Tuesday 5 December 2017

Managing life as an expat

I'm one idiot away from a break down.

I'm 46, I struggle to control my bladder, what makes you think I have any control over my life?

Compared to other people I think I live a very stressful life, full stop. I live abroad. I have to deal with slow and none existent postal systems, time difference, expensive phone calls and rely on the good will of others to sort things out on our behalf.

We rent out our family home in the UK, with that come building insurance, mortgage payments, bank accounts, gas safety certificates, repairs, estate agents, tax return forms.

Our youngest child has been educated in the UK for the past 4 years, school fees, uniforms, pocket money, trips, learning support, GCSE's, exam fees, resits, flights, lifts to airports, passport renewals, pocket money.

I've had to manage two lives in two countries simultaneously and it's starting to take a toll. It's hard work keeping up with the bills, the kids, my health and juggle being happy and healthy and making sure everyone has everything they need.

Yes I know the kids are all adults now, yes I know we employ rental agents to manage our house, we have international and off shore banking, we now have all bills set up online so we don't have to rely on the post and the good will of others to forward it on to us.

We don't hire an accountant, we're not made of money, we do things ourselves, but it all takes time and everything is done very differently in both the UK and where we live in Dubai.

I find myself constantly having to switch my brain on and off. Car and contents insurance works the same way surely? No, not really, it's set up differently, direct debits, standing orders, monthly and annual payments.

We rent a property in Dubai, the contract is for a year, we have to pay a deposit and pay the whole years rent up front, we have to make sure that the landlord agrees in writing to take responsibility for repairs to their own property or we'd be liable for the cost of repairs, to include leaks, air con, painting the outside and general maitenance, we then have to register the rental contract with the muncipality or we can't have water and electricty to the property. We don't have an agent, the repairs are of a poor quality and numerous. We have to give 90 days notice to vacate, the landlord has to give 1 years notice of eviction or rental increase. We have to pay for new contracts.

In the UK where we rent out a property it's a completly different process, there are electrical and gas safety inspections, repairs have to be carried out to a certain standard which are expensive and have to be completed within a certain timescale, our tenants are demanding in regards to what additional work they expect us to carry out, there are endless emails via an agent from tennats demanding their rights to keep pets, despite their initial contract stating 'no pets' or requests to have a perfectly good kitchen replaced as it doesn't suit their needs or they want the rooms repainted to a colour that suits them at our cost. We call thier bluff, we'd rather have the property empty and then pay the council tax than give in to ridicilous demands and have done so. We have to pay an additional 1% on our mortgage for the benefit of renting the property out and our annual tax return forms require additional software to complete and additional costs and we have to register as overseas landlords.

We've now bought a flat, that requires management fees, contents insurance, water, electricty, council tax, tv licence, change address for bank accounts, driving licence, re register for voting etc.

It's not just about the money, we've budgeted for all the above, that part runs smoothly as long as we receive notification and the internet is working. I received a bill with an additional charge for late payment sent through the post and after the post code in capital letters was printed. 'EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE ONLY, DO NOT MAIL' it took me half a day to sort out the late payment charge, which I had to pay electronically and then make a complaint to receive a refund.

The hardest part of maintaining a life in two countries is the not knowing how everything works and having to switch your brain on and off between each country, almost doing a factory reset and constanly unlearning and relearning everything.

There's an assumption that you know how everything is done and that you know where to do it. I don't need a TV licence in Dubai. In South Africa you bought your TV licence when you bought a TV. Your car needs reregistering in Dubai on an annual basis. In the UK, you have MOT, buy insurance and then you can get road tax. In South Africa, you renew your road tax at the post office, no one checks you have insurance and there is no annual road worthy test, that is only performed when you purchase or sell a vehicle.

And no one tells you any of this, no one explains to you how it's all done, either a) everyone is a local and has no idea why anyone wouldn't know how to do all the above or b) everyone has been doing it for years now and has forgotten how hard it was to set up initially.

It's the same for me now when I visit the UK. I'm considering buying a t shirt that reads, I know I sound British, but I actually don't live here and I've no idea how this works, how to do it or where, but it's absolutly pointless.


  1. Sending you some virtual support. I'm sorry for everything weighing on you now and hoping it gets better. Hugs from France!

    1. thank you, now sorting out a tax bill, it never ends, does it?

  2. It must get so confusing flitting between the two countries and trying to remember the way that country does something! Its amazing that in this day and age there are so many varied legalities!
    Thanks for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back tomorrow!

    1. yes it does surprise me too, i just get used to how things are done in one place, then its back to another country and all change