1. SLEEPING ~ long, drawn out naps & lie-ins whenever I want.
2. EATING ~ wherever, whenever, whatever at no set schedule or time.
3. READING ~ hopefully be able to finish a book from cover to cover – uninterrupted.
4. ME ME ME ~ Only worrying about me, myself and I.
5. SUNSETS ~ being able to watch one every day.
6. LAUGHING ~ more than stressing or crying.
7. FRESH AIR
8. BEVERAGES ~ sampling the local beers/wines/liquers
9. PEOPLE ~ that speak a different language yet somehow still manage to create a connection with them
10. NOT WORKING ~ not having to wake up at 6am, not having to receive passive aggressive emails from colleagues, not having any deadlines other than the ones I set for myself.
I’m in my last week of a three-and-a-half year stint in Dubai. You could also say its the prelude of a new beginning. Nonetheless, it’s been one hell of a roller-coaster ride. I recently read a blog post about the psychological effects of being an expat and in this, there was an interesting list which detailed out the stages of cultural adjustment when an expat moves to a country. Having been one now for three-and-a-half years I read this list with great amusement and hindsight:
1. Honeymoon, in which the host country is idealised.
Damn right it was idealised. Four years ago Dubai was sold to us a field of dreams – fantastic weather, great lifestyle, loads of mula. Little did we know…
2. Rejection, which emerges when the expatriate encounters the inevitable problems with work, language, school and housing.
3. Regression, during which life in the home country is idealised.
Definitely within the first six months you question yourself. Did we make the right choice? Should we go back home? I preferred my old job. I miss my family. Do we really have to stick this out?
It’s actually more than just homesickness, its REGRET. Or the feeling that you MIGHT regret. You could also call it ‘grass is greener’ syndrome (which evidently I suffer from greatly).
4. Cultural Adjustment, when the successful expatriate becomes comfortable and happy in his or her new environment and gains a mature appreciation of cultural differences.
I don’t think its about cultural adjustment. More often than not, you manage to put on a brave face and rationalise excuses to convince yourself everything is fine… its only really hot for 3 months of the year… but they pay me really well… the rents are getting cheaper…its a once in a lifetime experience…there’s no tax to be paid…
Eventually though, you do feel like you outstay your welcome, and when you’re ready to go, then you go. And you know, making the decision to go really has nothing to do with whether you’ve culturally adjusted or not. I’ve realised that living an expat life is more about the discovery of your inner self, where you question your goals, values and purpose. And when you find the answers to those questions, you make that decision.
In the last six months I’ve gone through some sort of painful existential crisis involving a mental tug of war of ‘should I stay or should I go’ moments. We all make our own choices, and I can’t say I regret making the choice to come. But I also had to be sure I wasn’t going to regret the choice to leave. Because now, when I get off this rollercoaster, I will be walking straight onto the next ride.Of being single again. Of a 6 week travelling stint. Of living back at home (with the parents!). Of starting a new job. Of getting reacquainted with old friends and making up for lost time. Of rediscovering my hometown. Of the beginning of the end.