LOSS OF IDENTITY IN THE EXPAT WORLD.
Loss can take many forms and cover not only the passing away of a loved one, but also in the expat world it can be the loss of identity and a form of bereavement can take place when you leave family behind and move abroad. In this article I want to talk about loss of identity and the bereavement we feel as expats from leaving behind everything that is familiar to us.
So you have arrived in Qatar, unpacked, found schools for the children, RPs sorted or in the process of being sorted, husband is busy getting to grips with his new job or if he was here ahead of you is already up an running with his routine. If you had a career in your home country you might have been lucky enough to continue your career here.
For those of you who have chosen to suspend your career and become a full time mum or use this opportunity to change careers or find a new direction, this can quickly become a minefield of confusion.
It’s all a mixed blessing really. Never before have you had the opportunity to devote your time to going to the gym everyday or meeting up with friends for coffee and a chat, browsing the Souqs and the joys of wandering through Katara Cultural Village. To your families and friends back home you have the life they would love to have. But after a while the shine goes off and as the dust settles on your new life, you find yourself questioning who you are, what you were and what will the future hold for you as woman, identifiable primarily as a mother and wife. It sometimes might even feel that you have stepped backwards in time to the fifties. You have become a proverbial Stepford wife, creating this lovely life for your family. Everything is good, more money, more time with the kids,more spare time for you. After all, life is fantastic in the expat world, isn’t it?
But the homesickness will not go away. And you think the life back home was not so bad, after all everything was familiar and comfortable. You had a place in society either through your career or through your family and connections.
The loss of identity is a common feeling for a lot of women as trailing spouses.
Let me be clear, not every woman feels like this. Some women arrive in the expat world and thrive on the change and turbulence of negotiating their way through a different culture. Some just get in and get on with it. They are the survivors and swimmers. You could put these women in a mudhut in Swaziland and in no time they would either have a job or a coffee morning organized. Good for them. We need women like that. However it takes all kinds to make a world and if we were all survivors and swimmers we would be beating each other to the frontline every day. Not good for society.
So what about the women still trying to find their feet, missing home, shyly sweating it out at the gym?
You want something, but you don’t know what. The word ‘more’ may pop into your head regularly. But ‘more’ what? More friends? More fulfillment? More joy? There must be ‘more’ to life than this?
It’s got to be fulfilling, enjoyable, make money, meet people, make new friends, give you status and raison d’être, but not encroach on your time with the kids because of after school activities and not intervene on your evenings and family time. Oh and no weekend work, that’s sacred time.
If you find one, can you let me know if there is a vacancy. That’s my dream job there.
Seriously though, it’s out there if you look hard enough and are ready to grab it. And you have to be quick because those survivors and swimmers are going to be after it also.
In the meantime, whilst you are waiting for the flash of inspiration, you can start preparing yourself for your new life. The path is easy if your intention is strong.
Your old life is no longer your present one. It’s not gone and you can reignite it anytime you go home. Its still a part of you and what made you ‘you’. Now the focus is on what is in front of you everyday. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Yet it’s easy to lose sight of what is in front of us while we wish we were somewhere or someone else.
TOP TIPS FOR THE NEW YOU.
Connect. Connect. Connect.
Get out there, join clubs, take up sport , join a gym, volunteer for something. Be prepared to move out of that comfort zone and step into the unknown.
If you have kids in primary school then you have an instant advantage. Look at the mums around you milling at the gate or classroom door. Too shy to just walk in on a convo or introduce yourself? No problem. Dress to impress. I don’t mean dress up. Wear something that will draw attention like a bold or unusual piece of jewelry. Something that will encourage or leave the doorway open for a comment. I know many conversations that have started with ‘Oh I love that pendant’ etc. Not got anything striking enough yet? Get down to Souq Waqif or Al Raunaq or Oriental Carpets ( yes they sell way more than carpets) and start browsing. It doesn’t have to cost the earth. In the meantime look at what other people are wearing and be the one to admire something. It might sound frivolous, but trust me – it works.
Exchange numbers at every available opportunity. The woman in front of you might be the one who introduces you to your next best friend.
Never say no to any offer to join with a group. You might hate the idea of coffee mornings, however remember you are now amongst the most amazing group of people you will ever meet. Expat women are often the friendliest, the most well educated and culturally diverse women you will ever get to know. Join in a few coffee mornings with different groups and see which ones you can identify with. You never know you might meet your expat BFF there.
You will also meet women from backgrounds you might never mix with back home. Be open to new cultures, be tolerant of differences and enjoy this wonderful opportunity presented to you.
Start up a group of your own with your own interests through either a hobby or a need. Whatever you are experiencing, you are not alone, there will be at least one other person out there looking for something similar.
Become self employed or develop a skill you have that you can earn an income from. However do familiarize yourself with the law regarding small businesses in Qatar, beforehand.
Keep regular contact with your family back home. Initially, this is done without thinking because you miss them. However as your life takes off here and you settle in to a new routine, time zone and weekend differences can take their toll. Sometimes that call to Mum or your sister can become a chore. Especially as you have this new exciting change and they…well they haven’t changed one bit. And have you noticed the silence when you talk about the places you have been and the things you are doing, (even getting a medical done here is a colourful story in itself). Be patient and understand that you are in a world they might (or have not yet ) seen. Remember to acknowledge their everyday life as it was once yours.
A word of caution…
Some of you may have some very priviledged positions here. You will have house help or a driver. There will be someone to wash your windows, carry your groceries, fix your air conditioning. Be kind to those around us who make our lives easier. They are human too. And we are all here for the same thing – to make money and memories.
Be present 100% in your life from this day forward. Your children will only be this age and in this stage for a very short time. Enjoy them. No really enjoy them. MORE.
So now you have more time to;
Stand back and quietly watch them play and chat. Listen to them without judgement. Revel in the time you have to just sit and be with them, to play with them or read stories. You now have to opportunity to parent your own children. This is a luxury a lot of us couldn’t do in the west. It was all work work work.
Enjoy and I mean really enjoy your time in the gym and with friends you make here. Feel the difference.
Enjoy the book, don’t just read for the sake of it.
Revel in your leisurely breakfast. Remember all the rushed cups of coffee grabbed as you went out the door, still munching toast as you started the car or boarded the bus. Those days are gone.
One of the things that used to annoy me when I first came to Qatar was hearing women say things like – Oh I like to do X because it fills my day.
Even as a new expat, I felt really strongly about this. Why on earth would anyone be happy with just ‘filling’ their day. Live your day. Live everyday as if you had a time limit on it.
Love to the max, play to the max, live to the max. You will be pleased you did.
5 Dresses that You Must Have in Your Wardrobe!
Nothing defines feminine charm better than a dress! At least, that is what I think when I open my wardrobe and feel like I have nothing to wear, though clothes keep tumbling out! Whether you pick up a long flowing one, or a short, well-fitted one, every dress says something. And you definitely need the right one to flatter your figure and personality, when you are heading to a fancy party, ready to take a leisurely stroll on a beach, or planning to impress your colleagues at the office. So, here are the different types of dresses you must have in your wardrobe, so that you are ready to shine every day, no matter what the occasion.
1. Smart sheath dress – Subtly formal, elegant and closely fitted, a sheath dress is perfect as office wear and can work for a party afterwards, if you simply change your shoes and accessories. For instance, a black, burgundy or navy sheath dress can look very classy as corporate wear, but the moment you pair it with some jazzy hoops and stilettos, you are ready to rock any evening event. Try a peach, pastel pink, periwinkle blue or steel gray sheath dress as well.
2. Bohemian maxi dress – Long, flowing, effortless and fitted around the bust, a maxi dress is the perfect attire for casual dates, a long-awaited brunch with the girls, for lazing on the beach, and even when you are out shopping. Strappy sleeves or halter necklines will especially look ravishing, but you can always throw on a fitted jacket to cover up under the harsh sun. You can choose from a wide array of colors, and in prints, floral, geometric, polka and paisley rule. Try and pair a maxi dress with a statement neckpiece, or chandelier earrings, or some chunky bracelets, but not all at once!
3. Timeless swing or flared dress – These dresses are your best bet if you wish to flatter your waistline, as they come with a fitted body from the waist up, and flare from the waist down. A sleek belt around the waistline can add pizzazz to the dress too. Pick up dark shades like black, red, and bottle green if you wish to achieve a slimmer silhouette. Floral prints, stripes and polka dots will look wonderful on a swing dress. Pair the dress with a pair of ballerinas, pumps or stilettos and a stylish clutch or sling bag for the best results.
4. Stunning gown – Galas and upscale parties often call for something special. And what can be more special than a sleek, flowing gown which hugs your figure closely yet doesn’t cling. Satin, silks and georgettes are the fabrics to choose in these. Pick up a gown with long fitted sleeves for a slimming effect or one with a boat neck or off shoulders to flaunt your neckline and shoulders. Sleeveless or capped sleeves will show off well-toned arms nicely. It is best to couple a gown with sleek silver or gold jewelry or something with stones that go well with the gown color.
5. Sensual lace dress – Celebrate the sensuous diva in you with a well-fitted lace dress with intricate detailing. Make sure it lightly grazes your knees or is a little above to achieve that casual yet luxurious look. A black lace dress is especially a must have for every lady who believes in timeless class. Or, a burgundy, cobalt blue, peach or white lace dress can also steal the show. Choose sleeves that come up to your wrists for the best visual impact. Pair these dresses with a simple pair of stilettos or strappy sandals or wedges, and carry a big but slim clutch bag. Keep jewelry to the minimum and focus on highlighting your facial features. Like, a bold lip color, or smoky eyes, or accentuated cheekbones will complement these dresses nicely.
Are you ready to be a fashionista now? Then shop for the dress that you think will be perfect for your next special occasion, and turn heads effortlessly!
Let me know how it goes. Best Wishes Ladies!
Keep your cool and beat the heat in Qatar with these smart tips
Falling in love with Qatar was quite easy for a person like me, who loves a bit of quiet, peace and yet doesn’t want to miss out on the fun things in life! But dealing with the long summers here and the tortuous heat is another ball game altogether. Since there is no way we can control the weather, it makes more sense to try and stay cool with some simple tricks and wait for the pleasant winter months. You too can try these out and fight the heat:
Water and juices can be your savior – Simple, pure, unflavored water at normal temperature can usually be the best thirst-quencher. Or you can add ice or drink chilled water if you are parched, but be careful not to catch a cold! Carry a bottle wherever you go, and especially if you have little ones.
If drinking water throughout the day to stay hydrated seems a tad boring, spice things up with a few slices of lemon or orange. You can add mint leaves to a jar of water along with a few lemon slices and drink a glass every now and then. Or, consider preparing easy fresh fruit juices from watermelon, berries, grapes and tangerines. These are loaded with vitamins and minerals too, and are nothing but great for your health.
Stay away from colas and ice-creams as they simply make you thirstier after a while.
Take long and cool showers – One of the best things about the Qatar summer is that you can enjoy long and luxurious baths or showers in cool or lukewarm water. Taking a shower thrice a day can often help you deal with the scorching heat, the sweat and the dust, if you have to venture outside. Try using a soft and scented body wash that doesn’t make your skin feel too dry. Use your favorite perfume after bath, and you are good to go. In case you are suffering from a skin rash due to the heat, consult a dermatologist as he or she might suggest a mild soap or a soothing solution.
Eat wisely – A big meal can easily make you feel hot, as your body has a tougher time digesting it. So, try having small meals after every 3 hours to stay cool. Proteins like fish, chicken and egg whites can be a better bet sometimes, as they are lighter on your stomach. Lots of leafy green veggies, tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers can be included in the daily diet to stay healthy. For dessert, diced fresh fruits are a good idea. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like having much for dinner, a bowl of oatmeal, a large salad or some chicken soup helps.
Try and go easy on chips and fritters as they have a tendency to make you feel acidic, bloated and heavy.
Pick the right clothes – Slightly loose, long-sleeved shirts or tops and long skirts or well-fitted trousers are a smart choice during Qatar summers. Long dresses can easily be worn in the evenings for a relaxed feel. Make sure when you are out in the sun, you cover up as much as possible to avoid excessive tanning or even sunburns. Pick clothes that are neither too baggy nor too tight, to let your skin breathe. Scarves are a great way to protect your beautiful hair too.
I often choose clothes in soft pastel hues to reflect the heat as much as possible. In summer, sandals or peep-toes are my favorites; though you can try wearing closed shoes if that feels comfy, and keep you feet protected against dust.
More tips to fight the sun– Load up on sun-block lotions and creams and wear sunglasses when you go out. A hat can look very trendy with a dress or a smart pair of pants.
Keep windows closed at home during the day, after you open them for a bit in the early morning to freshen up the interiors. Using heavy and dark-colored drapes or blinds is also a cool idea. Choose cotton bed linen and sofa covers as the fabric is way more breathable than other options. Indoor plants are a great way to keep indoors oxygenated and refreshing.
If you have access to a pool, go for a swim to cool off in the evenings.
Feeling a little better about the long summer in Qatar? Try out the tips above and see if they work for you as they work for me! Also, visits to movie theatres, shopping malls, museums and your favorite restaurants can make the heat way more bearable. Give it a shot.
Best Wishes Ladies
Moving to Qatar: how to find your feet
I relocated from the excitingly unpredictable weather of Durban, South Africa, to the unfaltering predictability of the scorching sun in Doha, Qatar. Many more thigs changed for me: going from running my own business to jobless, driving my own car to still stumbling along the process of getting a Qatari driving permit, and regularly hanging out with friends to not knowing a single soul except for my husband.
But...even more GREAT things changed for me too! Moving from a well-known hometown to having the opportunity to explore a brand new country, going from having little time to enjoy my hobbies to having loads of opportunities to do so, and taking ease of communication with others for granted to learning how to communicate with people of different nationalities. I get driven around, I spend hours in the shopping malls, I revel in the larger variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, I plan outdoor events without worrying about the possibility of rain, I learnt to grown herbs, I take afternoon naps, I take correspondence courses to further my education, and I have just recently started to volunteer my precious time to QEW.
It wasn't all roses and rainbows when I first arrived though. It was dreadful, especially from being so 'free' to feeling utterly trapped. Instead of detailing the dreariness of my situation, I thought I'd rather highlight the ways I got out of my slump; perhaps some of them could work for you if you're still looking for the light.
1. I referred back to Louise L. Hay's trio of books in her Golden Collection to help me take control of my thoughts and feelings about my current situation.
2. I created a weekly schedule of house cleaning, hobbies and down-time to prevent me from started around my home aimlessly, not really getting anything done. 3. I set my alarm clock to wake up at 6am, and made sure I was in bed by latest 10pm.
4. I downloaded lots of home-based bootcamp exercises from Pinterest and started working out every morning, Sunday through Thursday.
5. I got dressed nicely and put on my makeup every day.
6. I allowed myself to enjoy my hobbies guilt-free - sewing projects, mandala colouring in, baking, reading and writing.
7. I limited the time I spent trawling social media.
8. I learnt the technique of mindful meditation.
9. I joined Qatar Expat Women to make new friends.
10. I kept up communications with friends and family back home.
11. I planned one different activity to do with my husband every month.
I continue to go through good days peppered with the odd bad ones, but I use the 'fullness' gained from the good to pull me through the bad. In the words of Nada Hamouche (another QEW volunteer), I went from 'horrific to hooray'.
The world can be dark and uncertain and cruel, but as long as you can find just one firefly in the night, you will be fine, my dear friends, you will be just fine.
Writer & Editor
Making Friends and overcoming loneliness whilst living abroad by NickiAllman
Living overseas is an exciting opportunity but it comes with great challenges as well as amazing adventures. It can also be a lonely experience as well as being a time of building new friendships. The excitement comes when we take the decision to move to a new country, it fills us with a sense of adventure but can also be an incredibly daunting feeling. As many know already, moving on can be incredibly sad with leaving somewhere we have called home for however long or short a period of time. The saying goodbye to people we have called our friends, saying goodbye to family members, leaving a settled home, packing to move can be stressful and worrying. It can fill us with a sense of dread over the next steps leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions:
How will we make new friends?
Will our children settle? Will they make new friends easily?
What about new schooling?
What about work (if we are moving for a job) and how will I settle?
What about our new home, what will it be like?
What things do we need to take? What do we need to leave?
How will we ship our pets to our new country?
Will our shipping arrive? (Twice now this has been a huge source of worry as both times for a period of time our shipping disappeared but thankfully both times turned up, and yes we did use reputable companies!)
There is nothing worse than spending time worrying about what ifs and what could go wrong. These things can fill our minds with worry and fear about the unknown. But there are many sources that we can turn to which will help us out. What are the things we can do to help settle into a new country and help that feeling of being in a crowd but completely by ourselves?
1) Find online groups such as Expat Women’s forum to be put in touch with those already living in the country we are moving to. These types of forum can also be a great source of guidance for what to do and when to do things. They can answer questions such as what areas can be like to live in, what schools are like, how easy/hard it is to get into a school, what transport is like, what social activities go on and where, and provide useful ideas for tourist information, after all we do want to know about where we are living!
For Qatar Join the group on the link below
2) Use social media sites such as FaceBook and Twitter to get in touch with people in similar situations to ourselves. There are many groups on FaceBook alone dedicated to Qatar and Doha and these can be a great source of help and support for many. There are groups dedicated to buying and selling, social groups, sporting groups etc… It is worth getting a FaceBook account just to become a member of these as these will direct us to many good things.
3) Another good source of information can be the very people we are living with. Many overseas nationals have lived abroad for some time. It often surprises me how small a world it actually is. A chance conversation recently highlighted to me how somebody from my home country (themselves an overseas national for many years) knew somebody who had recently moved to a country I had just moved from. Asking questions to people we converse with can help us find out some things about where we are moving to. Do be aware though that if it is some time since they or their friends lived there then things may have moved on and changed a lot.
4) Chatting to work colleagues if we are new will also help; some will be in the same boat as us. It may be that for a time we help each other out by introducing each other to different people. Also work colleagues who have been around a while can help us as they will know about the place we have just moved to.
5) This is where my life has changed somewhat. As a mum chatting to other mums meant I got to know people quite quickly especially when our children played together or we invited our children’s new friends to play dates. This made settling in much easier. It is much trickier when children get older. My daughter is now 18 so meeting mums at school to pick them up doesn’t happen so it is about being inventive with social aspects to get to know other mums.
6) Helping at animal shelters or volunteering at other social activities can be a great source of finding company and getting to know people. This can then lead to friendships helping to ease any sense of loneliness.
6) Walking dogs can often lead to chance meetings. Who can resist a cute pooch? However, it is not advisable to go out and adopt or purchase one to meet people unless it was already in the plans for living it a country or something that has been thought about.
This is not an exhaustive list and I am sure can be added to. It is more difficult if we work as managing time can be much trickier. The key point is to find the courage to go out and make friends as this will ease a sense of loneliness and isolation.