Ex-pat life is more than VAT-free living and airport curbside parking. There are also the uglies that are rarely spoken of.

Mostly I stumble through each day with cheery aplomb. My Germ-English is quite fluent, and I am not bummed when the store clerks up here in the 19th prefer to practice their English rather than allow me to practice my German.

The diplomat indicator on the license tag means I get horned a bit more than I’d like for not driving like an Austrian, but I just smile and wave (and sometimes call the other driver a camel’s ass under my breath in Arabic. Because I can.)

As the “dependent spouse” there are restrictions on when I can be on the UN campus. I can not bring Jack to the UN unless Tony authorizes the visit, and not at all to the Commissary. I can bring Anna Grace to the UN and to the Commissary but only until July, when she’ll turn 12 and thus be banned. This is only annoying in that I lack Teen labor to carry the grocery bags.

Sometimes “dependent spouse” gets confused with “second class citizen.” This is an ugly.

Should I, the dependent spouse, raise a matter or bring a question to the UN concerning some relevant issue with our lives, the response is prompt. To Tony.

As I am the dependent spouse, Tony actually had to authorize me to be a joint owner on our Austrian bank account. I did not even wince when the bank account representative threw in an un-funny little joke about how I needed to be on the account because I “would be doing all the spending.”

As the dependent spouse I can not be listed as co-owner on the car registration. But when we collected the car the dealer handed me the keys, as I “need the car for shopping.” Another un-funny little joke I did not wince at.

I have heard from well-seasoned ex-pats that once upon a time when houses had landline telephones, the telephone bill only listed the exchange and not the full number, as it was not considered relevant for the little wife spouse to know whom her husband was calling. Un-funny sexist jokes aren’t much of an improvement.

Recently I, the dependent spouse, attempted to schedule an appointment for the tire exchange on the car. (Here in Austria vehicles are required to have winter tires from November through March. I do not know why Austria does not believe in all-weather radials.)  My two requests for appointments went ignored. Then it occurred to me to have Tony schedule the appointment. Tony sent the email request, and inside of 30 minutes he had an appointment.

Today is “Daughter Day” at the IAEA, known in the US as “Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work” Day. A whole program, including a tour of the UN is planned to inspire young girls to become scientists and engineers. A perfect opportunity for Anna Grace, our own budding engineer!


Tony is on travel this week and so inquired as to whether I could escort her through the program. He was told I was not permitted, as I am but the second-class dependent spouse.

I am mad. Damned mad. This is an ugly that needs to be heard.