Two weeks in to my Kuwaiti adventure a contact of mine through work gave me some advice. She’d been living the expat life in Dubai and was originally from West London. It was nice to chat to someone outside of work who came from somewhere near home. She explained the newbie timeline. She warned me that the first month was a blur of meeting people and getting stuck in to work. The second month you’d feel like home and think moving was the best thing you’d ever done. The third month would bring on the completely irrational depression that is homesickness. You’d feel lonely, you’d miss your friends and family and you’d be making plans to get the hell outta the desert as fast as British Airways could take you. By the fourth month you’d accept that this was home now and you just had to knuckle down and get on with it. After that it really would be home. So much so that once you get back to the UK for a holiday you’d be itching to return to the smog, dust and dodgy tap water of the Middle East. I’ve now been here four months.
I debated writing this post as I know my mum will read it and get all upset that I struggled in month three as my contact said I would. So mother, don’t get so dramatic, I’m fine.
I’ve decided to write it as there’s truth in that timeline, as my flatmate proved this weekend when she announced she was ‘going out, and may be some time’. Thankfully Facebook informs me there wasn’t a suicidal undertone and I think she’s checked in to a spa to cheer herself up. I wish I’d thought of that. I just spent a couple of teary evenings thinking everyone hated me and crying my eyes out when my new friends tagged themselves somewhere online and hadn’t invited me. So I’ve written it in case any of your reading this are toying with the idea of the expat life, so that when you’re crying your eyes out for no reason other than you’ve run out of Pringles, you know this is completely normal behavior!
My homesickness was a combination of things. Mostly that some my old friends have dropped off radar. People that used to text, email and whatsapp all the time now do no more than click ‘like’ on Facebook statuses. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. But that’s completely bloody irrational thinking because I can’t remember the last time I messaged my Big Bro and I bet he’s not angry with me (might be if he’s had to take my old car to the garage again but that’s a long story). So it works both ways. I could message them and haven’t, so why expect it to be one way traffic?
Then I was missing my folks (mum, no crying). It was fine when they were 300 miles away as I could get in the car. I rarely did but the option was there. I found myself asking my dad for advice on which TV to get just to keep him on the phone one night. I know what damn TV to buy, whichever one is the cheapest! Then the bloody connection dropped out and I got upset. Again.
And then there were the new friends. You get told to accept every invite going when you first arrive and so I did. I fell in with a group of lovely girls but they were all a very close-knit group prior to my arrival. I don’t really do the big group of girls thing. Boys are far simpler and won’t slag you off behind your back. I started to question whether they actually liked me or were inviting me out through a sense of duty. So then I’d get paranoid when they didn’t invite me out. It felt like school again. Although at school I knew the girls didn’t like me as they told me often enough. I gave myself a talking to and started to be the one suggesting trips out. If they made excuses I had my answer. They didn’t. In fact one of them wandered round a mall on her own for an hour whilst I had my nails done just so we could have dinner after.
So month four has hit and my flights home are booked to see my friends and family, giving me something to look forward to. I have also taken the ‘sod you’ approach to the ‘do they or don’t they like me’ paranoia. If eventually they don’t then fine. I’m a great laugh so their loss! Besides, this lot wouldn’t have invited me to Dubai if they didn’t like me right?
It’s my flatmate that worries me. She’s not been here as long as I have so is only half way through month three. I can’t think of a way of cheering her up so I’ll have to wait until month four. If she ever gets back from that spa…