moving

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In 2012, my family and I packed up our bags and moved overseas permanently. By permanently, I mean we obtained visas as Permanent Residents in a brand new country – the United Arab Emirates. My husband’s work meant that we were to reside in Dubai and in 2015, we still call this place our second home.

 

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You always miss home. You always get a pang when family back home are doing something fun and nostalgia runs wild when loneliness is rife (usually during holiday season and kids hitting a certain milestone. Photos also trigger tears).

 

There are also times that you will feel like a foreigner, especially when you asked for tomato sauce or when people snicker at your use of the term ‘thongs’. However, there are 5 main reasons to counter-argue any depressing feelings you might have when you move abroad.

 

1/ Making friends.

 

Especially in a transient place like Dubai, you will master the skill of making new friends and saying goodbye to friends. Ofcourse with meeting new friends comes learning new things and experiencing different cultures. My friends nationalities range and I have met people from every single continent in one birthday party event. Do you realise how large the world is? You won’t, until you leave Australia and move abroad.

 

 

 

2/ You will learn about the literal meaning of unpacking your bags.

 

This is a big statement, I know, but it’s valid. In my first year away, I waited for happiness to come and knock on my door. I was in a brand new place, with magical opportunities at my doorstep. You would think joy would rain on me, right? Wrong.

 

I realised that the moving part wasn’t the hard element. I needed to get outside of my box and start living. I needed to put my old life behind me and start this new chapter. Old habits die hard, but I kid you not, they do diminish. I order with an American accent (no one understands Aussies) and I love the monarchy here. Crazy, I know.

 

It took me nine months before I purchased my first pot plant and it was then I realised that I kept worrying about not staying here. I kept wondering about when we would pack up and move. I made the choice to embrace the new opportunities that lay in front of me and put my Australian life on the shelf.

 

 

3 years later......

To a new beginning

To a new beginning

 

<—- The plant today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/ You will have a TON of time to spend with you spouse/partner and children.

 

This is especially the case if back home you had to divide your time amongst 497 extended family members. When we first arrived, we just stared at each other and thought “HOW MUCH TIME!!!” So, we did things we never would have managed too. We took the kids to the desert for a picnic, we travelled (see next point), we played board games every single night for a year, we hung up the phone every evening (due to time difference) and we were free.

 

Eid mornings were pretty special – the children were able to come with us to the mosque and were able to open their gifts quietly and play with them.

 

As for marriage/relationship, it is an incredible booster. It doesn’t get monotonous, don’t worry. You begin to appreciate your partner because they become the foundation to your life. It’s deep.

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4/ Travel.

Being in the middle of the world (and not the bottom) is INCREDIBLE for your travel desires. My 10 year old son’s passport is pretty impressive and I am proud to have ventured to places I could only have dreamed off.

 

In our second year of living in Dubai, we decided to Road Trip around the UAE. Before you scoff at the small size of the country, you cannot put into words how it feels to jump into a wadi surrounded by caves, camp on a beach or meet remote Bedouins.

 

In 2014, we trekked through 5 European countries and with 3 kids it was quite a feat. I will never forget riding our bikes past the Amsterdam Canals and picking up Danish scrolls in Copenhagen. There was the time we were stranded in Sweden, stuck in a massive rainstorm without shelter. Or the time we felt heaven on earth at Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. Did I mention how cheap tickets are over here?

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5/ The value of family.

 

Being far makes you softer, your edges become less jagged and it’s marvelous therapy for a frazzled mum-of-3 (me) and a corporate junkie (hubby). We stopped groaning when our mothers called, and realised the importance of hearing about small, bizarre stories of childhood our fathers retold us. We prayed for Skype calls like someone prays for the lottery and when we receive a photo of family, we dissect it like we are in a laboratory.

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If the opportunity arises, go for it.

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C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S.

You are probably reading this because you are inundated with facts and figures and nerves about moving to the best city in the world. The city that only dreams big, and literally too. It wins every single Guinness Book of World Record.

—[Random fact for you: Dubai, the city of gold, made the world’s longest 22-carat hand-made gold chain measuring a total of 5.522 kilometres. Moving on.]—

I’m going to be straight with you and tell you all about what to expect. You’re welcome.

1/ When you become A Dubai Person, you will always, always, always, always start your conversation with: “Where are you from?” and “How long have you been here?”

 

 

 

2/ Expect some traffic jams. A LOT OF TRAFFIC JAMS.

 

3/ You will never be able to go to  a public toilet in another country again.

4/ Carrying your groceries? Pushing your trolley of goods to the car? Assembling your bookshelf? NEVER AGAIN.

 

5/ You will never, ever have to cook again.

6/ Your accent will change. It’ll be a mix of Arabic, Philipino, Russian and British. Add a splash of American.

 

7/ Sometime between your 1-8 month of arrival, you will stop expecting people to give you their addresses. Landmarks and famous buildings will be enough information for you to be able to navigate to their home. YOU WILL HATE GOOGLE MAPS.

8/ Warning, Warning. You have been warned: ETA of terrible home sickness 6-10 month period.

 

9/ When you do go back “home” you will want to come back. You have caught Dubai Fever. Be careful, after 3 years you will never go back.

10/ If you are a parent, you will hunt down places at school as if your life depends on it. HUNT IT DOWN.

11/ If you are not a parent, you will still hunt down places at school as if your life depends on it. (Some schools have a 3 year waiting period. Insanely popular schools have messages on their crappy websites about 2045 being full.)

 

12/ When you get to Dubai, this will be you upon seeing the prices of things.

13/ After 6 months, this will be you.

14/ This will be your reaction every single time you see prices for homes for sale or rent.

 

15/ Don’t worry. YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND why the landlord needs 1 cheque. And you will never understand how they expect people to have 1 cheque ready for a whole year’s rent.

 

16/ Bring every single document with you. Marriage licence, change of surname licence even your pen licence from primary school. They need everything here. AND make sure it is all certified. Then get ready for them to ask you for a document NOT on the list.

17/ Going to Westfield will feel boring, after Dubai Mall.

 

18/ Resaturants. They will seem less glamorous to you. Be careful, Pierre Herme is just an everyday thing here. #justsaying

 

19/ You will learn that Dubai has 2 seasons. 1. HOT and 2. WE-ARE-2-INCHES-AWAY-FROM-THE-SUN-HOT.

 

20/ Air Conditioning will become a norm. In fact, you will need a jacket in Dubai only for indoors.

 

21/ Dubai gives M U L T I C U LT U R A L a whole new perspective. 20 different nationalities in one classroom in common AND there’s every kind of cuisine available. Feel like Uzbekistani food? No problem.

 

22/ Make sure you buy extra bed linen and sleeping bags – you will host all year around because as I first mentioned – YOU ARE MOVING TO THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD.

We are approaching the 1 year mark of living a life as an ex-pat and I found it very timely that this post came to me while I was standing in IKEA.

Before I get to that revelation, let me take you back to March 2012. The month I found out I was to uproot my family and move countries. When I remember the moment I knew we were relocating to Dubai, I still get the shivers. I remember thinking ‘how hard can it be‘ because I am glass half-full kind of person. But let me tell you, it is hard. It is bloody hard. Without doubt there are more difficult tasks in the world than this but it’s all relative. In my journey I found the mental baggage that comes with being labelled an “ex-pat” most daunting.

I never, ever envisaged that I would live outside of Australia. Of Course, like many budding young 20-something I have always loved the idea of travelling. We did quite a bit of travelling when we first got married, and with the children. We have been to Italy, Cyprus, France, Maldives, Oman, Singapore, New Zealand, covered a fair bit of Australia and our last family vacation (before Dubai) was a trip to Fiji. Throughout each and every vacation I always noted how travelling enlightens the soul. It wakes up those dormant cells sitting in your brain and you realise “yes, there is so much out there!

But still, I never ever, for even a millisecond, took a vacation and imagined myself living in that country. I always was just a tourist.

And this is the first dilemma faced by life as an ex-pat. Because you are no longer a tourist, but you are so new to everything that you feel like you do not truly fit in.  A country like Dubai, it is easy to feel like you do not fit in. Those lucky to be born in the UAE are so easily identifiable and their lifestyles can make the everyday person cringe with envy. The locals as they are known, have many benefits. The main examples that spring to mind are: FREE healthcare, FREE education and if you are getting married, the government gives the groom a block of land/house. FREE. Yes, I know it is totally spoiling but you can imagine how all of us westerner ex-pat’s stick out like a sore thumb.

And then there is the long distance relationships you have to deal with. For me, it’s with the plethora of family and friends and acquaintances I have left behind. And to quote Ms T. Swift “its exhausting” maintaining these relationships. When you are so far away, your sensitivity levels are greatly increased. Ask any ex-pat and they will tell you, the most annoying thing is when family and friends back home say Nothing is new back here, so that is why I didn’t call/Skype/message”. Unless they are a hermit and have a heart of stone, every single person living away from their home country would love any form of communication and even a little news from back home. 

And lastly, the bittersweet moment of when I went back to Australia for a vacation, and I ticked that small box on the customs form- ‘holiday’- it felt surreal. When I went back to Australia recently, back to ‘home‘, I still felt torn. My mind was changing gears to fit the Australian lifestyle but I was still living out of a suitcase.

So there I am in IKEA. I am surrounded by a million Swedish-born products, littered with Dirham currency numbers and calculating if I really need that bookshelf with matching baskets. And then it hit me, although I live here and my husband works here and my children attend school here and by the national identity card I own, I am labelled resident – my heart is still torn.

When does someone truly settle? I often ask myself. How do you erase all memory of your past life and build on the new life?

Although my heart breaks with the missing I feel – missing mum and dad, missing special occasions, missing familiar streets and cafes, missing familiarity – I have accepted that this is the journey I need to take. For some reason, my fate has played out this way and perhaps the life experiences I am learning (and my children), will be beneficial later in life.

One of my favourite authors said:

“Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world.”

“What I found appealing in life abroad was the inevitable sense of helplessness it would inspire. Equally exciting would be the work involved in overcoming that helplessness. There would be a goal involved, and I liked having goals.”

–David Sedaris

So i purchased my IKEA trolley full of things and set up my apartment. I even bought a plant to celebrate the day I let go and stopped living in limbo.

To a new beginning

Glass half full peeps – that is the best outlook on life!

Till next time,

be good :)