Ladies stick together: from humans to prairie dogs

“How can you live so far from home? I couldn’t take it when I just moved to another state.” says girlfriend number one

me: “Well…I am super busy doing activities that I love. I rarely have time to think much about it!”

“Don’t you miss your family and friends? says girlfriend number two

me: “Of course I do! But I know I’ll see them over the summer, which is just around the corner.”

“How often are you talking on the phone with your girlfriends/mom?” says expat chic living in Holland

me: “Not as much as I would like to, but like I said, I am insanely busy (and so are they).”

BFF carefully listening to my expat problems.

BFF carefully listening to my expat problems.

See. I miss them so much I made a comic about it.


It’s no secret. Women tend to value relationships over accomplishments. This may be why so many women choose to start a family (and stay home with the children) rather than become the primary breadwinner.  I read this simple statement from the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus author, Dr. John Gray, several years ago.

Though I think it is somewhat of a generalization, I do believe there is some truth to that. I don’t feel complete unless I see my lady friends at least a few times a week (and have several date nights), whereas Hubby is more thinking about his tasks or accomplishments for the week than dwelling on his relationships.

Advice for anyone considering to expatriate: before booking a plane ticket and plotting the international move, consider that relationships take time to develop. If you are someone who doesn’t like to put yourself out there and try new things (with new people), you probably don’t want to move. Contrary to what Hollywood often demonstrates, total strangers will not chat you up while waiting for a coffee at Starbucks. Let alone invite you for dinner the next night.

But why doesn’t this happen? You’re nice, unique, caring, loving…everyone should want to meet you.

But they don’t.

Because building a new relationship involves a certain amount of risk. 

This notion is also observed in the animal kingdom.

Kissing_Prairie_dog_edit_3The latest study from Dr. John Hoogland, published in Science,  shows that young female prairie dogs move out of their territories only when their family leaves. Otherwise females stay close to other kin, presumably because the benefits of cooperation out-way the competition. He finds this tendency in three species, even though long-accepted wisdom holds that relatives tend to disperse to avoid competing with each other.

Females often stay put to form a family unit called a clan with the mother, her daughters, sisters, and sometimes cousins. But a few exceptional females will leave.

Hoogland found that female black-tailed prairie dogs with no mother, sisters, or brothers nearby were 12.5 times more likely to move away than females with a close relative around.

So all the single prairie dog ladies stick together (Just like Beyoncé says).

Dr. Hoogland is THE prairie dog expert, having studied the animals intensely for over 40 years. So how did Hoogland conduct the study?

From Science Mag: 

prairie-dog-scott-carr-ngs“Catch ’em. Mark ’em. Watch ’em,” is his motto; he rarely does experiments with the animals. “His style is a throwback to the old days of living with your organism and getting to know them really well, and in the process you get insights that are simply not possible otherwise,” says Tim Clutton-Brock, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “That approach is increasingly rare.”

You can see how Dr. Hoogland conducts his studies here. 


So unlike these adorable little critters, I’ve decided to roll the dice, take some risks, and see things on the other side of the pond…and although I’m happy with my choice, it may not be the best idea for everyone.


  One thought on “Ladies stick together: from humans to prairie dogs

  1. March 15, 2013 at 12:12 am

    I enjoyed this post very much! It was interesting to read your thoughts on being an expat, and I love the way you worked the prairie dog study into the post. Those little critters are so, so cute.

    My family pretty much all live in Texas. I was born and raised there and, like most people from Texas, never planned on leaving. It came as a huge surprise when my hubby got a job across the country. We’ve been relocated for about ten years, and it’s only been recently that VA has started to feel like “home” for us. I used to daydream about moving to another country, but, given how hard moving to another state was, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it.

    Anyhow, sorry for the long comment. Thank you for sharing!

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