A few days in the life of an Expat wife

By - October 13, 2005 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

It’s been a week of ups and downs. I don’t have a concrete theme for this blog just a lot of little tidbits to write about. So let’s get the downs out of the way so I’m not dwelling on them.

Actually there’s only one major down and that has been Andrew’s work schedule (or lack there of as is the case.) We were hoping that October would bring less stress for him but it seems things have gone from bad to worse. There is lots of work to be done (which in itself is a good thing) but not nearly enough people to do it. In addition, another employee has just left so all of his work must go to someone else. I fear major burnout for Drew and our Christmas travel plans look bleak. (We are still planning a trip home at the end of the month and as soon as the tickets are booked I will let everyone know the details.) He hopes that there will be time for vacation in January but I have my doubts that the situation will improve that quickly.

On to the happy news:

It’s nice out! It’s been sunny for the past four days and it has warmed up dramatically. We’ve been in the mid 20s for the past few days and although it’s supposed to get a bit cooler than that, the forecast is for sunny skies all week. I really hope fall will make up for the crap summer we had. The dreary grey days don’t help my mood any so hopefully the sun will stay out for a while.

I got a happy (or sad depending how you look at it) present the other day. Andrew came home with a bag and handed it to me. One of his Halifax co-workers had asked what I missed from home. I (half) jokingly said Kraft Diner and Cheese Wiz. I had forgotten about it because it was before we went to Helsinki. Andrew happened to find the bag in the office on Tuesday. Well, the bag contained 2 bottles of the synthetic cheese product and 4 boxes of KD. I don’t even eat the stuff at home because I know how horrible it is. However, now that I can’t get it I crave the stuff. Last night I had some KD and I swear it was the best ever. I will save it for homesickness emergencies. Thanks Jerry!

In other food news, we’ve finally found a couple of take-out solutions. The first is a fantastic Thai place right in Kortenberg. It’s just a hole in the wall spot that only does take away. It’s freshly cooked and really cheap and they give big portions. The Pad Thai is super and we’ll already becoming regulars. The second spot, also in Kortenberg, is a pizza and pasta restaurant. They also do take away pizza but the lasagna I had there the other night was delish. It’s nice to have a take-out option other than Pizza Hut and the Friterie.

On a cuteness note, the little girl next door had a birthday while we were in Helsinki. We brought her back a stuffed reindeer as a gift because we had no idea what she liked. Apparently it was a hit. Her mom says she sleeps with it every night and she even took it to Venice with her when they went on a weekend trip. She named it Andrewandalison.

So my best news of all: After three months in Belgium, I managed to make two friends in a week! Ok, ok… I know that makes me sound like a total loser but I think any trailing spouse (or partner) will tell you that it’s difficult to make friends (especially when you aren’t working). We have our neighbor, but she works and has a kid so other than the occasional evening glass of wine, we don’t hang out together much.

I mentioned before that I was surprised how many women have contacted me because of this blog, and how much we all seem to have in common. I finally got to meet a couple of them and they are great. (Hi guys!) Since I don’t like naming people in the blog without their permission I shall henceforth refer to them as the (un)American and the Kiwi.

I mentioned above my diner with (un)US and her guy the other day. She will be moving here permanently in January and I’m already excited for her arrival. We spent a day in Brussels together and I’m sure we appalled a couple of old Belgian ladies with our loud laughter while we were yakking away at a cafe.

The Kiwi lives in Antwerp with her ‘Belgian Man’ and I took the trip to visit her on Tuesday. After a transportation debacle (mostly of my own making) we met up and toured the town. We had a few drinks and chatted like old pals about the crazy country that we’ve adopted. We also visited the incredible Kathedraal, which is truly a gothic masterpiece.

Antwerp seems like a lovely city. It seems to be a more manageable scale than Brussels. The square is lovely and there are some parks and a zoo that I hope to visit in the future, (if the Kiwi will have me again…).

I’ve been an Expat for over six months now. Some days it feels like it’s gone by so fast. Other days it seems like it’s been forever. It’s certainly not been a bed of roses, but things are looking up.

If you like this, you might like:

Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
- 1 day ago


  1. Comment by Alison

    Alison October 13, 2005 at 15:43

    Yay! Zoo and Tupperware! What more can a Canuk ask for? Ok, Ok, I’ll bring the wine. 🙂

  2. Comment by Di

    Di October 13, 2005 at 15:25

    I had a lovely time meeting up with this Canadian expat blogger … it was so good to find a like-minded soul. Thanks Alison … zoo and tupperware lunch next week, eh wot?
    Di (the Kiwi)

  3. Comment by Alison

    Alison October 14, 2005 at 16:10

    Awwwww… now I’m blushing. But yes, it is nice to have a ‘normal’ conversation with people who share your experiences as an outsider. (and offending the locas is always bonus!)

  4. Comment by The American

    The American October 14, 2005 at 16:01

    Well, I have to say I felt so “normal” when we went out to dinner! Wow, socializing on a GROUP level! One takes such casual activities for granted in their home environment. I’m really happy we met, and my only regret is that I had to leave so soon after! 🙁 But in January, when it’s cold and bleak.. well, bleaker than it usually is, I will look forward to offending the locals while enjoying the French wine, and your good company!

  5. Comment by Kay

    Kay October 14, 2005 at 21:18

    Do you have space for a Scots lass to join the Blag? I live in a very old and lovely part of Antwerp, with tourists and history all around and all summer long the tranquility of the pavement cafes below have been bliss, but….now the students have returned, and whilst I have no objections to students, can someone please enlighten me to what it is they put in the beer here that makes them want to chant and sing form 7pm ’till 4am??? Heck I wish I could join them! But everyone including the cats would complain and flee.(Singing is not my strong point!) Great to hear others new to the region ‘talk’. Loved your comments re how to kiss, to hug or not!
    I live in a fashion world where the international acceptance is two kisses, one on each cheek, and of course there is so much performance in the “HEY, NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN” (but I haven’t a clue who you are?**?) that there is plenty of time during the theatricals, to give you time to work out which side they are going to go for first!
    But here,I have been taken by the suprise of if it’s two that means three…and what does three mean? Thanks for the update. Flemish I am learning slowly!
    Keep up the postings. K.

  6. Comment by The ....

    The .... October 15, 2005 at 05:48

    wait… am I the (UN)american? I missed that earlier!

  7. Comment by Kristin

    Kristin October 24, 2005 at 22:53

    Hello…I am a new expat wife living in the center of Antwerp and have been surfing the web looking for others in the same situation. I have a daughter, Sophie, who will be a year old on October 30th. We have been in Antwerp for a little over a month now and I’m finding it difficult to meet people. I’ve been spending most of my time exploring the city and I give the zoo two thumbs up. It is definitely worth the trip. Thanks for making me feel a little less lonely. It is nice to know that I’m not the only expat wife out there.

  8. Comment by Glenda

    Glenda November 8, 2005 at 14:10

    Hi Having just read your section about ‘A Day in the Life of an ExPat Wife, where you explained getting to Antwerp as a ‘transportation debacle’…. have you tried using SN’s shuttle service from Zaventem Airport to Antwerp Keyserlei (outside the central station). Takes about 50 mins, cost 8 euros and runs hourly. The only problem is finding somewhere to park at the Airport, it seems to be getting busier by the minute there!! Just a thought for those that might be interested. Also have to agree on Antwerp Zoo, Fab. I couldn’t pull myself away from the Sea Otter – What a show off!. Oh! and for those that are interested I am of English origin (Robin Hood Country)moved here June ’05 to join partner (also English) after being fed up with ‘visiting’ over 2+ years AND I know about the ‘Red Tape’ :-/
    Great photo’s Alison, have you found the ‘bead’ shop in Leuven yet?

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