A year in Qatar and I’d say we’re just about settled into our expat life here. The boys are both at school or nursery, we’re in our (second) home and the pictures have (just about) made it up on the walls.
We are passed the stage of the what on earth are we doing here? Passed the OMG I need to make friends stage.
Well as settled as you can be on the expat journey.
Settled. Probably around the third stage of the expat cycle.
But what is the Expat Cycle?!
Having been through this journey once before in Dubai I often see similarities to our life, that are irrespective to the fact that both countries are in the Middle East. Similarities revolving around the stages of life we head through on our expat journey as we forge a new life in a new country. Where we make those expat friendships that truly make your expat life.
And this is true wherever in the world you go.
Wherever in the world you are from.
It is, the expat cycle.
Fresh off the boat
Fresh off the boat, arriving in a new city, town, country.
Maybe it’s somewhere you have been before. Maybe it isn’t. Either way living in a country is very different to visiting on holiday.
The doubts. The worries. The “what have we done?!” moments.
All rise to the surface, questioning your decision to uproot your life.
Why?? What do I do now?!
Time to put yourself out there and make new friends
A coffee morning – you’re there.
An open day – you’re there.
An expat meet up – you’re there.
Your Uncle Bob knows someone who knows someone who lives in your new country – you’re there.
A random lady that looks quite nice in the soft play toilet – you’re over there and introducing yourself faster than you can blink.
Someone messages you on Facebook and invites you for a cup of tea – you’re there.
You scan every Facebook group you’re in for new friends for you, for your children. You surreptitiously eye up other parents on the school run to see if they will be your potential new friends. The office is glanced over daily, tentative questions about sporting activities to see who will be your next golfing buddy.
Everyone is a potential new friend to the manic, smiling too brightly, expat maniac you’ve become.
And then you’re settled into every day life
You have a solid group of friends.
The girls you go for coffee with, for cake with, for drinks with.
The couples you have over for games nights, for drinks, for dinner.
Family days out with other families at the beach, barbecues.
Days filled with laughter, golden memories, of friendships.
A solid friendship group where you know the ins, the outs, the ups and downs. Shoulders to cry on. The expat friends who become your family.
Panic stations: one of the group is leaving the country FOR GOOD
And more panic.
What are you going to do?! This is the girl who has seen through all your horrific parenting moments. The one who fed you coffee as you crawled on her kitchen floor through sheer exhaustion because, you know, YOUR BABY WON’T SLEEP. The one who did shots with you at brunch where you both got in trouble with the husbands for being drunk.
The person who has helped you make the transition through to expat life in a new country.
And they’re leaving.
Who are you going to call when the kids are driving you up the wall to come over and rescue you?! They’re going to be a million miles away.
And that’s without the reality hitting of having to say goodbye.
Better get back out there to make more new friends
Whilst you’re wingman prepares to leave, you prepare to *replace* them.
Back you go to the coffee mornings, the play dates, the picking up of other newbies who look lost.
You become the one who helps someone through the transition of moving their life. The giver of coffee, the producer of shots, the shoulder to cry on.
Seamlessly adding new people to the friendship group.
Growing together in this expat life.
And then fatigue of the frantic proactive people searching variety
Coffee morning to meet new people and make small talk? Nope.
You cannot face the “how long have you been here?” or “what does your husband do?” chat.
It’s much easier to nip for a coffee with an old friend, to meet people organically on the school run when your kids are playing together.
To let people slip naturally into your life rather than frantically, proactively, desperately searching for friends.
Becoming settled once more.
Then it’s time to say goodbye
Then it’s your turn.
Time to pack up, to say goodbye.
To leave a hole in the lives of those surrounding you.
Wherever you may be headed, home or another expat destination, it’s time for you to leave this expat life for your next adventure.
Taking with you the memories of the good times, the bad times and the in-between times.
But more importantly, taking with you the friendships, the lifers and the family.