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Inspirational women travellers: 6 tips from a long-term expat

 

Jersey Girl has asked us to avoid using her real name to help preserve her anonymity, “especially whilst in the Middle East”. How deliciously mysterious! All we know about her is that she’s in her late 30s, she’s from Jersey, she lived as an expat in Prague for four years, and she’s currently living the expat life in Kuwait.

One thing’s for sure though. Jersey Girl is full of great advice for expats and those considering the move overseas. Her blog, Adventures of a Jersey Girl, covers the ups and downs of life as an expat, from coping with milestones when you’re far away from loved ones to those pinch-yourself moments that take even hardened expats by surprise. Ask her where her heart lives though, and I get the feeling she’d answer “Jersey”!

Here’s Jersey Girl’s advice for anyone contemplating the expat move.
 
1. What’s your top tip for anyone considering living abroad?

Be open minded. It is so important when considering a move abroad, you don’t expect to just replicate your life in your home country. Of course there maybe places more in line with what you are used to, but I think be willing to push those boundaries and magical things can happen.
 
2. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from life as an expat?

“Embrace everything. Even the things that drive you absolutely nuts about your expat home.”

Believe me, no matter where you are this will happen, because it’s both the good stuff and bad that feeds into your experience. Is it perfect? No, but it’s perfectly balanced to not make life boring.
 
3. Do you need certain characteristics to thrive as an expat?

I think most people can thrive as an expat. Eight years ago I would never have thought I could – I wasn’t adventurous, I was a true home bird, didn’t really like travelling –

“but somehow I ended up on this journey and it’s been the making of me.”

I guess you have to be willing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and be able to adapt to big changes. The people I know that have not taken to this life are those that expect it to come easy and want it to be just like their home country. It’s hard initially but if you are patient and open minded you’re on your way.
 
4. Does it matter where you go?

Of course location will impact your experience. There are “easier” destinations than others absolutely; language, culture, religion, development, your family dynamics all impact how you will cope and whether it’s a suitable location. I have been lucky that, whilst my experiences have been so vastly different to each other and my home country, they have been successful. I guess my top tip is research; there are loads of Facebook groups, blogs, online forums that will give you real insight into a location whilst its up for consideration and indeed upon your arrival. There is a huge social media presence of expats and we are a really friendly bunch, willing to answer any questions people have, so you should be pretty well armed with information, but of course there is always an element of luck.
 
5. Do you recommend Kuwait as a place to live abroad?

In all honesty as a Western expat, yes, I love my life here but it’s not for everyone. If you have lived in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or holiday in the Emirates, Kuwait is not like them.
It’s fairly sleepy in comparison and there’s not masses to do, so in that respect it’s great for families but young professionals may struggle, even though it has a fantastic expat community and is incredibly social. The obvious thing to consider is that it is a Muslim country and a conservative one, so it is 100% dry (making alcohol illegal) and dress codes are modest (although as a woman you don’t need to cover hair or wear an abaya). But I guess the hardest thing is the heat, Kuwait is literally the hottest place on earth during the summer months reaching well over 50 degrees, so be prepared.
 
Kuwait City is modern and a skyline of skyscrapers; the rest of the country is still a mix match of everything. I was a little shocked at how dirty some of it is. I expected it to be spotless and gleaming with the wealth that’s out here, but that isn’t the case everywhere. There are gorgeous landscaped areas, parks and marinas but again they are sandwiched between not-so-great bits, but it makes the place authentic.

Don’t be scared by the Middle East as an expat option. Of course it varies on locations, but Kuwait has been a great home for the past three years. Is it an adjustment? Yes of course there are things to get used to but I feel safer here than I ever did in Prague. Kuwait’s location could be perceived as dodgy and may play on people’s minds when deciding on a move but don’t let it put you off completely –

“there are so many great things about life in the Middle East.”

6. Do you think moving abroad can help with depression?

This is a really interesting one, because whilst it could help by giving you a break from a routine and the monotony of life, it could also compound an existing depression and indeed create one. There is a very real thing called expat depression, which can really hit people hard. I have learnt that there are bad days, which often come from nowhere. I have cried for days for no real reason, feeling dreadfully alone and alienated from family and friends, but luckily, it’s just been the odd day of expat blues and nothing more, which is completely normal.
 
However I have had friends that have really struggled with their new life abroad and deep depression does kick in. Being away from home and feeling utterly alone has to be one of the scariest feelings in the world and hard to articulate to people on the outside. I suspect this is a common feeling among expat spouses especially, wanting to support their partner and not add what seems like unnecessary drama, so they battle on alone. My advice is to just be aware of your feelings, talk to friends, build a support network and don’t expect moving abroad to always be the magic solution.
 
Tempted to experience life as an expat? Here are 7 reasons why you should try living abroad.