~ Living Out Of A Suitcase ~

‘The Good’ magazine invited me to put together a post for their July edition on our summers as an expat –
~ Living Out Of A Suitcase ~
Summer has arrived and we turn our thoughts to long holidays escaping the heat as we excitedly look forward to reuniting ourselves with family and old friends. Perhaps you see yourself as leading a ‘double life’, slipping from one life to another; something only expats can really relate to?
Before we board the plane home laden with gifts, we excitedly look forward to the reunions, our old familiar way of life, our own country we call ‘home’ and the cooler weather often through our ‘rose-tinted’ glasses.
So how is it that after landing back in the UK and 24 hours later staying with my parents, I begin to ‘regress’ to that rebellious teenager I was all those years ago. I’m an adult now in my 40’s with my own 3 children, sitting at Mum’s kitchen table, quietly minding my own business pouring milk on my morning muesli and she comes out with, “what would you like for dinner tonight?’ OMG, Does she not realise I’m incapable of functioning right now let alone thinking what I’m going I want to eat in 8 hours time?
As my old ‘teenage anger’ levels rise, I firmly shut the kitchen door; climb the stairs to ‘wait’ for my turn in the bathroom (what happened to my ensuite?), to search for my jumper and jeans squashed in my suitcase cramped in the corner of the bedroom, to see rain streaming down the window and the kids saying, ‘what are we doing today?’
Take me back to Dubai, please!
Joy of joys, and this is day one! I’ve been in Dubai for 15 years now so as a seasoned expat traveller going back to the UK I thought I’d share some tips with you that just might help your holiday along so you climb back on that plane not with the usual sense of guilt but of having enjoyed ‘your other life’.
1. Manage Your Expectations and Theirs
Be very clear beforehand how long you are staying, what is expected of you, remember it’s your holiday, it might not be theirs, make it clear if you have friends to see and places to go, be firm about your boundaries so you enjoy the time guilt free, be honest and totally upfront or resentment will build and you will end up falling out.
2. Space
One thing we ALL crave is our space especially when we are staying with people. This is critical for both of you. You are a guest in someone else’s house and however much we love our family and friends, guests do disrupt routines. Work out before you go where you can go to have ‘time out’, physical space and mental space is crucial so when you are together you can enjoy the time. Even if it’s taking yourself off to the bedroom to read, walking around the park or the shops you will feel better when you come together. Do not live in each other’s pockets.
3. Help
Offering to help is always a great way to slot back into life back home and will make life more enjoyable whether it’s chopping vegetables, mowing the lawn (novelty factor here) or doing household jobs. The key to offering any help though is to know your boundaries and to help without expectation – do not expect anything in return. Help because you can and that’s the sort of person you are. You don’t need praise (if you’re like me, you’ll never get it anyway).
4. The Reality of Friends
How often do I hear this? They aren’t there for me, I travel all this way and they can’t even take a day off work! Optimistically you might think your friends will be around but in reality, they carry on with their lives. The key is to PLAN your trip beforehand and book in some time with them if you can to avoid disappointment and resentment.
5. Home feels ‘Foreign’
Along the way in forming our new lives we ‘disconnect’ from our old life and become very protective of our new lives. Expats feel the pressure of missing out on events, weddings, birthday parties, social gatherings and funerals and this pressure causes a disconnect so you may feel ‘low’ returning home and longing for your Dubai life – this is normal and the best way is to ‘stay present’ and get involved as much as you can, you’ll be back in Dubai before you know it.
6. Look After YOU
This without a doubt is the most important one here – when you put yourself first you become a better wife, daughter, mother, friend and work colleague, so make sure you understand what your needs are, make them a priority and you will be able to enjoy your visit so much more. You simply cannot change anyone…….so don’t even try, think about YOU changing you react to that person. If someone is upsetting you tell yourself how it is your responsibility how you react, not theirs.
You can change the entire family dynamics by changing your attitudes, views, reactions and behaviours. Teach your children by your behaviour, NOT by telling them what to do all day, you be the example. As you board that plane very soon remind yourself of the safety video – put the oxygen mask on YOU first and your child second – it will change your summer.
As always, I’d love to hear from you!