When you start on this crazy expat journey, very few of us have any real idea what lies ahead. There are the few newbies that have grown up travelling the world but to the rest of us there is very little to prepare you. Like most of life’s experiences, there is a lesson everywhere and I guess its my duty to let anyone considering a life abroad, it may not match your great expatations, but in some cases can actually surpass them.
To the outside world, we are still thrown into that expat wife mold of gin swilling, pearl wearing, twin set matching stepford epitome. I guess this is urban legend number 1 and I wont lie those women still exist but the majority of us are a million miles away from that scenario. No gin swilling in this dry state and whilst Kuwait attracts many women that don’t work, we aren’t void of intelligence and outside of this location have varied careers. So expect to meet many women in the same boat, if work is not on the agenda, you won’t be roaming around the desert looking for the few unemployed strangers.
I’m going to work abroad, rake it in and retire at 40!
Working abroad of course is exciting and takes so many expats around the world. This maybe true for some few lucky individuals but for most it’s not as simple as it sounds. Yes, usually the financial packages for working abroad are attractive and the benefits can be generous, however everything costs something eventually. You have to navigate a foreign company, which if not a global corporation can prove frustrating. Standards may not match what you’re used to, time zones can cause issues with multi jurisdictions and in the Middle East the pace can be painful. It’s not just the corporate world that has issues, I know quite a few teachers that have had serious problems with the standard of education they expect to deliver, versus the reality, the hierarchical obsession of the culture here, can create an undeniably tense environment. That being said, I know plenty of people, my husband included, that have worked away for so long now they are expect the differences and go with the flow, enjoying every moment (mostly!)
Obviously everything will be so alien and will always feel weird, right?
Wrong. It’s funny how I had this huge presumption going into this life that it would always feel a little strange, holiday like and never “normal” in comparison to life back home. It surprised me, so much, that even within a few months, life stops being a novelty and you suddenly forget where you are and you are just living. Ok, there isn’t a Waitrose to stroll around, English may not be the language of choice, you’re not waking up to a Sunday bacon sandwich but still not that strange!……Honest
Moving abroad will solve all your problems. I mean why wouldn’t it?
You are away from any issues, dislikes or monotony that your home life may have brought you. It’s exciting, running off towards a new adventure, living the dream that you always wanted. Hmmm not quite, not far off, but not exactly. Don’t get me wrong this life brings you a mountain of opportunity, experiences and positivity but it’s not always easy. I have found my expat journey a good one but still have days where you may question everything, crave for your home country and people you love. You will always have days, that occasionally, come up and smack you in the face out of nowhere. This doesn’t mean that you have made the wrong choice, you should pack up and leave, facing the reality of failure. It’s a blip, we all have them, we get over it, have a bitch, a moan and usually a cry and we’re back on track. The vast majority of the time, its everything you hoped for but please don’t expect that it will all be perfect and answer to everything. Life, expat or not, just isn’t right?
I know I will be very lonely, away from my family and friends.
I seriously thought I would spend so much time on my own when we moved to the desert. I mean who else would have considered this random corner of the Gulf as a home away from home? Little did I know, loads of people. I was shocked at the expat community spirit that is in this country and how social it is. Of course every location is different but please don’t write off this life or come with a serious anxiety about it being a lonely existence. My experience and of so many, is that this is one of the lovely surprises that has certainly raised my expectation. Throw yourself out there, make the effort and there will people willing to welcome you and become your new tribe.
The flip side of that is that you don’t think this at all. Quite the opposite. You think it will be easy to make friends and that you’ll be inundated with social engagements. Kuwait gives me this scenario, but Prague certainly didn’t, no matter how hard I tried. Sometimes there is nothing you can do and that leads me to another misconception….
Oh that will be an easy location, yeah let’s go there.
Whilst on paper some countries seem like they will be a relatively easy transition to your life abroad. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Prague, whilst beautiful and on paper was an European city, so how much harder can it be from home? I couldn’t be more wrong, in fact the irony is that Kuwait is much easier and yet was the location that I was dreading. I guess sometimes the strangest places can actually be a smoother journey, as it’s so vastly different to anything you’ve experienced, that you adapt faster, as there’s simply no other choice. Thinking you can replicate your life back home is never a good idea and quite frankly will never happen.
I guess when writing this post, I realised that whilst there are so many presumed factors to this life, and certainly to Kuwait, there are also many aspects that surpassed every one of my expatations. That’s the beauty of it, you can’t second guess a thing. Go into it with a broad open mind, because why limit yourself with preconceptions, when you can have wonderful surprises.