I was a reluctant expat.
I did not want to leave London, which in itself is kind of ironic as I didn’t want to move to London in the first place.
I definitely didn’t want to move a plane ride away, give up my career, my life as I knew it.
Long story short I was never moving to the Middle East despite what my husband thought.
Then came the job application
When my husband first told me of the potential job opening in Dubai I was 34 weeks pregnant and told him to go for it. I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking, maybe it was hormones, maybe it was because it was paid better, maybe I wasn’t really listening when he told me it was in Dubai.
Who knows, except he applied, he had an interview and then he didn’t get the job. I breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn’t going to move.
It was definitely the hormones.
Except life doesn’t work like that.
When our first baby boy was six weeks old he came home and told me he’d been asked to reapply for the same job. In Dubai. With a 99% certainty that he’d get it this time.
And he did
After that it was a whirlwind. From interview to leaving was three months.
Countless emails, packages being worked out, leases being broken, our wedding plans being altered to fit around our move.
Three months of uncertainty. Of new motherhood. Of trying to find my place amongst my NCT group, my antenatal group, myself as a mother. Whilst preparing for an international move that I wasn’t sure I wanted to do.
At thirty years old, with my six month old baby boy, I boarded a plane to go and meet my husband in our new home.
A home I still didn’t think I wanted to live in.
And after a three hour wait at immigration a home that I was pretty pissed off with. Three hours at one am with a cranky, screaming, sweating baby.
I even made the cardinal error of exiting Dubai duty free without stopping for wine. An error I never repeated.
I was grumpy.
I was apprehensive.
I was scared.
Most of all I was certain that I wasn’t cut out to be an expat.
The wrong mindset
I cannot even begin to tell you how damaging that mindset could have been for me. Becoming a Debbie Downer on a place I hadn’t even given a chance, that I knew almost nothing about, bar the horrendous immigration line.
I wasn’t cut out to be an expat.
Then that first day we went for breakfast with someone I had been talking to on a baby forum. She turned up, with husband and baby in tow, and handed me a gift of baby food for my weaning six month old.
It was the start of me changing my mind
I couldn’t imagine anywhere else in the world where you’d head out to meet someone new, someone displaced, someone uncertain, and not only that but turn up with a gift that was just perfect?
That girl and her family became some of our closest friends in Dubai, we spent many a happy hour barbecuing, brunching, watching the kids blow off steam together.
From that moment in the coffee shop I began to view expat life a little differently from that point onwards. I mean, what if, everyone was like this?
The next day I had chance to prove my theory. Another meeting of someone from a forum. A welcoming, a chocolate cake being given, a husband driving mine around potential areas that we could live.
Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t such a reluctant expat after all
It took me some time, and it wasn’t comfortable all the time.
The relentless circle of coffee mornings, of going out to meet new people, the loneliness of being a new expat, a new mum, a new face.
We cycled through the stages of expat life, fresh off the boat, making new friends, saying goodbye, making more new friends, life just continuing on as normal. Adding to our family, settling down into life as we knew it.
Until one day I realised that I wasn’t so reluctant after all.
In fact I was anything but reluctant.
I was embracing the life. The chance to know people I would never have met if I hadn’t have moved to another country. The lifestyle we were able to have. The blog that I had begun.
So when it came to the choice of us repatriating or taking another expat job, this time in Qatar, the decision was simple.
And, yes, whilst I have days where I could howl with frustration, when I miss everything there is to miss about living at “home”, for the most part I look around at my life, at my children and their freedom, at my husband who gets to spend more time with us than he would if he worked in London and I realise that maybe, just maybe, I was never a reluctant expat after all.
Scared. Definitely. But open to a new life? Certainly.