If I was to take a guess, I’d say that since I became a Middle East expat in 2012 I must have answered a million questions about my expat life and how things work for me living away from home. Varying from financial enquiries to surviving in a new culture, we expats get asked all kinds of weird and wonderful questions! When you decide to move away from home, part of the package you sign up for is people’s curiosity about your lifestyle, along with advising others on how to make the same move.
Here’s a few of the most common questions I get asked, and some ways I usually answer them.
You live abroad? Did you win the lottery or something?
If I had a pound for every time someone asked me if I’ve ‘won the lottery or something’, I would seriously be a millionaire. The truth is, expats often become expats to relieve financial burden. So, no, I’m not rich. Living as an expat simply provided me with the freedom I needed to live my life more openly. I still work hard, and often longer hours and in more difficult and challenging environments than I did in the UK. Becoming an expat often releases you from the rat race commitments that so many of us get caught up in at home, freeing up time, money and energy to live how you want to.
How come you moved abroad? You must have got lucky to get that opportunity?
I say this all the time… we make our own luck. I moved abroad because I was bored at home. I actively went out to seek my first overseas opportunity. I googled recruitment companies, had interviews and went to open days. It didn’t come easily, and it took many, many months of preparation. From research, to visa applications, meetings, embassy runs, goodbyes and packing up. Moving your life to another country does not come easy. Everything needs to be perfect and you need to be 100% comfortable with the situation.
It’s kind of like applying for a job at home, but a million times harder, with a million more things to organize and a million times more daunting.Becoming an expat and making such a huge change can open many doors in the future. The initial move may feel like a huge risk, but who knows what other opportunities may arise. #expatlife #expats #travel Click To Tweet
How can you live in the Middle East when you don’t speak Arabic?
This is my favorite question! I get asked this all the time and it goes for living as an expat in any country. Yes, it can be difficult if you don’t speak the language, but the more you immerse yourself into your new home, the easier it will become. You pick up day to day words, especially if you work with local people. Before you know it, you may not be fluent, but you can hold a conversation without too many concerns. Often people speak a little English too, but don’t rely on this, you must go out and actively try to learn at least a little of the native language of the country you’re living in.
Is it hard to live in a culture so different from your own?
Often when I tell people that I’d been living in Saudi Arabia for so long, they are surprised. They have pre-conceived ideas about how strict and how awful life and existence must be there for a western woman. Let me reassure you, if you have an open heart and a curious mind you will have no problem fitting into a culture totally different to your own. Make sure you do your research before you go. Know what to expect and what you’re letting yourself in for. I’m a true believer in that life is too short, and if you’re not happy or you can’t adapt, then it’s not for you. You can always go home.
Certainly not. Expats work hard. In fact, working as an expat is the hardest I’ve ever worked. Being in an environment where there are constant challenges involving cultural and language barriers can be tiring. Living a transient lifestyle can be tiring also. Saying goodbye to people and learning to move on quickly can become exhausting. Being in the sunshine, enjoying weekends off and generous vacation allowances are perks of living an expat lifestyle and trust me, they are well deserved!
Whenever people come to me with questions or for advice around living as an expat, or taking a job in a new country, I am the first to encourage this kind of a lifestyle.
Until you’ve done it, even for a short time, there are no words that can honestly express how living outside of your comfort zone can enrich your life and outlook on the world.
Living as expat can change so many things. Not only financially and practically, but also personally. It can teach you about the world, change your views on how we live, open doors you thought were closed and truly impact your world in a way you never even dreamt possible.