Stupid Expat Days and How to Love Them

There are days that expats have to live but normal people never do. I call them Stupid Expat Days. 

Where I come from you run to the post office to renew a passport IF you even need one. Not so where I live now. 

This time around it was my 8-year-old son who was up for renewal.

That means a big, inconvenient, miss work, skip school trip in the middle of the week to the embassy which is in a different part of the country and that’s just the travel day. By the time that day actually arrived, I had two painful weeks of prep already invested. Faulty websites that gave no confirmation of an actual appointment. Ridiculous phone calls to embassy staff who gave me the equivalent of  “go with your gut — if it feels like you’ve got an appointment then show up.” Traipsing across the city at the last minute to track down documents we thought were in our living room. Getting stuff filled out and notarized and searching for the dirt cheapest plane ticket because this was not a planned expense.

Found them. They were SO CHEAP . . . for about 20 seconds.

That’s when I realized I had the little toggle switch set on US Dollars and I was reading it in Chinese Yuan. My happy price got multiplied by 7.

We booked a train.

That meant five hours there and a 1 hour subway for a 30 minute meeting only to sprint back to the subway so we could ride another hour to get to the five hour train home — with an 8 year old who gets cranky when he’s tired.

I woke him up at 4:30 am. It was nearly 1 am when we returned home.

Normal people don’t have to do this stuff. This is a stupid expat day if there ever was one.

Here’s the thing. I’ve only got this kid for a little while and time is moving way too fast. 

Passports are the perfect pictoral, timeline reminder of that. Five years at a time we fill out the paperwork and catch ourselves saying how did that even happen? Where did that time go? Look how cute he was.

Looking at my son reframed the whole stupid day for me.

Normal people don’t GET to do this stuff. It was a holiday not a waste of time. Special expat father and expat son bonding, just me and him.

I became dead set on tattooing the phrase “PASSPORT DAY” on his brain so he will tell his kids about it years from now as if it were the pinnacle of his childhood.

“When I was your age we got to do PASSPORT DAYS and they were AMAZING!”

When am I ever going to have 20 straight hours to hang out with this kid and do NOTHING but eat total junk, ride on trains, take selfies and chase a little blue book?

I’ll tell you when . . . when he’s 13 and then NEVER AGAIN.

Great. Now I’m crying because passport days don’t come often enough.

Thanks Blog.

Loving Stupid Expat Days is not simply putting a happy stamp on the hard stuff and it runs far deeper than just “looking on the bright side”. It was a long, long, long day but we found the best bits and we chose to hang out there. I love passport days and my hope is that because I choose celebration, even in the context of the irritation my kids will too.

Judging by the pictures, we’re on the right path.

This was us at the beginning of the day.

And this was us at the end.

I clearly got beaten by my son at Passport Day.

But we both won.

Bring on the Stupid Expat Days.

originally posted on

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Jerry Jones

Jerry lives in China with his beautiful blended family. He is a trainer, a speaker, an adventurer, a culture vulture and an avid people watcher. He writes about all of that at

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