Last week my mum came over to visit and talk turned, as it always does, to the potential of us returning home. I’ve always been upfront about the fact that I never wanted to be an expat, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than leaving the cosy confines of our bright, airy, gorgeous Clapham flat. Saying goodbye to the lovely friends I had made who were all going through the same struggles we were. The sleepless nights. The worry over poo. The no napping territory. The struggles with weaning, with breastfeeding, with bottle feeding.
I didn’t want to leave my comfort the zone, the place where I was able to order anything I needed online. Where grocery shopping was delivered to my door. Where I was able to use Amazon for anything I needed. Where I was able to find a babysitter (that I trusted and who came with references and a police check!) for my baby even though my mum lived miles away. I didn’t want to be ripped from the comfort of the only type of life I’ve ever known.
So when my mum asked me this visit about my thoughts on returning home, probing at the one sore spot of my expat life – my lack of job, my stay at home mum status. Wondering if we came home would I search for an office job, return to a life that I knew.
And my answer was no.
No. I don’t want to come home.
Where 4 years ago I wasn’t ready to leave the security blanket of everything I knew, I can say for certain now that becoming an expat was the best thing we’ve ever done as a family. That despite my unwillingness to be an expat, it is something that I now wouldn’t change and in fact it’s swung as far in the other direction as possible. Right now I do not want to repatriate. I do not want to become a “hidden immigrant” within my home country, more importantly I am not ready for my children to be the same. My expat kids through and through.
I know that each expat life is different. I know that my Doha expat life is shaping up differently to my Dubai expat life. I know that should we move elsewhere in the world it will be different again. But not solely because of where in the world we are but because of the stage of life we are at. Our needs. Our children’s needs.
Our big fat Dubai life
Our big fat Dubai expat life was the very beginning of the journey. The understanding of differences in life. Our Dubai life was focused around family and friends. It saw us move from a family of three to a family of four as financial limitations of a second child were removed from us. It saw us save hard and enjoy life. My Dubai life would have been very different if I had moved there with just my husband, my Dubai life would most probably have revolved around brunch, dinners and socialising. As it was it revolved around family friendly days out, play dates and copious amounts of coffee. It introduced us to a world of expats, a world of different cultures and a new way of looking at things. It was the start of our expat adventure.
It was new, it was exciting and it was us finding our feet. It was playtime in one of the most fantastic cities in the world, a mixture of old and new.
Life in Doha
Moving to Doha, though still a Gulf country, our life is different again. Both personally and outside of the home.
From toddler parents to school parents we have different considerations to be filled, we have different needs as do the boys. Days are filled with school runs, with nursery runs. With being split in two by two children with different needs. Meeting new people, making new friends.
We’re learning the differences between Dubai and Doha, and there are differences, the more stringent following of Islamic dress code for example. The way that the country turns dry through important Islamic religious holidays such as Ramadan which is coming up.
We’re watching as Qatar goes through some changes, structurally, building all around us. The metro line which is getting ready to go in. The stadiums being built for the World Cup. An ever changing movement showing that tourists should come here as well. The refurbished, beautiful hotels. The five star luxury. The white sand beaches. In this expat life we’re watching a country that is gracious enough to host us as residents change all around us. A young country growing day by day. So different to our old life back in England. So different still to life in Dubai.
It’s not plain sailing
Now don’t get me wrong. Expat living hasn’t all been plain sailing. We’ve missed big events at home, and small. We don’t get to be involved in the lives of the people we love as much as we want too, and while Skype is good it isn’t the same. There’s the paperwork, the red tape and the adapting your mind frame to a whole new way of living. The homesickness and the feeling of being just too far away.
And who knows where we will go next, whether we will stay here for years and years or whether we will move onto the next opportunity. The next expat life, the next great adventure. Where we once again have a different expat life, with different needs. Whether we head to the Far East, stay in the Middle East, tackle America. Whether indeed we pack up and head for England’s green and pleasant lands.
But isn’t that just part of the adventure?