Most days living abroad are just like every other life, days turn to weeks, which turn into months and nothing extraordinary happens. If you are lucky, you even forget where you are, it becomes so normalised and routine, that you barely even notice that you are in this random corner of the world. The environment melts away and you’re simply going about your business, no longer aware of the cultural or climatic differences. Last week I was fully in the swing of my usual antics, which led into a wonderful social weekend, when it dawned on me, I could have been sat anywhere in the world. Kuwait had faded into the background. When did somewhere in the world become anywhere in the world?
I have spoken many times about the click, when life as an expat stops being a novelty and everything just seems to click into place. You allow yourself to fully immerse into routines and start living this life as a local. Gone are the exciting new discoveries, gone are the nervous meet and greets and you are now embracing everything that this location has to offer. Of course the timescale for this revelation differs from person to person, location to location but I’m happy to say that most of us get there. I see it amongst my friends, it’s clear as day when someone has finally relinquished all that anxiety about whether this was the right choice, worrying about whether the kids and spouse are happy, you quite literally see a weight lifted and they’re entire outlook change.
I remember that moment in Prague, where I was doing my daily drudge up hill to the supermarket, it had been snowing, I was wrapped up to an inch of my life even for the 10 minute walk. As I meandered through the church square, past the usual suspects waiting for the number 11 tram, I caught sight of myself in a window. I literally burst our laughing, I had completely forgotten where I was. This usual walk, in the snow, my broken Czech telling the woman at the roll counter how many I had, knowing the part of the path that would be clear to walk on, hauling my Bag for Life over my shoulder whilst wrestling to put my gloves back on. It was normal.
To me, it was no longer foreign in a foreign country.
So here I am in the Land of Sand, probably one of the biggest adjustments I’ll make in my expat adventures and I honestly feel like I could be anywhere. Yes there are massive differences to the life back home but I see past the dusty streets, the non European architecture, the scorching heat and the traditional dress. We have our curry house, which enables us to carry on with our weekly Friday night take away, the coffee shop knows my usual, a hairdresser that “gets” my hair and our favourite weekend breakfast haunt. This is absolutely no different to my life in Jersey or Prague, we just find the new versions of all these things and settle back in to the latest scenery.
This weekend only reiterated that anywhere in the world, will eventually feel normal to me. Whilst Hubby embarked on the weeks ironing (yes I have a modern man on my hands) I called my friend to see if you wanted to come around and watch the finale of a certain reality show (we don’t know each other well enough for me to divulge my guilty pleasure in trashy TV, so you will have to fill in the blanks). She was around in a flash and as we sat there on the sofa, adding very animated commentary and shouting at the TV, I thought isn’t this perfect! This was just like being sat back in Jersey with my bestie, watching our favourite movie franchise and not having a care in the world. Did I ever think I’d be sat in Kuwait, sitting on the sofa with such a close a friend that we giggle and scream over the same car crash TV? Nope but its bloody fantastic.
That afternoon, we headed to the Cinema to watch Downton Abbey. Now apart from the car park of Lamborghini, Porsche and monster trucks it was like any other cinema trip. As the film started and the beautiful English scenery rolled across the big screen I was transported. I was watching a movie, about home, with everything quintessentially English, laughing at the dry wit of the one liners and the pining over a proper cup of tea. The most British 2 hours of the weekend, sat in the middle of The Gulf and home for our usual Friday night in with a curry. Can it get much better?
Saturday rolled around and we were headed to a birthday lunch. This was a rare treat to have proper Sunday lunch (on Saturday because of course Saturday is Sunday here!) at someone’s house, reminiscent of family get togethers. The large table was laid, the wafts of roasted meats came from the kitchen and everyone chatted away. We sat down to eat and the conversations were flowing, the large serving dishes passed around family style and even Yorkshire puddings made an appearance. Around the table were, Scots, Yorkshireman, Ozzies, southerners and this Jersey girl. All corners of the UK and the world coming together sat in Kuwait! Laughing, eating, discussing the rugby and if I had taken a snap shot you would have had no clue where we were sat. We could have been anywhere. This expat family which derived from the sandpit, had created a bubble of normalcy.
People often ask me what living here is like and of course I tell them all the glaringly obvious differences to life on a little 9 by 5 island, but the truth is once you live anywhere long enough, its not all that different. Even sat here writing this, I’m surrounded my family photos, books, memories, our possessions accumulated over the years that follow us to each place. The only difference is, as I look out the window the view has changed from granite coastlines, to bohemian rooftops and now to minarets and palm trees.