Monday, 25 August 2014

The expat situation: a mothers take

Expat life in Dubai is turning out pretty well. And if I am honest better than I had imagined it would. So while I am enjoying sun it is all too easy to push the homesickness and the moments of missing friends and family to the back of my mind. But what about the people left behind?

millie where is everyone? 

My future mother-in-law is a pretty amazing women; she has taken me under her wing and accepted me into her family and is much more than just the boyfriends mother. She is my go to for advice whether it be about life, work, cooking or any number of those random questions that only mothers know the answer to. 

She has always been amazingly supportive of our life choices and no matter how much she misses us, she always accepts our decisions. Despite the heartache of goodbyes and missing important milestones, she secretly loves the fact that we are expats because she gets to live vicariously through us and this blog. 

So when she came to me and said she wanted to write something for the blog, I jumped at the chance. And her writing will fit in perfectly in my little internet diary. This may or may not become a regular feature but a mothers take on our little expat situation is certainly an interesting read. 

The Expat Situation: A Mothers Take

First let me introduce myself.  I am today's guest blogger and you may have heard of me before; my former appearances have taken the form of 'the boyfriend's mother'.  I follow Mimi's blog avidly both from a simple interest point of view and from an utterly selfish point of view - a view to following the adventures of Mimi and her boyfriend (my son) as they embark on each new chapter in their lives.  

You could call it voyeuristic but I am simply the parent left behind, many miles away.  Which got me thinking.  Mimi's blog provides an insight into expat life; where to go, how to behave, how to cope with being so far away from home, but what about those left behind?  The friends and family back home - how are we meant to cope?

When they first told me they had decided to head off to seek fame and fortune abroad, my initial reaction of excitement for them turned into the realisation that they would be so far away and I panicked about how I would maintain the close relationship we had as a family.  However, with a little bit of effort on both sides, it's actually turned out quite well.  The internet has provided that essential lifeline.  From the daily thoughts and photos on WhatsApp to following status updates on Facebook and Mimi's superb blog of expat life and of course, the weekly Skype session, I still feel included in their lives without being overbearing (I hope).  

Sometimes I just need to read and not comment - on days when I am missing them I can see what they are up to and I know they are safe and happy.  The one line What'sApp comments tell me they are thinking of me during their daily routine and of course the weekly Skype sessions bring me into their home and them back into mine.   Of course it's no substitution for kisses and hugs but it'll do for the times in between reunions.  Yes, it takes a little bit of effort on both sides but it provides that all important reassurance, for all of us, that we are loved and thought of.

But just when things are all fine and dandy, along comes an important day on the calendar like Christmas or a birthday - theirs and ours.  So how do you celebrate with such a vast landscape between you?  Planning is key.  Ideally you know when these dates are coming up giving you enough time to ensure that cards are dispatched in plenty of time (make sure you allow for a dismal postal service - I've already bought this year's Christmas cards - I'm not taking any risks).  Ensure that the time for 'the birthday Skype session' is agreed in advance - avoiding the disappointment of missing a call due to the huge time difference.  

The issue of presents is one I'm still working on and which I admit to having failed at dismally this year.  The trick is to recruit someone who lives in the country with them who you can trust to do the 'shopping and wrapping' for you hence avoiding paying extortionate postal costs that far outweighs the value of the present you bought!  Alternatively, you can try and persuade them to wait until you see them again but this does imply that they have a patient personality - not one of my son's greatest attributes!  By the way, don't even think about 'digital' cards or gifts.  

Having lived abroad myself for many years, I know that there is no substitute for tearing open an envelope or wrapping paper on your birthday or Christmas which has come from home - especially when you wish you were with your family.  It shows you love them and wish they were home too.

I mentioned recruiting a friend.  From a parent's point of view this is key.  You need to find out the name and contact details of at least one person that sees them on a regular basis.  And make sure that person has your contact details too.  It's not something we want to think about but what if you need to make emergency contact?  Or what if you haven't heard from them for a while?  This is easier to do nowadays with the internet but still essential.  Hopefully you will never need to do this but it's just one more thing that will let you sleep peacefully at night.

And last but not least - the big reunion.  Again, planning is key (both diary and financial).  Book a flight as soon as you can, even if it's months ahead.  British Airways book 364 days in advance and have started a deposit option (pay the balance later).  Knowing when I am going to see Mimi and my son again cheers me up on days when I miss them.  It means I can start collecting for a 'goodie box' of things that I might come across that I know they will love.  I have downloaded a free countdown app (Days Until) on my phone and I know that it will be exactly 25 weeks, 4 days and 11 hours until I see them again.

Working abroad is one of the greatest experiences and adventures they will ever have but keeping up solid family relationships is essential for everyone.  Once the initial excitement has died down the realisation that they are on their own will hit them as much as it will hit you.  All it takes is a little bit of effort and thought and a fast internet connection.  

The world is really not that huge after all.


  1. This post was exactly what I needed to read without even knowing it!! I recently moved to Dubai myself last week to join my boyfriend. The whole process has been crazy to say the least but reading your future mother-in-laws words were so helpful! I definitely am going to try and implement some of her tricks with my family and friends back home!

    Thanks again ladies!!


    1. Hi Danielle! Welcome to Dubai! How are you settling in? I know Dubai is quite full on and a little scary for a newbie expat but it is a fantastic place to live. Send me an email ( if you want to chat more or need any tips or advice, I've only been here two months myself so I know how your feeling :)

  2. What a wonderful post. I loved it so much.
    I know it's been hard for my family while I was living in Japan and Germany. Especially Japan, since I was there for the tsunami, and for 2 weeks I skyped my parents eevry day, sobbing into the computer because I was scared.
    I find that with gifts and so on, Amazon is pretty handy because they can deliver from within that country and have pretty much everything you need.
    Again, loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. thank you so much charlotte for your kind comment. It is always hard living away but its the choice we make and you have to take the good with the bad right. Totally agree with you about amazon....its a lifesaver! :)


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