I remember as a kid, leaving home for the first time. Not leaving, Dick Whittington style, with my cat and my belongings wrapped up in a cloth attached to a stick. I mean leaving to go away on a school trip. It was all kinds of emotional, equal parts exciting/nerve-wracking. A new and wild adventure into the unknown…a resort less than an hour away from home, for a weekend of archery and bad canteen dinners that included chocolate cake and green custard (that was a thing in our schools).
Fast forward 20 years or more, and I find myself in beautiful Kuwait, wondering where all of those years have gone, but also recalling that first harrowing experience of leaving home for the first time, for the sake of this article. Having lived here now for 493 days at time of writing, and previously Egypt for 4 years, I feel comfortable, relaxed and largely at home. But it wasn’t always that way.
I first went to Egypt on a temporary work assignment, surrounded by colleagues from the UK and put up in a 5 star hotel with all expenses paid. Aside from the work each day, it was like a holiday camp and I remember having an amazing time. Upon the assignment ending, and being offered a full time role in Egypt, I jumped at the chance and accepted. After returning home for the week leading up to Christmas break, I arrived back in Egypt on Christmas Eve and INSTANTLY had my first adult taste of truly being away from home.
It wasn’t the same as before at all. No co-workers, no hotel, no expenses paid…I was there, alone, standing outside the airport wondering simultaneously ‘’how do I get to my accommodation’’? and ‘’what on earth have I done’’? Frankly speaking, I felt scared, lonely and uncertain.
That feeling, while it did decrease gradually, didn’t leave for a long, long time. I made new friends at work; I adjusted to my apartment and neighborhood, and went about my life, but still wasn’t totally settled. I had good days and bad days, with regard to missing home. 99% of the problem was feeling alone and almost like the black sheep…totally out of place. Even back home, I could be living alone, or walking down the street alone, but surrounded by familiarity and things that were ingrained into me…things that make home, home. Of course, a new country, let alone a new part of the world, takes so much of that away.
For me, I wasn’t ready to quit and go home, although knowing that I could at any time helped me during the darkest days; just the thought was enough. That said, quitting isn’t in my nature. I had to find solutions to become more comfortable in my new surroundings. So I did just that, and I hope that these few simple tips can help those of you reading that are trying to adjust to the expat life here in Kuwait (or elsewhere)!
Learn the lingo! If I’m being honest, my Arabic sucks. But, I know a little…enough to get around. When you can communicate easily, and in the native language, not only do your country hosts appreciate it, but you reach another level of ‘feeling at home-ness’; ability to communicate effectively is essential in feeling comfortable in any place! If not through dedicated classes, get yourself some self-learning CDs/MP3s/apps, and watch as many local TV and movies as you can.
Search online for expat blogs and forums. Sign up and be open! The internet is full of people just like you, in the same position. Start a thread about how you’re new and need ideas for things to do/places to go/spots to eat, and you will be surprised at the friendly and helpful replies from both fellow expats and native members, and it’s a great way to make friends. There are some great Facebook pages for expats.
Join clubs and local events. It will keep you busy, get you involved with the local community, fit and healthy (if it’s a gym!) and help you to meet people. And if there isn’t an event or club that inspires you…
…Get creative! Feel like there’s something missing in your new homeland that others (as well as you) would appreciate? Go set it up! Create an event and spread the word!
Keep in mind that you can leave at any time at all…but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to leave. Save this for the worst days. One of the worst things you can do is tell yourself you’re stuck, you made a mistake, or have regrets; living abroad for even a day has enhanced your life experience and is more than some people accomplish in a lifetime, so be proud! But it never hurts to have an escape plan from any situation, so remember that if you give your all and you still crave the green green grass of home…it’s waiting for you anytime you’re ready.
We at bazaar are well schooled in the various things to do in and around Kuwait. Need some advice? Check out www.bazaar.town for ideas of things to do/places to go, or message us on Facebook: bazaarmagazine, using #expatsgonnaexpat!