I’ve said it many a time, that we expat bloggers are a friendly bunch, gravitating towards each other on all social media platforms. We “like”, follow and comment on all things expat, giving each other that knowing virtual nod that we “get it”. A recent development has been, a hashtag piece of genius, called the Expat Tag. I have been tagged twice now by lovely Brit Kylie from Between England and Iowa and more recently by Ayaan and Safiyya, aka The Xpats a friendly Dubai based couple. The idea is that everyone answers the same 10 questions, giving people a real insight into the multitude of different expat experiences and the stories behind the blogs. So here goes, its my turn and in the words of Madonna………who’s that girl?
Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
I was born and grew up in Jersey. Now let’s gets this right, this isn’t New Jersey, this is the original (that’s actually true, New Jersey gets its name from my little island haven, so a bit of trivia for you there)
Jersey sits in the English Channel between the UK and the northern French coast. This little island is where cows, famous potatoes and curious patriotic locals called Beans coexist. I am one such bean, born and bred in one the of the jewels, if not a little claustrophobic bubbles, of the British isles.
Growing up in Jersey was a unique and special experience. My childhood was one of safety and somewhat Utopian, giving an 80’s child an experience like that of the 1950’s England, with low crime, freedom to play outdoors, clean sea air and good old fashioned family days out at the seaside. The tourist industry boomed and Bergerac had placed us firmly on the map.
Fast forward some 30 odd years and this Jersey Girl finds herself in Kuwait! I have been here for nearly 3 year and desert life has become the norm. Kuwait is similar to Jersey, in the sense that it is small in relation to its Gulf neighbours, has a sleepy pace and most expats know each other, making the community feel very small, just like island life. However, the similarities stop there and living in Kuwait is a very unique experience.
What made you leave your home country?
At 19, I left my little isle for the Big Smoke and spent 4 years studying in London. This escape was much needed, showing me a world outside of my island bubble, a world of possibilities. However, mid twenties I did return, as I craved the familiarity of home and I settled back in for what I thought would be forever. I am sure like a lot of expats, the move abroad can happen quite spontaneously and without some life long plan to leave ones home country. I happened to fall in love with a nomadic soul, who had lived outside of England for a significant time. We had become stale with island life, found the “everyone knows everyone” vibe somewhat claustrophobic and felt that after 6 years there were adventures to be had. Hubby got offered a job in Prague and one day over a Pizza Hut date night, we decided to take the expat plunge. 7 years later, two locations down and plenty many adventures to come.
What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?
This is a funny one and it normally goes something like this……
Jersey? (Very vague look on their faces)
Where is that? Never heard of it
Oh ok, but you don’t have an American accent? (then ensues the whole Jersey v New Jersey explanation)
Lucky you, it’s beautiful, my nan goes there every year!
and my favourite………
I knew someone once that came from Jersey……their name is (insert some random bloke) do you know them?!
What was the easiest/ hardest part in adjusting to your new country?
When we moved to Kuwait, I knew I was not going to work initially. Whilst I was looking forward to having a break from the 9 to 5, I was anxious about filling my days and what kind of social life I would find desertside. However, to my surprise, this ultimately turned out to be one of the easiest transitions. Kuwait has a very tight-knit expat community and I have met so many lovely people, building a strong support network of friends. This settled me so quickly, into what had seemed like a very daunting move from Europe to the Middle East.
Initially the hardest adjustment had to bye the heat. I had moved to the hottest place on earth and arriving in August had certainly giving us a baptism of fire. I couldn’t comprehend that an outside temperature could feel anything like this. I was imagining, naively, that it would be like heading to Spain on your summer holidays, getting off the plane and feeling that lovely warmth hit your skin. Erm no……It was like someone had got a hair dryer on full pelt and was standing there pointing it directly into your face and I was not ready for it. It is like nothing I have or probably ever experience again.
Are there any images, words or sounds that sum up the expat experience you’ve had so far?
Of course Kuwait is a Muslim country, so this opened up so many new sounds, smells and images to me. The call to prayer will forever remind me of our time in the Middle East. That haunting, mystical, rhythmic sound, echoing around the city becomes normal, hypnotic and somewhat comforting.
Arabic is spoken in Kuwait but the majority of people use English, thank goodness because I am far from a linguist and after my horrendous attempt at learning Czech, I don’t think the locals could bear me trying to speak Arabic! Having said that, there is one word that sums this part of the world and it is used equally by locals and expats.
Which basically becomes a running joke. You start saying it, because lets face it, it’s like the Spanish mañana, with regards to getting anything done!
Your favourite food or drink from your new country?
Surprisingly, Kuwait has becomes a bit of a foodie haven for me. There are so many fantastic eateries and independent restaurants, coffee bars sprouting up, that there is now a vast choice beyond the fast food outlets.
There are a few items that will always invoke food envy, when I think about our Kuwait life and the variety just shows how many options there are here.
1) Hummous. My goodness this tastes so much better here than anything you buy out of Tesco back home. I do tend to OD on it and have to have a hummous amnesty for a while, but that just makes it even better, when I dive straight back in, with rounds of fresh Arabic flat bread.
2) Cheesecake. I know this isn’t very middle eastern, but one of our favourite haunts here is The Cheesecake Factory and the Red Velvet cheesecake is to DIE FOR! Ok it maybe like a weeks worth of calories but my god its worth it
3) Lebanese food. I could eat this all day long. There are so many fantastic options for this cuisine here and I love that this culture sees food as a family occasion, loading the table with mountains of food to share.
What’s the one thing you said ‘yes’ to in your new city that you wouldn’t say ‘yes’ to back home?
I think I am far more adventurous here than I would ever be back home in my old life. This weekend was a prime example of this, when I was contacted by Expat Panda another expat blogger here in Kuwait. She had messaged a few of us on Instagram to arrange a bloggers meet up over brunch. So on Saturday
I went to meet 6 complete strangers, who I’d met on the internet and didn’t think anything was weird about that!
It was a great success and one thing I know, is when I leave here I will definitely say “yes” more. Living here has given me so much more confidence and meeting new people won’t ever feel that daunting again.
Are there any cultural norms/ phrases in your new country that you cannot stand?
There are plenty of things that can frustrate me, like the bureaucracy and an f-ing form for everything! The wacky races style driving and incessant taxi honking but there is nothing that I vehemently can’t stand (this week!)
What do you enjoy doing most in your new country?
Kuwait does have a very slow pace about it. I have mentioned before that there isn’t masses to do here, it doesn’t have the buzz of Dubai or the entertainment factor its Emirate counterpart displays. However, this doesn’t seem to bother me at all. Living here has giving me the opportunity to find new interests and ways to pass the time. So I enjoy the gym (my new found desert love) shopping (which is very good) eating (food has to come into my life somewhere!), spending time enjoying the desert climes and of course BLOGGING
Do you think you will ever move home for good?
In short, no. Life abroad opens your eyes to so many opportunities, where anything can happen. I never believed I could live outside convention and be happy and I would never say never, but right now I want something different and this expat adventure feels far from over.
Right, hopefully you enjoyed that little insight into the girl behind the blog but now its time to pass on that expat baton. I am including some of my favourite expat blogs, which may want to take part in The Expat Tag, whether they do or not, give them a read, as they all have a unique view on life aboard.
Wandermust Family Based in Qatar this blog gives a great round-up of desert life and travelling with kids.
I Spy Pretty Places A long standing traveller and expat, currently experiencing the Far East
Seychelles Mama Chantelle left the UK and moved The Seychelles. She gives a unique insight into life on a tropical island and the realities of family life abroad.