Mark at 2:48AM blog has a very interesting post recently (https://248am.com/mark/personal/us-vs-them/). He is thinking of leaving Kuwait. I think many lifelong or long-term expats have either left by now or are battling with themselves on whether to stay or leave. In Mark's case, he was born in Kuwait and his mother and father were in Kuwait long before that.
His post inspired me to write this post.
It is a hard decision. I think it is harder when you wallow in an uncomfortable situation; not feeling happy and somewhat apprehentious about what may happen when you leave. Or where you will go. Or what kind of a job you will find. And you can't have the same things as you have had in Kuwait (like a maid or cheap healthcare and insurance). And where you go: paying taxes, paying for air for tires using a credit card at the gas station, vet bills in the thousands....etc, etc. (More of that for future posts.)
Kind of like a bad romance. You've been with that person for a very long time. You know you should go (and your departure will be inevitable someday), but the constancy of it leaves you in limbo. You are comfortable in your discontent somehow. Kind of paralized in it all.
How many more expats are going through the same thing? Is it just the pandemic that is making it so bad? Or at least you tell yourself that. But really - it was getting uncomfortable even before. The pandemic has just made it really hard with people losing jobs or having their salaries cut so it pushes the decision to stay or go to the forefront.
Disclaimer: Don't get me wrong. I still love Kuwait (and God knows how much I miss the country and my friends and adopted Kuwaiti families) but the country has changed a lot since I initially washed up on it's shores in 1993. (I moved to Kuwait in 1996.)
I wrote a post about the reasons I would leave Kuwait - back in October of 2017. I left Kuwait (physically) in December of 2017, to work remotely from the US with travel to the UAE and other places when requested. I was back and forth between Kuwait and the US after that; and just before the pandemic hit hard in early 2020. I am so grateful that I moved house out of Kuwait when I did. Perfect timing.
Sidebar: Seriously, how many of us can just work remotely just using e-mail? I mean, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that working remotely works. Case in point: I was working on a contract recently and thought that the woman was in Kuwait (I was calling her Kuwait number). We got to talking and she told me that she is actually in Georgia. I said, "Girl! Give me your number, I'm in Virginia!" Another associate turned out to be working from London while I was calling him on a Kuwaiti number. Another, two towns away from me in Virginia.
I went through the process of getting quotes from shipping companies for my household goods and car to actually doing it - shipping it all. I had a whopping seven suitcases I would take back with me on the plane, plus the cat and the dog. The logistics!! I downsized a LOT. I couldn't stand the thought of selling my things to bargain-hangry buyers, so my process was, "Things I love to people I love." My friends came over and post-it-noted their names on things they wanted. The purge continued for 2 months - and I still ended up with a 40' container back to the US. (I wish I had taken more of some things and I equally wish I had purged more of others.) The ship takes 2 months to arrive with the container, so I brought lots of clothes in check-in luggage.
Only my really close friends knew that I was leaving "for good." I had lunch with the man who basically brought me to Kuwait the first time in 1993. He asked me why I was leaving and I told him that I was no longer comfortable living there. I felt unwelcomed (in general - as an expat). That I was feeling more doom and gloom than joy and contentment. And.... I didn't like the expat-bashing trend; especially by members of parliament and government; those with a short memory of the events that transpired in 90/91. The kind of people who forget their friends. His response was, "Oh, but they don't mean Americans or Brits...." I believe the word "expat" is all-encompassing of foreigners in Kuwait, so when a politician calls Expats, "bacteria," I take offense to it.
A million times over the years I was asked, "Are you planning to leave Kuwait someday?" My response was, "Whenever I decide it is time to go."
Time to go...
Time to be with my family. Time to buy property that is in my name with a huge yard so that my dog has a real understanding of grass and playtime. Time to pay into my eventual retirement. Time to breathe in clean air and be surrounded by trees and green and birds (and in my neighborhood - foxes and deer and skunks and bald eagles). A different kind of natural beauty where people don't litter or pollute (at least where I live).
A lot has happened since I've been away (even though I came back to Virginia every summer on annual leave). My nephew has grown into a man with his own daughter, home and business. My mom has aged and counts on me to help her. Some of the friends that I had have died. Others have just moved on with their lives; marriages, children, divorces. Oh and the time that I spent on summer vacations from Kuwait that I always spent visiting my family has turned into reeeeally nice family travel vacations together.
I'm going to write a separate post(s) about the transition and my reverse culture shock. And of course, the things I miss in Kuwait. It has been a journey. How do I feel now, three years (I can't believe it!) later: Content. Grounded. Secure.
Why am I posting this now? Well, inspiration from Mark's post and it's follow-on comments by expats for one. I have been in discussions with friends still in limbo in Kuwait wondering if they should leave. I know many expats are weighing the decision, so maybe this will get them thinking. Or maybe they'll get some comfort in knowing that they're not alone. A little support perhaps.