I sit here battling with my desert wi-fi speed, which today seems to be the pace of a camel, and it dawned on me that exactly 6 years ago we made the decision to leave Jersey and head out on our expat adventures. Now Hubby was a seasoned nomad and the fact I got him to stay in Jersey for as long as he had, was a miracle, but as we sat in Pizza Hut (I know glam date nights we had in those days!) we decided a move was something we needed. So that October night, I knew my life was about to change and with all the nerves and anxiety my inner island girl had, I was also excited to step into the unknown. And there you have it, in that one singular moment over a pepperoni classic we’ve never looked back. So as I reminisce, I realise that actually the last 6 years have been a lot of fun, but I’ve learnt a hell of a lot about this expat lark and it will shape me for years to come.
This was a big one in the early days, we had been to Prague on a romantic city break for 3 days and loved it, but living somewhere is vastly different from visiting. As I tried to become accustomed to the way of life out there, battling the heavy snow fall that December I arrived was hard enough, you quickly realise that you can’t have too many expectations, in fact it is best to go with none! Firstly you are battling with a different culture, sometimes language and things are just done in their own, sometimes frustrating, unique way. I remember picking something up from the post office, thinking this won’t be hard, but realising that the post office system was like stepping back in time and archaic in comparison to home, so I quickly learnt to never walk into a situation for the first time abroad and think. Basically don’t think, let it happen, it is what it is. Arriving in the desert, I knew I had to just go with the flow, be open to all experiences and customs, that way I wouldn’t be disappointed and I would learn faster, adapt quicker and before you know it, it becomes second nature.
After the initial weeks and months of my new life things do start to become easier, a routine is built and everything is in the honeymoon period. Everywhere we have lived, Prague, Jersey, Kuwait we have always tried to embrace the experience whole heartedly. Whilst living in Europe we took every opportunity to visit other cities on our doorstep, delving into the culture of Prague life at the Opera and the ballet. We played “tourist” on more than once occasion taking in the beauty of the city and thinking “wow we live here”. I look back at that time and know we took advantage of some many wonderful things. Our desert life has been no different, Dubai and Oman have become the new Berlin and Vienna, with weekends away and exploring all that Arabia has to offer. Weekends spent at the beach or pool relishing in the bonus of year round sunshine, still make me smile and put me in that holiday mode. Don’t get me wrong, embracing everything doesn’t solely refer to the good stuff. I have fully embraced the fact that wi-fi connection here is questionable for 2016 and in a country so wealthy, driving is a nightmare, so I have to rely on taxis which sometimes stops the spontaneity of the day and places can quite simply be dirty and run down. Whether its good or bad, it simply feeds into my memories and lets not pretend life is a bed of roses, whether an expat or not, but whilst I am one I’m making the most of it.
We didn’t know we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.
Winnie the Pooh
Now I am not or should I say was the kind of person to ever do anything outside of their comfort zone. I think it’s endemic of living on a quiet little island. Everything I love and loath about Jersey is it is so small and that nothing changes, therefore life becomes very comfortable, you don’t need to travel far (20 mins drive you’ll hit a cliff at some point) and subsequently life is limiting. So when I became a glamorous expat it was a shock to the system, I had to do things that I didn’t really want to do and had to push myself hard in situations that didn’t come easy. Kuwait has probably pushed me harder in this respect, as I don’t have the comfort of my job to hide behind. I have had to turn up at social events not knowing a single person and mingle! I had no choice, if you want a desert life, which is uber sociable in comparison to Prague, then friends need to be made fast and barriers need to come down. I have learnt that I’m actually ok with my own company, I can cope with being alone and taking myself off to the mall for the afternoon or sitting and having a quiet Starbucks and people watching. This prospect used to terrify me and fear would get in my way, would I be safe, would I be bored, have all melted away with the desert sun. Pushing my personal boundaries, being more confident, trying new things are aspects of my new life I am very proud of. Whoop go me!
Oh this little gem. Yep this is a goodie and something I have spoken about quite often. It is absolutely normal, I have now learnt, that every now and again you will just hit an expat brick wall. I will have maybe 24 hours of complete melt down, tears over breakfast, be freaked out by something random; being followed round a supermarket in Prague was one of those times, when hiding in the bread aisle, on the phone to Hubby, I thought “what the hell am I doing here!?” It is totally fine to feel all of these emotions and quite often they will just pass in a day and things are back to “normal”. I have learnt that this is something you have to accept and expect, own the emotion, wallow in the self-pity but don’t let it drag you down. Don’t let it ruin the experience. Yes its hard some days, especially being away from loved ones, the normality of life back home is sometimes all you can think of, but you also have to stop, be aware of those feelings and decide if there are just a momentary lapse or something that is so deeply engrained that you may have fallen out of love with this life or location. All of which are totally valid circumstances and very natural for all expats however seasoned.
In the words of Winnie the Pooh (again, coz he’s a wise old thing)
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.
Ok, this maybe a little self-indulgent but I honestly can say I am way braver and emotionally stronger than I ever thought I was. That little home bird, that would very rarely say “boo to a goose” and was happily dreaming of an island life made for 2, is now 3,000 miles away in the desert that borders Iraq! Most people who know me are surprised that I have adapted to this life over the last 6 years, they were shocked when they “checked in” on a visit to Prague to find out that I actually happy and that there wasn’t a front to my Skype calls and texts. Even Hubby, says to me now, he is surprised and really happy that I am so content in this life, I mean boy it would be hell for him if I was freaking out all the damn time! But I can do this, I am doing this and loving every bloody moment of it.