Being Expats with 4 kids comes with so many adjustments, considerations and things to balance as we create a new life away from familiar lands, people and things. While it certainly is an exciting adventure to be living here in Kuwait with daily doses of sun, sea, new sounds, palm trees, new flavours and people; it also carries mixed emotions, struggles and barriers. Some were anticipated and some have come as a surprise.
One of the most common questions people have asked us over the past 5 weeks (aside from how we are of course) is “what is it like being here?”. Depending on which one of us you ask this to, and depending on the day, the answer will vary hugely. On the whole we are all enjoying it, but some days I do find myself needing to remind us all that it has only been 5 weeks and it is a HUGE change (so go easy and chill)!
The kids are happy and enjoying the lifestyle and adventure, though each one at some point has asked (or yelled at me) if we can go home, commented on not liking something about being here, or just had a bit of a cry! Some things have kept me awake at night wondering how to navigate it with them, however on the whole, with the majority of the struggles they face I just think that it is completely natural and understandable having uprooted them with limited personal items; away from home, friends and family and popping them in an apartment and attending a new school (where they make up the minority of Brits) would be hard and require a period of adjustment. It has been and in some ways still is hard for them some days, but on the whole they are happy and we feel confident in the choice to be expats in the Middle East.
Being expats here is an exciting adventure that has already given us so many wonderful rich experiences in such a short space of time, while offering us the chance to learn about and live in a new culture. Small things like hearing the call to prayer radiate across the city, the palm trees and daily blue skies and sunshine remind us of what an exciting and very different place it is to be and live. We love the weather (mostly) and the adventures and education we are having exploring Kuwait, as well as the adventures and experiences we look forward to being able to more easily access in this part of the world. We have noticed a lot of people say that there isn’t much to do here, but we would say the opposite. The beaches, malls, museums, Islands, attractions and even the desert offer a myriad of family activities to fill so much time and give enriching and fun experiences to all.
It is thrilling to us to be living life here, especially as some days it feels like we are on a long-term holiday! Sharing all of this as a family is a special thing and we love the memories we are making. In fact, I think some of the benefits of being here (that we have already noticed) is the closer family relationships of going through this together, and initially only having each other. I love the little family jokes we have and the traditions we are creating that have come about from this journey. I have also noticed that the kids communication skills are increasing as they step out of their comfort zones and make friends with, and learn to talk to people from an array of cultural backgrounds and countries.
Being here is great and the lifestyle is brilliant, but like all things in life it comes with challenges too. Being expats with 4 kids and no car some days is tough. We use the buses (an experience everyone should try) and also use Taxis or walk (though the paths here aren’t really designed for pedestrians), but honestly I look forward to having a car again – life will be much easier for us all.
It’s exciting to discover new foods, new places, new people, but it can also be hard some days to miss and have access to the familiar foods/snacks, favourite places and people. We have met some lovely families and people, and we are enjoying creating new friendships, but it can also be hard some days (especially for the kids) to not have their best pals and cousins around.
Kuwait is expensive in many regards (especially clothes, books, toys and nappies – ouch) and the thrifty side of me cringes paying so much for things, while knowing in my soul I could get it so much cheaper in a charity shop, on vinted or at Lidl/Aldi! But then of course fuel here is super cheap, some vegetables are cheaper and we have a vast choice of new things to try too. I suppose it’s all about that adjustment and embracing the good – you earn more here and don’t pay tax, so it more than balances out.
Being expats means we live in a city apartment instead of our 4 bed countryside house! It is different but mostly a great part of the adventure. Creating a home here has been fun – it’s a lovely 3 bed apartment that we are just about done with sorting out, and the kids love the communal pool downstairs. While not massive we certainly have sufficient space for us all and I think we all like the cosy feel and being close. The kids like the views and I like seeing their creativity to pass time with their limited stuff. I quite like being in an apartment (though it quickly gets messy!) and love trying life with minimal stuff and being content that it meets our needs and we have enough. But there are the odd days that I crave a garden, a little more space or built in storage, and find it hard not always knowing where to go to get what I need for my home and family. But then we have a pool, a lovely calm space and are in easy access to our daily life/work/school/shops!
Expatriates make up more than 40% of the Middles East, which offers us an amazing mix of people and cultures here – it also reminds you that there are tonnes of others who have gone through what we have and are, and understand the adjustments, excitements, mixed emotions etc you are going through in this journey. People who have been expats before or have been here a while have been more than happy to guide us in this adjustment and life.
Becoming Expats was always a goal of ours – to travel more and live in foreign lands. We love the enriching experiences that come with seeing the world, and we especially love that we can share this with our kids and provide them with so many cool and educational experiences too (we hope they will look back on this with fondness, but who knows). We weren’t naïve to think that it would be all plain sailing (how can it be when you are flipping everyone’s life) and we are discovering like anything in life, it does have it’s highs and lows and some things require you to think a little differently and do things differently to how you did before. But that’s exactly it – everything whether at home, living somewhere new, relationships, new jobs, even holidays and travel … they all have highs and lows, they all bring season where you need to change your approach and how you do things. Life ebbs and flows, we grow, we learn, we laugh together and we adjust. We cherish the good, we embrace the joys and we grow from the challenges. And that certainly applies to us being here and now in this chapter. While some days are tricky and some moments are filled with missing, tears or barriers, life being expats is blessed and full, and we are happy with the decision to step out of our ordinary and comfort zones, and try something completely different.
Becoming expats anywhere with a tribe of kids isn’t necessarily easy, but being at home with 4 kids isn’t always easy either. But we love the added family time we get and we love being together as a family in a new land; with new things to explore and discover. Yes, it’s hard some days, but such a fantastic thing we cherish too. And, what I will say is that it is a wonderful adventure and one I am glad I am on together (at least for now).