This is not the first time I experience the life of an expat. In fact, my life started as one. First, I was born in Saudi Arabia, in a remote area which was foreign to my parents. In it, I experienced a unique childhood where I grew up appreciating the beauty of the desert with all its charming crimson and pale colors emerged in one painting.
Years later, my parents, like every Lebanese at that time, decided to go back to their hometown, and try to compensate for the lost years of living abroad. Seeking a better opportunity to provide us with an excellent level of education, they conceded to settle in Beirut during the weekdays, and headed to the mountains every weekend.
As children, we quickly learned to adapt and fit into two different cultures; the urban and rural life each with its own disperse traditions and contradictory lifestyles .
The first real cultural shock, though, hit me when I got married and moved to live in France. It was not only about learning to adapt and fit into a completely new culture, but I also needed to improve my French speaking, reading, and writing skills which I have acquired as a third language.
I left my family, my teaching career, my social life, and my home to create a new home for me and my dear husband. And what a shock it was to realize that I was all of a sudden fully responsible for the tiniest decisions I made.
Not too long after that, my husband and I embarked on a new journey to Abu Dhabi! Again settling in and creating our own circle took some time, but we soon managed to establish our solid grounds and deal with the daily challenges of parenting, work, and whatever life brought us. Of course, we had our ups and downs. Our moments of complete surrender and defeat. Instants of loneliness and uncertainty. At the same time, we encountered amazing moments and built particular memories with amazing people whom we will cherish forever.
All those years, have actually taught me how to adapt to change. They provided me with the courage of embracing modification and diversity. They have paved the road for me to make me accept the consequences of living the expat life!
So this is how I am now acknowledging our new move in Muscat:
Learn about the culture before hand:
Before moving to any country, I learned to read about the culture and the country traditions we are moving to. It is essential to know what is expected and accepted in the society. What is normal in one place could be against the law in another. That is how having an idea of what to expect makes things smoother for us.
Listen to the local radio:
Listening to the local radio gives me an insight about major events and programs taking place in town. It not only entertains me, as I drive back and forth a many times a day, but it also helps me select specific plans to carry out along with my family. These highlights open new opportunities for us to fit better into the new society.
To socialize is an innate human need. By nature, we are social beings and having like minded people who share similar experiences is vital. Relationships create a psychological space and a safe niche which help us explore and learn about others and about ourselves. That is why, being around people makes us happier. Although it might be difficult at first, but it will soon open new doors and slowly one’s social circle builds up. Moreover, I personally love having people over, and hosting play dates, dinners, and gatherings for children and parents alike is something I find great pleasure in. That is how I quickly get in touch with people coming from all walks of life in the community.
Get involved in local activities:
Participating in local events and activities help me in accommodating into the new country with ease and awareness. It is not always comfortable to go and about introducing myself to a new society. At the same time, I do find great pleasure in doing so which gives me a good reason to get out of my comfort zone and explore those popular and cultural occurrences that are happening in the city. So far, I have attended a few events which have helped me in building a clearer idea on how life functions here.
Explore the surroundings:
Acting like tourists, even in our own country, serves us well. It not only makes us appreciate the country’s culture and heritage, but it also opens great opportunities of learning and knowledge. In every country I have been to, I always make it a point to visit museums, historical sites, galleries, and exhibitions. I love to explore new areas and cities. I have never felt intimidated by the unknown and maybe that is what motivates me unfold any uncertainties I face.
Keep in touch with family and friends:
Keeping the bond with family members and dear friends whom I have met along those past years, is essential. That connection is healthy for both parties. After all, they are the ones who understand my feelings and help me overcome any obstacle at hand. No one knows me better than they do, and because I am aware of the fact that it is not shameful to discuss any weaknesses I encounter, I actually get the support I seek. That is how I succeed in pulling myself up whenever I feel broken on the inside.
It is essential for me to keep myself occupied with educational and recreational activities other than just maintaining my family and home. It is true that I have five children to look after, and it is true I need to support my husband. It is also true that I have certain obligations which I need to tend to, no matter how boring they might sometimes be. However, it is essential that I do not forget myself and my needs as well. Here is why, I always seek endeavors which keep my mind alert and my knowledge escalating. Currently, the great pleasure I am experiencing as a result of my piano and photography lessons is simply fascinating.
As expats, we know for a fact that we will experience living in certain places for only a couple of years. It will not last forever! Some expat experiences could be more challenging than the others, especially if we were localized in countries which do not provide the accustomed facilities and services we used to have. However, once we gratefully accept what we have signed up for, we could actually enjoy those years no matter where we live.
In conclusion, no one said that the expat life is easy, and behind all the amazing facilities we are blessed with, there are many issues that come along. While it is normal to experience some challenges and frustrations when living abroad, applying the above tips have helped us ensure that our stay here could be yet another adventure which we will include in our diary.
That is why, with a positive attitude, we could actually build a new strong network no matter what the circumstances are. After all, it depends on how we decide to perceive the life we have chosen for ourselves and for our children.
So if you relate to a similar situation, let me know how you have adapted to the changes you witnessed as an expat!