It’s Not Easy Being Green. Expats and Half-Term Envy

This is…NOT US.
This is…NOT US.

When we moved abroad I learned lots of new terms. I made up a fair few as well. But of all the terms I’ve learned, the term I like the least?


The school’s website assures me that the number of days my children are in school is roughly the same as it would be in the US. I do wonder if they count differently because it sure seems like they’re out of school a whole lot.

After a three-week break at Christmas, there was another week-long break in February. This week they’re off again for Easter. May is filled with a basketful of Danish holidays (Danes are some of the most casual practitioners of faith I’ve ever come across, yet they celebrate Pentecost like it’s no one’s business. Easter closings here are from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday. Indiana can pass religious freedom laws up the wazoo, but I bet you Memories Pizza and other ‘Christian establishments’ aren’t giving their employees Maundy Thursday off as a paid holiday….makes you think). I digress.

Half-term break. Those long stretches of calendar days you look forward to. Travel to nearby cities! Water parks! Museum trips and park dates and so much more! Seven to ten days of compressed quality time spent with your family. Except when you’re on the budget expat package and spend most of your travel funds on trips home.

Oh, it’s a champagne problem for sure. An edamame problem. A first world, ex-pat, spoiled rotten problem. Even knowing how whiny that sounds I’m willing to put myself on the sacrificial expat altar.

I often suffer from half-term envy. That green-eyed monster of the expat variety.

I want to travel to far-flung places! I want to visit historical monuments! Yet I also want to go home for a month in the summer and flights to the US are expensive. I want my vacation cake and I want to eat it too.

Did Dr. Suess spend some time in Denmark?
Did Dr. Suess spend some time in Denmark?

Every break I do the same. I promise I’m going to plan fun outings and divide and conquer my children with play dates. And then the weather throws a not so much as a wrench as a chain saw into the works. And everyone else is away (sunning themselves on beaches! walking cobbly streets! sampling exotic delicacies!). And there is no one to play with and it is rainy and we sit and stare out the window like the two little kids from The Cat in the Hat.

The sun did not shine. 
It was too wet to play. 
So we sat in the house 
All that cold, cold, wet day.

I know I’m not the only one that suffers from half-term envy. I know there are others out there. Some, like us, have a package that pays out its dividends in other ways, further down the road. Some, like us, live further afield and that once a year or once every other year trip home breaks the vacation piggy bank. Some, like us, don’t have a car: this sometimes makes me feel virtuous and green–the environmental shade–until yet another half-term break, when it makes me feel trapped and green–the jealousy hue.

Half-term envy is one of those dirty little expat secrets you sound like a right whingeing ass admitting to. (See me by the window staring out at that cold, cold wet day? That’s me, raising my hand.)

I don’t remember doing anything during school vacations. Then again, we didn’t have as many, not by half. Maybe we went to Rocky Point and rode the Tilt A Whirl, but it wasn’t a given, it wasn’t expected. Museums fell solidly into the field trip category. My mother, to the best of my memory, never looked out at the gray skies and suggested we play a game of Sorry. My mother doesn’t do board games.

Sometimes (read: when suffering from half-term envy) I resent having to come up things to do. I had to come up with things to do when I was a kid now I have to come up with things for my own kids to do. It hardly seems fair.

Wine helps being green
Wine helps being green

So we resort to far too much iPad time. I’m working on my book, the kids are quiet, it’s a win-win right? Then the guilt sets in. The children manage to yank themselves from the nether and then drape themselves over the furniture because they can’t find anything to do.

They whine. I whine. My husband and I drink too much wine. Which leads to more whining. It’s a vicious circle of w(h)ine. All when I’d like to be somewhere on the banks of the Rhine. Or the Rhone. Or the Seine..

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right?

Maybe next half-term we’ll go there.


11 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being Green. Expats and Half-Term Envy

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  1. Interesting to hear there should be roughly about the same amount of school days in “your” two countries, I thought Scandinavia has less than most other countries. But out of curiosity: how long us the school holiday in the summer in Denmark? In Finland its 10 weeks and with a norm of 4 week of for an adult it mostly means a huge puzzle to organise the care…


    1. 8 weeks in the summer, 1 in Oct., 3 at Xmas, 1 in Feb, 1 in April. But it’s an international school, I know the Danish STate schools don’t get that much time off. It would seem the more $$ you pay, the more days off you have! I am very lucky that I stay at home, so care is not a problem. Sanity maybe 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. But that is very similar to Finnish state schools, only its 10 weeks in the summer, only 2-3 days in sept-oct, and another 2-3 extra days off at Easter. We must just have very little school….


  2. No matter how exciting life is kids are going to complain. We did a house exchange with a family in Hamburg for a month and my kids spent most of the time wanting to watch DVDs and surf the Internet. There were days I wished we left them home, but now they look back on that month with only good memories. Kids!


    1. I wish that the internet had an age restriction, like driving. I say that because of course I want to partake of it’s bounty, but I really don’t want my kids to. And it’s too tiring to police it all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. hm, if you ever walk past a museum on a wet school holiday there is always a queue of miserable looking parents and offspring waiting to go in, because that is the only free and dry entertainment they can think of. I’m sure most of the kids would rather be indoors with their iPads anyway.


    1. You are 100% right. I have been mentally compiling a list of things that I say to myself in the name of over-parenting that I know my mother never said to herself. Included on that list: I should take the children to a museum.


  4. If all the kids are going to do is drape themselves over the furniture, then anyone can watch them do that. Let go of the guilt, pay a babysitter for the day, and go to the museums yourself! Says a survivor of international school schedules.


    1. But I want to go away, she whines…..the kids are fine staying home. Until their not. Which usually coincides with right about the time I’ve gotten stuck into a project ;-).


  5. Last weekend, my son Jacob had a friend over for dinner. Kate and her mother are going to Italy this summer, and Kate was asking questions about which places my husband and I liked best. Jacob remembers very little of our wonderful trips throughout Europe. In fact, the one that comes most readily to mind is when we accidentally ended up in the wrong part of Amsterdam — the red light district with our 9 year old son, He remembers that quite clearly. Venice? Florence? Paris? Nope. Prostitutes.


    1. Oh sure, Elyse. Most of it is for us for sure. The kids are more than happy to sit at home and play Minecraft all day. But I get bored. And if I try to sit down and do something they start fighting. Every time! To be fair to Jacob, I’d probably remember the prostitutes too!

      Liked by 1 person

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