincere – it’s the company that’s screwing you, silly. She’s a very good woman to know.

Father Goose:
He's married but separated by expat employment (wife not interested in expat lifestyle) and his kids visit regularly during the year. He knows everything that goes on in the office and all the laws, particularly which ones you can and don't want to break.

He’s pretty much hit his career limit or has given it up to stay in his version of paradise. Has parties called “Ramadan Relief”, etc. Stocks up on libations for holidays when alcohol is legally (Shariah law) forbidden to be sold. Might even have a dedicated bar room with darts, several refrigerators, a bar with stools and a snooker table; walls decorated with beach and party photos of people who have passed through the bar over the years, most in compromising situations. Or has a favorite bar to hangout in, plenty of refreshments at home and knows a friendly caterer who’s always ready to join in on another good party.

Father Goose gets along very well with both sexes. Often provides housing to friends in need. Has many volunteers more than willing to help out at parties, which are typically pot-luck. Shags generations of women from the same family. Frequently dates women who are closer in age to his Generation Y children, than to him. Knows all the stewardesses, who give him special treatment (and occassional free seats.). Because of his accumulation of friends and open parties, he knows everybody’s business. He knows all the juicy gossip, particularly regarding sex, sackings, high crimes and misdemeanors.

Loves to golf. Loves to screw. Rarely cooks. Eats out often. Wife occasionally visits just to keep him in line (or so she thinks.) Good guy to be friends with. Kids visit and actively participate in partying lifestyle.

Favorite saying: “Oh God, not another bloody beautiful day.” – White Mischief

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