This week I went to my two year olds Cultural Day at nursery, a rite of passage for the expat kid. A day to celebrate the culture and diversity that living in Qatar brings. And with it a chance to reflect on what we are so lucky to experience. We mix with a variety of nationalities on a daily basis, and it is one of the things I love most about living as an expat. The fact that we have friends from all over the globe.
Irish. Kiwi. South African. American. Filipino. Indian. Turkish. Swedish. French. Ecuadorian. English. Scottish. Qatari. French. Polish. Italian. Australian. Costa Rican. Russian. I could go on and on.
It’s incredible. Enlightening. The way we are able to communicate, find common ground and forge friendships.
I love that we head out on play dates and make new friends, as well as being fed the most delicious foods – Poğaça is my new favourite of all time. I find it fascinating that everyone has a different way of drinking tea – with lemon is apparently the best way according to my Polish friend. I love that when we go away to new places someone has intimate knowledge and tells us of the things we need to do or try (I’m looking at you Khachapuri in Tbilisi).
Most of all I love that my boys are understanding that the world is such a big place filled with so many different people.
So it was with a smile on my face that I walked into the nursery to spend an hour with my youngest and his friends. To look at the poster we had prepared together showing all about England. To learn of his friends and their cultures.
We sat together, and ate a wide array of food. There was even Poğaça (so I knew that one of his classmates must be Turkish.) We munched on Biryani, Fattayah, scones, waffles, chicken nuggets. And we talked, in the way you can with a two year old, about where everyone was from.
Where are you from?
His teacher was from Sri Lanka.
His teaching assistant was from the Philippines.
His best friend was from India.
He was from Qatar.
Woah. Back up kiddo, what did you say?
“I from Qatar”
Whilst I am delighted to live here. And I am, I love being an expat out here in Doha. No matter how much I adore my adopted home, I am not Qatari. Neither are my children.
Yet both of them have spent more time in the Middle East than they have in the UK. Their passports may say that they are British but what do they know of British culture? Of England’s green, green lands?
The endless cups of tea. Barbecues in the rain. Country walks and the National Trust. Cream Teas (though according to my friend I am a barbarian having my cream teas jam first so maybe I shouldn’t teach them that). The Queen. Bourbon biscuits. Pork Pies. Big Ben. Red buses.
All things we try, and do, teach them.
But where are they from?
Is it London? Where my eldest was born and we lived before we emigrated. If that’s the case then I am from Birkenhead, my husband is from Cambridge and my youngest. Well he was born in Dubai.
Is it Derby? Where my childhood home is, where the boys spend most of their time?
Is it destination as yet unknown? The place we would move back too, one day, maybe?
Or is it simply a case of home is where the heart is and it isn’t a question that they need to ask?
That the identity of an expat kid is just of an expat. With love in your heart for your adopted country with teachings of your home country? Learning along the way about new countries?
It’s a question that I am not sure I have an answer too, that I will ever have an answer too. All I know is that we keep on doing the best we can, teaching them along the way.
Because after all does it always matter where you’ve been or is it about where you’re going?