Friday 31 January 2014

Life is lonely as an expat

I'm currently in Dubai, on holiday, Hubby is working and now we are child free I've tagged along, spending the days on the beach at the pool and ascending the World's tallest Tower the Burj Khalifa and generally just switching off and relaxing.

I'm sceptical about this visit, I feel there's an ulterior motive, one which could involve a possible relocation and I'm determined not to enjoy myself. However as an expat in South Africa, I now view the world very differently, every trip, holiday is viewed as 'what would it be like to live here?'

I don't want to leave South Africa, I love the country and I've made some very good friends, I have my volunteer work which takes me out and about, I love being able to get in my car and drive for a few minutes to a nature reserve to view game, I love the outdoor life. But I'm not happy there, not really. I don't have my freedom in a way that I want and I'm unable to work due to visa restrictions.

This week in Dubai has been an eye opener for me, it has made me realise what is missing from my life. I have friends, but they don't understand me, not the difficulties we've had, but my sense of humour, what a raised eye brow means and how the importance of a cup of tea and a chin wag can be the perfect intervention.

No one strikes up a conversation in a coffee shop, no one gives you that look that says a thousand words when you both see something out of the ordinary. I know very few expats in South Africa, I chose to stay away from the community and once people realise you either a) don't work or b) play golf they lose interest in you.

In Dubai the country is littered with foreign accents, tourists and expats, you can't differentiate between them. There doesn't appear to be an expat community, people just live and work here. Maybe because Dubai is a large expat community and that's why.

People ask if the chair is taken and join you at the table to drink their coffee, exchanging pleasantries, make eye contact on the train, the bus. There is free wi fi in the malls, public areas, public transport, hail a taxi in the street, no security. I can leave the hotel and walk around without fear in open space.

Things I didn't realise I missed but knew something wasn't quite right. South Africa is a lonely place if you're not from there.

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