Thursday, 5 March 2015

Being an expat woman

expat life better worse
Having re-read my one-year update post (link) I realised I came across a little negative. I don't want to be mistaken, there are lots of things I do like about Oman, but if I am honest I struggled a lot when I moved here and I found it hard to see the good. So there are still days when I feel like what should be simple tasks are much more difficult than they need to be and I just want to go home. That impression that outsiders might get that life as an expat woman is easy and carefree just doesn't add up in my experience.

As a female I think transitioning is that much harder. My husband is what I believe to be a typical man, put him anywhere in the world with a couch, a TV, and food, and he's happy: no adjustment needed. He admits this himself. He moved here for work three years before me, I resisted joining him all that time, reluctant to give up my career and a life that I was happy with. In London I had a good job (with a career path), a wide circle of friends, my family, was out enjoying the city most nights, and had access to what I wanted when I wanted it. Life was generally just convenient. Most importantly, I was never bored.

I knew moving to Oman would mean I would lose all that, and being financially and emotionally dependant on one person didn't exactly fit in with the girl power/independent woman ideal that as a '90s kid I grew up with.

Additionally, when I arrived it was very much about fitting into the life my husband had already set up, home and furnishings were already selected, and friends and favourite spots to hang out/eat/shop established. If I were to give advice to a couple wanting to move abroad then I would say you should make the move together, that way you are both involved in the process and all those new experiences happen at the same time. To give my husband credit he did select a great flat, I just would have prefered if all the furnishings weren't beige!

It's taken a lot of work not to let resentment creep in, ultimately, I did decide to make the move and part of that was having to accept that I would be spending the last part of my young and child-free years somewhere I don't consider to be exciting.

A few things really helped me settle, writing this blog and getting a job being two of them. Yes, I mentioned in my other post that the job does frustrate me at times, but, on the most part, I am entertained for eight hours of the day, and being thrown into an almost managerial role has meant I am learning new skills.

This blog has been a massive help. Being a beauty blogger in London I knew I wanted to write about my experiences here. I set up the blog almost immediately, then I hit a depressive slump and I didn't update it at all. I was bored; I wasn't doing anything or meeting anyone, and had nothing to write about. When the cooler weather came I decided I needed to stop hiding away at the weekends and start getting out. Having family visiting really helped with that too. Since I am a professional writer (I wasn't able to find a writing job unfortunately) being able to write regularly again feels really good too.

Finally, and most importantly, I just had to work on my outlook, reminding myself daily that change is good. I make a point of appreciating the small things each day, and generally am trying to use this as an opportunity to find out more things about myself. I've definitely become much less high-strung than I used to be and have adopted that que sera sera way of thinking.

My point in writing all this is to let other woman out there know that they aren't the only ones struggling to adopt the expat lifestyle. Something that happened to me was that the few people I met seemed to love it here -- I mean really love it, and I started to think there was something wrong with me because I just couldn't see what they did. I didn't meet anyone else that was struggling. So if that is you, you're not alone and things will get better. It's that annoying remedy of time and patience.

There are some fantastic groups in Oman if you are a expat woman, I wrote about the main ones, here. I can't stress how important it is to try and get involved early on. I didn't until about six months in and I missed out what would have been great opportunities to see Muscat and make some friends.

I thought it would be good to end this post with a list of the things I like about Muscat, and feel free to add your own things to the list in the comments.
  • The surprise that is the weekly shop. Stock levels fluctuate massively and while I didn't find my regular cheese or my favourite meat in the supermarket this week, I did discover that there is now dry shampoo and a new product for curly hair available. 
  • Being able to order whatever I like at a restaurant. I don't drink or eat pork products so there was always a lot of checking that had to be done in London, now I can pick anything on the menu and know I am ok. 
  • Being able to park anywhere. In London, there is no parking, and where there is you pay a lot for it. In the centre we are looking at about 300baisa for 15 minutes. Being able to pull up anywhere here with no fear of a ticket or clamp is pretty nice. 
  • Cheap fuel. My conscience is telling me I shouldn't list this, we should be walking more to save the planet and all that, but since we can't not paying 50OMR or more to fill up my small car is awesome. 
  • Eating fish. Because it is local and cheap we have taken to eating fish at least once a week, something I usually only had covered in batter and deep fried as a treat at home. My skin is thanking me for the change.