You Chose It

*updated

You chose it, you wanted it, and most of the time, you love it.

Don’t complain. You chose it.

The cornflakes that are poured into a bowl. the bread that pops from the toaster, the loaded shopping cart and the franchise store – it’s all the same. Grande latte, quarter pounder, savings or credit, would you like fries with that?

But there are days where the differences are hard to comprehend.

It moves beyond the yearning for a farmers market, a grassy hill, the sound of a train, and being able to walk on a footpath and hear the multiple sounds of suburbia. Birds, dogs, and postal delivery vans are somehow silenced.

The life that comes with radio banter and television gossip is gone, replaced with podcasts and downloads. I plan my news, my music and movies. My own discoveries come in reviews and word searches rather than gifts “here’s a new one from…”

I watched a maid in a uniform walking three steps behind two Abaya wearing teenage girls, she was carrying their shopping bags while they texted. My smile in her direction was pathetic, puppy eyed and useless – she returned it with a look of exhaustion and sadness. I saw a friend rush back to her car to secure a cardigan “I better put this on, even though it’s 40 degrees – don’t want to upset anyone”. A man asked to wash my car for the total of 5 Australian dollars.

Where have you come from for this to be a better option?

“So how’s Qatar?” my Aunt asked on a recent trip to Australia. She stands behind forty other How’s Qatars that have come my way in the past week.

“It’s good!” my reply is chirpy and short. I don’t want to have to reel the list off again.

“You’re very good at that. You’re very good at “it’s good!”

It’s always the first question. How is it? You want to push it aside, get on with the real stuff. A visit is limited and you can’t go through the same conversation again.

The list or reasons roll off your tongue with ease, you don’t bother to switch the order; the school is great, we’ve made great friends, the city is alive with opportunity, and G loves his job.

The macro. The predictable. Do you want fries with that answer.

How could I expect you to understand the micro when I don’t understand it myself.

I love the development, I hate the development. I love the culture, I don’t understand the culture. I love the opportunity, I worry about the opportunists. I hate the shopping malls, I continue to go to shopping malls for groceries each week.

I’m here to learn, I’m trying to work it out, I want to know more.

I chose it, I wanted it, and most of the time, I love it.

You chose it. Do something with it.

 

  • Angel Mossberg

    What’s that phrase my mom loves? “The devil is in the details…”

  • http://akiltandacamera.com Peg and Brian Peter

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m struggling with my answer to the same question here in Brazil. People want to hear how interesting and exotic it is. There are things I love so I give them that answer. How do I say that there is not much for me to do because it’s not safe for me to be out too much by myself? How do I say how frustrating it is when I talk about wanting to try something new and either not finding the opportunity or being told that I better not go alone without a man? How do I say that the culture is shallow and opportunistic while it’s also warm and welcoming on the surface? How do I say that I’m bored out my skull without sounding spoiled? I want it to be fantastic, but now that I’m past the honeymoon stage I know how much more complicated that answer is and the people who are asking me don’t really want to know about that. Eyes glaze over if I get into it.

    Sigh. It’s pretty fantastic here about 20% of the time. I try to focus on that.

  • Gab

    I’ve just moved back to Australia after 8 years in KL and I’m glad I don’t have to mull over my answer to that anymore. Its only early days, but I do love not stepping foot into a shopping mall for weeks at a time. And being able to go outside for long periods of time is so refreshing. You are right though, I have to make sure I do something with my choice now.

  • http://naomihattaway.com/ Naomi Hattaway

    It’s interesting to me though because only when you live abroad (it seems) do you get the “How is it” question. Why are we not asking ourselves these questions every day? How is this life you chose? How can you make it better? Even if you’re choosing to remain in the same neighborhood you grew up in, How is it? Sorry – that wasn’t really the aim of your post today but it struck me … thanks Kirsty for another “in my head” moment.

  • Guest

    My family should be relocating to Montreal for around 6 months in November. We are moving from Singapore so going from humidity to snow. I have two young children and I already know that there will be lots of days where I will be saying to myself “it was your decision to do this”. I just hope that the majority of the experience is a positive one and outweigh the moments where you second guess your decision. Oh, and I don’t speak French!

    • http://shamozal.blogspot.com Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

      Good luck with the move! xx

  • Nicole Webb

    Hit the nail on the head (again) Miss Kirsty…. as we desperately try to settle in a city so foreign yet full of adventure. At the moment all I want to do is go home (to my first expat post) but I keep remembering, “we chose this”….. x

  • JD

    I only coped living in Qatar by knowing it was only for a couple of years. Any longer than that would’ve been too much to sacrifice. No place is perfect, but you need to know yourself and what you can stand, and most of all be honest with yourself about it and not ashamed to say to others when you’ve had enough.

    • Lars

      So true JD! Exactly how we feel & how we’re making the most of our oriental adventure! Honesty is the key x

    • http://shamozal.blogspot.com Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

      Did you end up going home JD or did you move on to somewhere else?

      • JD

        We moved somewhere else, husband’s company moves us around, we’re from England and have lived in France, USA and Qatar. Curently back in USA. It’s not really our choice where we go. I look back on Qatar with some fondness for parts of it, but 2 years 8 months was enough. The poor maids and labourers, the harassment every time I walked my dog, traffic, dust, squalor of some of the neighborhoods, cruel treatment of animals – and all of it tolerated by the culture – no thanks. It was educational, especially for my daughter, and we developed a very black sense of humor, which was fun. You learn to draw on your inner resources to get through.

  • sundaebean

    So funny I just wrote an article last week to encourage people to stop asking the exhausting “so what´s it like in…” question – and alternatives if they do. Kirsty, hope you don´t mind if I share it here: http://sundaebean.com/2014/09/23/never-say-expat/

  • http://drinking-the-whole-bottle.blogspot.com/ DrinkingtheWholeBottle

    i’ve officially saved this blog on my bookmarks page. Thanks for writing.

  • Lars

    Moving away from home, especially when your home is paradise compared to where you’ve ‘chosen’ to live is hard. Most of the time even when we’ve agreed to go along for the adventure, we leave behind everything that is beautiful & familiar to us because we love our partners. Bottom line for me is I moved from Sparkling Sydney to Hong Kong with 3 children because I love my partner so much I would do anything for him. I’m just fortunate that he loves me unconditionally too & our adventure will be short but sweet. I’m proud that we both have the honesty to admit that family, our children & health comes before money. As long as you’re being true to yourself, then you’re living an honest life.

    • http://shamozal.blogspot.com Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

      Do you think that everyone is doing it for the money? Or are you saying you were doing it for the money?

      • Lars

        Kirsty, I’m nowhere near the experienced expat queen as you so can only speak from my 9 month experience in Hong Kong! I’ve found since moving here that most people who have moved to HK from places that are better in terms of air quality, lifestyle & better facilties to raise children, are only here for the money long term. Why else would you choose a place that has poor air quality to raise your beautiful children long term? They choose to stay because the tax rate is low. When you think that we have fresh air, fresh water & fresh food easily accessible, then it’s always a compromise moving away. People are always weighing up the pros & cons. We don’t do that at home! We came with an open mind for the adventure as we have never lived abroad but we’ve decided to return home after 2 yrs as our children love Australia better & although they’re having fun here, it really wasn’t their choice to leave home. The only reason we would stay longer is for the financial benefits & that won’t make us happy. I agree that you have to be honest with yourselves… short term it’s fun & a great experience, long term it’s too much of a sacrifice that we’re not willing to give up & we would all be missing home all the time. We’ve just become more grateful for our lives in Australia. Luckily my husband values our children’s wishes & his family’s health & isn’t willing to sacrifice that for the financial gain. The key is to just be true to yourself & admit what your heart desires & go for it! X

        • http://shamozal.blogspot.com Kirsty Rice 4kids20suitcases

          Thanks for coming back with an elaboration. I was really interested in your answer. I think of Australia as a paradise as well and love it for all the reasons you’ve listed. When you mentioned being true to yourself and honest about what your heart desires – for me, if I’m to be honest, I’m not ready to go home. For us it’s the travel, the people, and most of all the opportunity that being here presents. I’ve been able to switch careers, and G works for a company that just doesn’t exist on the same scale at home. Our kids are at a great school and we have a busy life with friends that we wouldn’t have met had we not moved. I feel like I’ve learnt not only about other cultures but I now understand more about my own from stepping away from it.

          I’ve always said that the day that one of us says they want to move home we will pack our bags, but it’s been 15 years and that hasn’t happened yet. Having said that, I’ve had oodles of friends who’ve decided that the time to go was now, and they’ve repatriated and moved on. I’m sure our day will come.

          I’m really pleased for you that you’re able to go home when you want to, the alternative is shitty, and theres nothing worse than feeling like you’d be better off at home. You prompted me to go on the 4 kids, 20 suitcases Facebook page and ask the question “did you move solely for the money..” check it out if you’re interested. Thanks again, I really enjoyed your comment. https://www.facebook.com/kirstyriceonline?fref=nf

          • Lars

            Thanks Kirsty for starting this thread! Very interesting! I must add that I’m so glad that we took the plunge & decided to just go for it! We never wanted to have any regrets in life & always wanted to try living abroad. You can read my thoughts & your writing is so eloquent. The travel, the work experience, meeting so many great people from all walks of life & learning about ourselves (& Australia from a new perspective) has been life changing. Our children are richer & even more interesting people then they already were because of this experience! Also learning about ‘democracy’ due to the peaceful protests in HK right now! Amazing people! Please keep writing, you’re an inspiration to us all x

  • Angela

    Oh the -you chose it- look. Someone wrote to me:”You are lucky, you cow can do whatever you want”. Can I? I can’t see my children or family when I feel like it. I can’t fly home when I want because there is no airport near, I can’t meet up with other women for a coffee/ talk because there are no other expats living here and local woman don’t want any contact. I can’t learn the local language because there are no courses here. But I can make the best out of it even when it is hard.

  • QatarReader

    Kristy, I love this post. I’ve been in Doha (MY choice) for eight years. There’s a lot of things that I like better than Canada, and others, not so much. BUT again, it’s my choice, and I deal with it. The best things I’ve learned here are patience and the realization I am not in control. I think expat life works for many of us, and for others, the shocks of “it’s not like home” are just too much. Like you some of things I love are in equal measure the things I hate.

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