Monday, 4 May 2015

Expat Life and why it's been so incredible for us.


If you'd asked me about living abroad and becoming an expat about five years ago, I'd have said "thanks but no thanks".

It just wasn't on my radar. After all I'd worked really hard to become qualified as a lawyer in the UK, and being a lawyer mean't specialising in the law of one country, so I could quite foreseeably have to retrain if I worked abroad, depending on which country I lived in. 

Plus I'd just never really felt inclined. I loved going on holiday and exploring new places, but as a holiday. I didn't ever feel the pull of the Gap Year working and seeing many different countries and I had no real desire to live abroad. 

But Gary did. Ever since I've known him he's made it clear he'd like to work abroad. Both for the work experience and the cultural change. And I.... well I nodded and smiled for the most part. I let it slip by me, for years and years, and it was nothing more than random conversation for a long time. 

Until the opportunity in Qatar came along. I'm really fortunate that it came along when it did. We were only a few months away from getting married (luckily as it was a prerequisite of living together in a muslim country) and we'd started talking about starting a family sooner rather than later. 

So all in all it didn't really feel like too much a risk to take, to enable Gary to do something he'd really wanted to do all along. I was going to be out of work for a long period of time after having a baby, and i maybe wouldn't return to work at all, or on reduced hours. So I agreed, with a caveat. We would go for a year, and if, after that year, either of us hated it, we would come home. 

I'm fortunate that everything seemed to click into place at the right time, and that I agreed to take the leap. I think in any other circumstance, I'd have probably refused, and I've have missed out on one of the greatest experiences of my life. 

Living abroad, first in Qatar and then in Dubai, brought with it the amazing realisation that we really could do anything. To say I was nervous about moving to Qatar was an understatement, even just in terms of logistics, and there were just the two of us. Now, after having lived abroad, moving two young children to another continent doesn't really phase me at all. 

I know that I can do it, survive it, thrive at it. Along the way I've made some AMAZING friends, friends that I know are going to be in my life for a long, long, long time. I keep very few close friends by my side. I'm not someone who has legions of friends coming out of her ears. I like to keep my close friends close to my heart, and there isn't that much room. 

I have two close friends from school, two from college and one from law school. They are "my girls". The girls I know I can run to about anything, anywhere, anytime. The ones who will tell me when I'm being a pain in the arse, in a way that makes me laugh. The ones who think I'm mad (which I am) and love me anyway. 

In Dubai I've found more close friends. Friends who know every inch of my soul. Friends who have gone through the motherhood journey with me, and we've made it out the other side purely because of the support circle we have had. 

They are the ones who have made the live we have made here in Dubai truly worth living. We have laughed and cried together in equal measure when the sleepless nights became unbearable, when the toddlers threw a tantrum, when you had absolutely no idea what you were doing whatsoever. 

Dubai has a huge expat community, and that is what has made it so special. We are all in the same boat, literally. We all come here, leaving family and friends behind and starting afresh. It makes you band together and to stick together. They become your family, your Dubai family. I love these girls like they were family. They mean the world to me, and I hope they have even the smallest idea of how they have helped me through the last few years. 

Dubai has been an amazing place to have our babies and watch them grow. The arabic culture is extremely family orientated and children are catered for everywhere. They are expected to be everywhere, in michelin starred restaurants and down at the beach long past midnight. Babies and children are celebrated and enjoyed. Everywhere we go, there is someone willing to chatter to your toddler and hold the baby while you scramble in your bag for a change of clothes, or to have your drivers licence photograph taken. 

The weather helps too, although perhaps not the blistering heat of August which comes with 80% humidity. Our winters are cloudless and beautifully warm, our spring is the perfect swimming in the pool weather. The autumn afternoons are fantastic for going down for a paddle in the sea. 

As I type I'm looking out of my window down at the hustle and bustle of the marina, watching the world come and go (and honking their horns loudly). I love the hum of a city, the way it seems to live and breathe. I also like the fact that I can call the supermarket for ice cream at midnight and they will deliver it to your door. 

We've also had the benefit of help, full time help. Mary has been with us for the last year, and she has been absolutely amazing in running the house and being an extra pair of hands for when my own pair is just simply not enough. I've learnt so much from her, and I really do think that she's made the last twelve months a piece of cake. 

I can absolutely see how people with very young children get divorced. Sleepless nights coupled with the relentlessness of a baby and toddler's needs does not for a happy couple make. I read somewhere that couples with children under three years of should not be allowed to divorce, or make any rash decisions, because they are in the thick of an extremely stressful time. I totally agree!

It's so easy to blame your partner for the bad temper, or the mood, or the frustration, when in reality it's nothing a week of good sleep and some time off from being Mummy won't fix. We've been really lucky that we've been able to carve out that time, because of Mary. It has made the transition from one baby to two so much easier to handle. 

In short, Dubai has been the right place for us, for the last four years. It's truly been our home, and we've loved it, and loved living it. We've had opportunities that many people just don't get, and I do think we've made the most of it. 

For those of you thinking about working abroad, if there is something holding you back, and you don't know why, think again about taking that leap. If it hadn't been for Gary and his ambitions, I would never have come here. I would never have lived such an amazing experience, made such amazing friends, and discovered amazing things about myself. 

Living abroad has made me realise that we can do anything we want, that there is no fence too big for us to scale, and it's taught me to value the most important things in life, my family and my friends. It's put into perspective our relationships, and made me cherish them, and want to preserve them.