I am deeply back into the swing of desert life and whilst I do still drift away into a Maldivian day dream, every now and again, I am happy to be back. Last week also saw my little rambling blog turn one! I can not believe that a year has passed, since I sat at home and thought, I just have to do this, and I am so glad I did. So firstly thank you, to you all who keep coming back and reading my musings. I am glad to be part of a great online community of fellow expat bloggers, we all keep each other going and words of support and “I get it” making me feel like I am not alone in this random part of the world, so big up to you ladies. (I will link some of my favourites at the end of this post, if anyone fancies a read)
This weeks post, comes from a few inspirations, firstly I briefly saw a Twitter Q&A flying around in my feed last week and also having chatted to someone fairly new to all things expat, that I thought this would be a good time to dish the dirt (or sand), let you into a couple of secrets and blow the lid off……
So I am guessing that to most staypats, living a relatively “normal” life at home, expat life can seem like a couple of things. Glamourous, adventurous, non conventional, unsettling and to some out right bonkers. There are many pre conceived ideas of this life and most unfortunately tend to surround the expat wife or woman, but as I have banged on many a time, we are not that bad and it isn’t all sun, sand and selfies. But even for those people, that have always dreamed of the nomadic expat life or emigrating to the land of their dreams, it isn’t always what it seems or what you hoped for. So here it is, the things they don’t tell you or you don’t see from the perfect Insta posts.
Expat life; The brutal truth…
Black tape, blue tape, in fact sometimes its feels like any tape they can throw at you. Once you have decided on the the move and begin the adventure in your new location, there are often many entry requirements needed, before you head off into the sunset. These can be long winded and sometimes feel like paper work for paper works sake. Even when we moved to Czech, which was part of the EU there were still beaurocratic frustrations upon arrival, so it is never as easy as you think or are lead to believe. The Middle East has some strange, archaic and strict entry policies, especially when it comes to single women, marriage and non biological children, so check everything. When you first look at that list or criteria, it can be overwhelming. Some of the medical tests and reports needed are vast, with some clinics I visited not even knowing some of the diseases they saw as a risk! This of course all costs money and were not simple tests that could be done by a GP, so having to go private will set you back but its all going towards living the dream right!? The irony is all the tests they have you do to get in, they repeat when you are here in order to issue you permanent residency, so there are plenty of deep breathes needed,
unfortunately a swift drink at the end of the day wasn’t an option!
My advice is to leave as much time as you possibly can, get organised and try and get as much advice from online forums or through contacts you may have on the ground in that location. TRY and stay calm, believe me its harder than it looks, the week before we came to Kuwait, there were plenty of tears and tantrums, as it seems like even at the last minute they can throw you a curve ball. The paperwork doesn’t always stop there, so be prepared that your initial weeks or months may have you being ferried around numerous authorities, the good news is you only have to do it once……well until your next move that is!
The lead up to any move and the first few months upon landing, just seems like an endless drain on your bank account. First monthly salaries often haven’t hit before you are having to shell out on rental deposits, car leases and travel expenses. You maybe lucky enough that, your company had pre set up a lot of this for you or that it is included in you relocation package, but for those that don’t have this perk or it if the move is self funded, it can be a tough few months finacially. Many international employers reimburse you for most of the expenses incurred through your relocation, but there maybe a time period that you have to forfill or enter a long winded claim process, which may slow down the repayment to you, so always be aware of these little nuences. You will be eager to explore your new surroundings, get acquainted with as many people as possible, but you may not have the funds to go all out or join clubs right off the bat. This can be frustrating and limiting, but it is only short term and you will soon reap the rewards of your new adventure, you just may have to eat beans and rice for a weekend pre that first pay day!
This is a big one and something that can creep up on you. It is crucial that you try and intergrate as much as possible into your new life, but it isn’t always as easy as you think. Living in Prague, I found extremely hard to break into social circles, as whilst there are plenty of expats living there, it is a European city in which everyone just gets on with their own agenda. There isn’t anything (well maybe the odd thing) that is weird about a city life, even though I was abroad and whilst it looked very different, we still got on the metro every day and commuted just like we would have in London. There was a buzzing social scene which may nights and days out easy, but also made it too simple for it to be just us and there was no real need to look for social companionship. So whilst I was very happy with my little bohemian life, there were days when I wouldn’t speak to a single person, until my husband came home and the loneliness kicked in.
Desert side is different, there is a massive expat community and I have made some amazing friends and have my little tribe of support, but sometimes you do feel alone. You are far away from your home country and you can feel excluded from events and scenarios happening there. You see a post on Facebook of a party or get together happening without you and you get the hump. But why!? Their lives can’t stop but you just get that pang that you are missing out. I have learnt that this is totally normal and the odd day of feeling BLAH is acceptable, it’s when that day turns into a week or a month that you have an issue and you may need to call time of this chapter.
The novelty of your new life will eventually wear off, both for you and the people back home. What no one tells you is that their lives and yours needs to continue and unfortunately this can bring a whole bunch of new expat problems. You sit at home waiting for that scheduled FaceTime and the person the other end never shows. The monotony of work kicks in and its like you are no longer abroad, you are just part of that daily grind.
You pile the kids on the bus to school every morning and the evening battle of homework to get through is like any other family.
It’s just life.
It’s routine, the norm, nothing unique about it anymore. I walk round the supermarket and the Arabic labels don’t seem odd, the local dress and the mosques calling out, just fade into the background. You are abroad but it now has no abnormality surrounding it. So don’t think that a life abroad will always have the same shiny new, exciting, novelty feeling it once did. It’s like dating, the reason you are together is always there, there is love and happiness but the spontaneous flowers and chocolates have ceased.
Of course there are days, when I’m sitting on the beach in March, I think wow this is awesome and don’t get me wrong I still love being here, but I know many people get to this stage and think its time to move on. They need that constant buzz in their life and thrive on the new and exciting aspect to this nomadic life. This can work for many , just work out what kind or expat you are do whats right for you , but know the honeymoon always ends, it’s just how you deal with it.
Expat life is a real mixed bag and like I’ve said before it isn’t for everyone. There are many unexpected aspects to this life but I still think its worth the risk, give it a go and see what the world has to offer. Yes there are things no one tells you, daily frustrations and cultural differences, but all I have learnt and the people that are in my life because of this journey, make it all worth while.
Is it perfect? No, but it is perfectly odd enough to not make life boring.
My favourite expat blogs: