Living as an expat was never something that crossed my mind when I was younger. In fact you could even say that I didn’t want to be an expat. Ever.
Yet here we are on our second expat stint in the Middle East. Both of my boys, the ultimate in expat kids, have spent more time out of the UK than in it and their childhood is so different to anything I ever imagined whilst I was pregnant. It is anything different to anything I’ve ever imagined, full stop.
Here I am raising expat brats, who are anything but brats, just kids who have their moments (and thank you f*%&!g fours for that) who happen to be being raised in the Middle East. Which has it’s own challenges and idiosyncrasies as does everything in life. But what are the signs that you are raising an expat brat? Sorry, I mean what are the signs you are raising a child in the Middle East?
They have been on more planes than buses
Generally if you’re headed out and about you drive. Anything else tends to be a plane. The expat kid has been on more planes than buses. Planes are used to ferry you back and forth home, on holidays, anywhere out of the country. If you leave the country you leave on a plane. End of.
When we go back to the UK, or wherever in the world you call home, it is a real treat for them to ride the bus, or the tube, or any form of public transport. It is a novelty. One that may wear off quite quickly for the older members of your party.
They are cold, even when it is warm
A warm summers day in the UK. Kids are running round in shorts, in t-shirts, in swimmers jumping in and out of the paddling pools that are dotted around. The expat kid from the Middle East is shivering in his jumper and jeans and looks aghast that you dare suggest they remove their jumper.
The excitement that is rain
The rest of the world grinds to a halt when it snows, the Middle East stops when it rains. You may get snow days at your school, out in the Middle East you get rain days. There are rain dances, rain prayers and general wonderment at rain.
When it comes, it comes in force and more often than not all the expat kid will want to do is go out and jump in the puddles. Dance in the rain. And get soaking wet experiencing something that doesn’t happen all too often.
They know the sound of the call to prayer
And will even sleep through the early call. They know what a mosque looks like and what happens inside. Put them in front of a church and they are perplexed. Is it a castle? A house?
They’re used to bunking down in spare rooms through the summer
When somewhere gets hotter than the inside of an oven it makes sense to take advantage of the long summer holidays from school and perform what is known as the mass summer exodus. The one that sees the majority of women and children leave their “poor” menfolk behind heading for cooler climes.
They don’t understand when you get your own petrol
Driving up to a petrol station involves winding down a window and requesting “full of special please” and only on the side that your petrol cap is on. It’s making friends with the guys working on the petrol station and waving at them.
It isn’t getting out of the car and doing it yourself, that causes panic and confusion.
They climb palm trees
Climbing trees is a right of passage in any kids life, scraping your hands down the bark, getting as high as you can. Feeling on top of the world. Expat kids in the Middle East are no different, after all, kids are kids. However the difference is instead of climbing apple trees they are busy climbing palm trees.
They don’t know what a radiator is
A big, scary, white mounted WARM thing on the wall. Not a clue.
They start to learn languages – that you may not even know
Living in the Middle East, Arabic is spoken all around. The majority of schools offer Arabic as a language to be taken in school, even the tiny tots of three. It is likely that they will know more Arabic than their parents after a term or two, Inshallah.
They have a diverse set of friends, all round the world
In a world where there is so much fear of the unknown, so much potential hate, the expat kid is at an absolute advantage. Where you are from, what religion you practice, your culture – none of this matters to them. The most important questions asked are “do you want to play” and “shall we be friends”
And that is why we love being expats. Raising our expat kids. Raising the third culture kid generation.
The experience we are giving them. The friendships they are forging. The relationships they are making. The world they are seeing.
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