#11 Tips on moving abroad

Some of what I cover here can be applied to other destinations you may move to however this is based on my own personal experiences of living in Kuwait and making that transition from England.

EXPECTATIONS 

From what I’ve learnt over the years it’s much better to lower your expectations of certain things to avoid feeling underwhelmed or frustrated that things didn’t turn out exactly like you thought it would. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving abroad and imagine it like one big holiday when in reality that’s not how it works, especially being a teacher.

Yes get excited about moving somewhere new of course, but just keep in mind that not everything is going to be amazing. There will be highs and lows through your transition period.

You may already have friends who are out in Kuwait and have seen photos of their apartments and assume you will have something similar. Here in Kuwait it really does depend on the school you are at as apartments vary so much. Some will have a shared pool, others won’t. Some will require you to share with other people while other schools provide you with single accommodation. I would advise you to check with the school you are working at what the accommodation is like, and ask for photos etc to be sure that that is a place you would be comfortable living in for a significant period of time.

Teaching in Kuwait comes with a lot of benefits such as tax free salary, free accommodation, private medical insurance and flights to and from your home country. Again this varies in terms of how much you will get paid. Negotiation is a real thing here and many don’t necessarily accept the first offer they are given. Having said that be realistic at the same time. Just because you heard of a teacher receiving 1100 KD and you have been offered say 900KD take into account the years of experience and qualifications. It is easy to expect to have the best of the best package because we’ve heard other people have but this isn’t the way to go about it. Talking to teachers who are already there will help a lot in knowing what YOU should expect in terms of the package and to not compare it with others. It’s only okay to negotiate the salary if you really do think you deserve more based on your experience etc.

MAKING COMPARISONS

This is a very easy thing to do and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t made comparisons in the past. Of course its a natural part of the process when making that transition. You start off only comparing the major things that are impossible to avoid noticing however this can easily turn into the pattern of comparing every small change you see. This is unhealthy for you but it also will never lead to a positive outcome.

For example some of the comparisons that are often made when moving abroad is the following :
– how friendly and welcoming are people
– how efficient is the country, do you receive things on time or is it a lengthy wait?
– can you find the same food you would back at home
– do they drive the same way you would back at home
– classroom behaviour and how things are done within schools in terms of leadership etc
– different cultures and traditions
– different dress code and what is considered appropriate and inappropriate

The list goes on and you will find some of these will be more noticeable than others. For example, you may experience that everything is done at a much slower pace in Kuwait. If you try to change the way things are done here then you’re going to exhaust yourself very quickly. You may think some people are being rude to you but have you considered perhaps the language barrier that might have a huge impact on the way both of you perceive things. When we come across a challenging or unpleasant experience with someone as soon as we have moved abroad, sometimes you’ll notice that people will tarnish everybody with the same brush and assume that’s their culture and just the way they are. This isn’t the case at all and every individual is different, while factors may play a part in how people are brought up in their home country, classifying everyone as the same based on personality and individual experiences is a slippy road to go down.

The beauty of moving to somewhere new is to experience a different way of life. Let’s be fair, there is no right way of doing things.

EMOTIONS 

Emotions can become quickly intensified if you are already not feeling your best. If you let things keep building up and up, over time they will become overwhelming and you can start to associate every thing that happens during your time here as linked to Kuwait, in stead of taking that situation at face value.

Moving abroad can be scary, and for sure many people will go on a rollercoaster of emotions. Particularly in the first few weeks of arriving, you will want to try your best to make connections and get to know new members of staff as much as possible. A support network is key wherever you are, but especially when you are in a foreign country where you won’t necessarily have your family or best friends there to support you face to face. I can’t express how much easier everything will become if you have great people around you. You don’t have to take on the stresses all by yourself but instead share how you are feeling with certain changes you are having to adapt to. Joke about the things that amuse you, laugh about the awkward times you have encountered and most of all be there for each other through thick and thin.

While you are building new friendships on the other side of the world, remember to not forget those that you have made back at home. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our expat bubble of life that when it comes to flying back home for Christmas or the summer, you don’t feel as close to those you have known for so long. You may even find that you have lost some friends that you thought would be there forever. This doesn’t need to happen as long as you keep on top of making sure to still keep those connections whether its via face time, messenger it will allow that strength of friendship to still remain regardless of the distance. I should add that it works both ways. 

Put 100% effort in

That means sometimes you may need to go out of your comfort zone in order to achieve great results. Tying in to what I was discussing with the importance of friendships, make sure to really give it your all in that first month but also throughout the year. When you put a lot of effort in with people you’ll receive the same back.

Not only with friendships but also within your workplace. At the schools in Kuwait you will have an Arabic department and usually there seems to be a divide between the international staff and the Arabic staff. While yes there may well be language barriers between the teachers it still doesn’t mean that the divide needs to happen. If you made the effort even before you moved to learn a bit of Arabic, even just some phrases and basic conversation that would go along way when building relationships with other members of staff. It fixes that wall that never needed to be there. Not only in language but even asking staff about Kuwait, where to go, what to see. Taking conversations away from school and work life also shows that you are wanting to get to know them as a person as well rather than simply a colleague.

Now let’s look at the job itself. You want to make a great first impression, especially to the head and director of that school. Preparation, asking questions, wearing professional attire and your positive can do attitude will set you up at a good start. Don’t be that teacher that is flying out the doors come 3pm, rather offer to help out at after school clubs at least once a week, make sure you have everything with you for planning and that the classroom is set up for the next day. You don’t want to be rushing around in the morning trying to get everything organised while that one early bird student is sitting eating his apple directly in front of you. Things like this will get back to the head and put you in a difficult position.

Every teacher will know just how important a work life balance is. In Kuwait you have the great option of joining a health club which will have a private beach, gym, restaurant you name it to go to at the weekends at a discounted membership price. While these are still expensive they are definitely worth it when it comes to relaxing on the weekend and widening your social circle. Many people will want to find friendships with similar interests that you may not necessarily find in your work colleagues. For example the gym classes that are available, tennis clubs and so on. These are all great opportunities for you to interact with more people and reduce the chances of you experiencing loneliness abroad.

ADJUSTING TO THE WEATHER

If you haven’t been told already, Kuwait is hot! Not the normal kind of hot you may experience in other Middle Eastern countries, this is on a different kind of level. The good news is it isn’t extreme heat all year round and the schools /apartment will have AC.  If you have already travelled to countries with hot climates before then you will already have a bit of an idea of what to expect, but for those who haven’t this will take some getting used to. However it won’t be as long as you think!

Usually it takes around a month or so for you to finally start getting use to the heat and your body adapting to it. This of course can change for each person but overall you will be able to cope with the heat as long as you are sensible. I remember my first day arriving in Kuwait and it had been the hottest day on record in years, I think it reached nearly 58/59 degrees to be exact! It was nothing short of hell but of course during these times you shouldn’t be wandering around outside like I did. To be fair this wasn’t really by choice as I had completely forgotten where my apartment was and got lost, to only find out I was 3 minutes down the road ha. I had to take shelter in a nearby cafe, getting all emotional which was an embarrassing experience but I’ve learnt my lesson since then 😀

The hottest months will be during the summer when you most likely won’t be in Kuwait and back at home with your friends and family. Even when it is hot 40 plus degrees, taking the necessary precautions such as plenty of water, don’t walk around at the hottest part of the day etc and you will be fine. Heat stroke is a very real thing and it’s not pleasant to experience as I’m sure some of you will already know.

I previously mentioned in another post about what to take to Kuwait and that winter clothes were needed during November/December time. Believe it or not Kuwait does get cold! As clothes are expensive here it might be worthwhile to bring a few winter items with you from back home. I don’t mean a ski jacket but just some light jackets along with a coat, will come in handy.

LAST MINUTE NERVES

This is completely normal and I guarantee you every one that moves to another country will experience this whether they like to admit it or not. It doesn’t matter if you have already done this before, every country is different and those feelings of anxiousness before you board that flight for the big move is totally expected.

Usually when you feel nervous about the big expat move it often comes as a combination with excitement as well. So when you are feeling those last minute nerves, remember the wonderful adventure you are about to embark on and all the fantastic experiences you are about to have. Yes it’s not a walk in the park, but it will be a life changing experience that I’m sure memories you make will last forever.

Focusing on the positives of why you are moving there, what you are looking forward to will really help with that level of anxiety you may experience beforehand. Also even when you arrive into the country and have that settling in period, it’s still completely okay to feel that way.

KNOWING THE PURPOSE/REASON

This is so important when you face challenging/difficult times. Whether this is writing in a diary or making a post it note on your new bedroom wall, having that reason of why you are here will help you a lot. It will help you channel your thought process better and understand what is worth your energy and what isn’t.

People’s reason for moving differs a lot. It can be as simple as just wanting to explore a new country and school to teach at to people having a sudden career change and so on. It might be that your purpose is more for financial benefits and you wan’t to save enough money to buy a house back in the U.K. or it may be more of a travel influence where you are eager to see other areas of the world and this set up allows that.

SAFETY

Now Kuwait is maybe the safest country I have ever been to. Having said that you should still keep your wits about you and not let your guard down just because everyone is saying how safe Kuwait is. Know that people’s experience as a foreigner, as an expat will be different from Kuwaitis.

Something not even I have thought about often when I travel or move abroad is knowing the emergency contact numbers if I need them. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Do you know who to call if there was a fire? or if you witnessed a crime? or if you were in any kind of danger? If the answer is no then you know what to do! Research those numbers and save them in your mobile before you move!

Make sure you have even a small notepad of important contacts in the country such as the head of department, the HR, Head of the school etc to know who to contact in an emergency.

Finally let’s talk about taxis! The majority of taxis are safe but the biggest issue that I’ve heard and experienced myself is situations suddenly becoming hostile over the meter! I never go by the meter which is what some schools tell you to do, look at the meter for the price of your ride and this is how much it should start at. Not at all! The best thing to do is negotiate a price beforehand. Know what price you should pay to where as some taxis can bump up the meter to make you pay a lot more than you should be paying. Situations like this can get heated quite quickly and I’ve noticed this often happens when the driver does not have his civil ID/license card displayed at the back of the taxi seat. So when you decide to take a taxi remember to always look out for this and to AVOID getting into any taxis that claim they are but in fact just random men who want to earn extra money. This often happens in the IKEA area outside of Avenues Mall. Many will wait around claiming they are  a taxi but then lead you into the carpark to take their own car that isn’t in fact a taxi. Taxis aren’t a scary experience in Kuwait but you may find the odd negative experience and hopefully my advice helps you with how to avoid such situations. I might even make a more detailed post on taxi rides in Kuwait as I’ve seen so many teachers who have lived there for years still paying prices that are much higher than they should be.

I tried to cover the majority of topics to consider when moving abroad and hope this was helpful to anyone in the process. That even if you have already lived many years abroad already and still don’t feel settled, these can be new things for you to try to help the experience of living abroad more easier. Lastly, Kuwait won’t be for everyone and you don’t have to stick it out if you truly are unhappy despite how much effort you have made. Your happiness comes before anything and everyones experience will be different. You might find that you are happier in a different Middle Eastern country or even region. It could even be that you simply just need to change the place you work at. Whatever it is, know that you are in control of what makes you happy and you should never feel trapped in any situation.

Let me know your thoughts down below and whether you are planning to move to Kuwait or anywhere else soon. How are you feeling? What are you most excited about and what are your biggest concerns?

x

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Rebecca says:

    Couldn’t have put it better! I lived abroad in France for teaching, and I met/befriended many new expats along the way. I think a lot of us go in with high expectations of a host country, but it usually sets us up for failure– or, at the very least, disappointment. But it’s important to realize whether you want to make life abroad work for you, or whether it’s a matter of staying a few years before returning home or moving elsewhere. Having an idea for the long-term makes a huge difference in one’s mentality, and it can ultimately help you enjoy your life overseas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely! When I first moved to Kuwait I was the exact same. I googled pictures of the country and got ahead of myself of how great everything will be. That’s so true as well. I still haven’t made up my mind completely how long I want to be there for but I know my purpose has changed quite a lot for being there which helps to have some kind of a direction.

      Really appreciate your comment and insight that I think will be helpful for others reading ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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