Expat life extreme

One of the blogs I have read occasionally in the last year or so is “American Bedu” about a former diplomat who married a Saudi man and lives in “The Kingdom.” Reading this is a very different experience for me than reading my usual round of US-UK expat blogs (the number of which I read on a regular basis having grown exponentially in recent months!) as I have no personal connection to the experience aside from the whole “expat life” thing. I was quite moved by a recent post on this site, however, “A foreign wife of a Saudi speaks out on depression” because it felt like it did actually capture so much of the general (as opposed to the specific/Saudi) expat experience. Life in Saudi Arabia is certainly a different kettle of fish–perhaps the culture shock element of the US/UK divide becomes trivial in comparison. But more importantly, this particular post on the blog captured so beautifully the expat experience in more general, country non-specific terms than I have seen lately. For example, (and I quote this passage directly–no intention to claim otherwise):

Culture shock was at the root of some of my depression in the beginning as well. I looked forward to experiencing a new culture and was quite excited at first. However, I most definitely was not prepared for the extent of the cultural dissimilarity I encountered. I was so involved in the moving process that I did not even think about preparing myself emotionally.

The first few months were exciting and new. But eventually this blissful feeling wore off. The exciting elements no longer seemed to compensate for the things I missed about home. I started to become bitter, resentful, homesick, and depressed.

Further capturing the theme of earlier this week, how once you leave your own country you can’t fully go back home:

But isn’t it funny how the homesickness works both ways. What I mean is . . . we get excited to visit our family and friends back home; but as they attend to their daily lives and you realize they don’t really care about your photos or stories about life in Saudi, things can get a little depressing. After a period of time in the States, I always feel a desire to return to Saudi.

I feel as though this was one of the most eloquent pieces of writing I have seen on the subject, embracing ideas that I have tried to capture but never managed to do so in one place as well as this very interesting posting. And if any of the US/UK crowd are having a bad day or week, checking out the expat condition in Saudi terms will definitely offer some perspective.

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4 responses to “Expat life extreme

  1. Someone told me that there is a classic pattern when you move abroad. Up to 3 months, you’re just excited. 3 – 6 months you head down into a dip. 6 – 12 months you begin to climb out and life normalises. That’s exactly how it was for me.

    Thanks for pointing us to a new blog – I’ll check it out.

  2. There are whole books written and classes taught about culture shock – but even though I taught a class on it, it still snuck up on me when I was in Taiwan . . . Knowing what to expect can help a little, but it is still a roller coaster. A lot of people think that once they have ‘adjusted’ things will be plain sailing from then on – but things can set you back and start the process all over again.

    And how true it is, that you can never go home!

    Thanks for the pointer to that blog! Another one I like along similar lines is Expat Abroad

  3. Iota, certainly was about right for me, although a year in was when I really questioned my sanity and sought professional help, and 18 months was when I started to feel more normal.

    Almost American, thanks–I’m looking at Expat Abroad now. I love it when these things come personally recommended! There are many expat blogs out there but some are more interesting reads than others.

  4. The bit about going back to your homeland is so true. I sometimes feel like I’m getting in everyone’s way, and a few have told me before that they were “too busy” wallpapering the bedroom or getting ready to go on holiday, to see me. Don’t they realise how far I had come to see them?

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