The unglamorous life of an Expat Blogger
Whenever people hear that I have a blog (a piece of information usually revealed by someone in my company and not myself), it’s almost always followed by the remark:
“Oh! How glamorous!”
I never how to respond to that because of two reasons:
-Being a blogger can seem quite glamorous. Lifestyle, fashion and beauty bloggers are the popular kids in the blogosphere. They look fabulous in all their photos with their carefully curated flatlays, envy inducing wardrobes and let me not get started about their flawless make up and hairstyles (Sometimes I want to reach through the screen and touch their skin. I understand why men become creepy stalkers when I see their pictures). They have fan pages dedicated to themselves and there’s the whole business of parties and free products. I see you ladies and I admire you!
-But the reason I can’t justify that remark or never know how to respond to it because well… being an expat blogger can be distinctly dull.
But why you may ask? Aren’t you on an extended holiday? You’re off seeing the world- that’s thrilling! Well… not quite.
Here are 5 reasons why I don’t consider the kind of blogging I do to be particularly glamorous:
1. We live here… that comes with responsibilities
When I travel, my priority is to have a great time exploring a new place. Seeing the sights, sampling new cuisine, photographing the landscapes… sigh. I really do love to travel. HOWEVER- when I’m an expat, my priority is to SURVIVE with
no minimal problems. That means I’m far less concerned about living it up and am more concerned with paying my bills, making sure I have petrol in my car and buying groceries- just like you! Then why are you blogging, you may ask? Well, judging from the heaps of emails and comments I get here on the blog about life in the Middle East (especially from ladies), it seems that people want to know about the mundane details of living in a foreign land! As for that extended holiday… I don’t know anyone who would call going to work everyday, furnishing an apartment and sorting out visa paperwork as a ‘holiday’ but thats just me.
2. We don’t always look good and we don’t party on a regular basis
Where did this misconception come from that we bloggers are all out there sending our days standing in front of cute walls and at night, doing the blow-a-kiss-over-your-shoulder pose at a fancy parties. I WISH I had the time and I also wish I had more cute dresses to wear to parties. But seriously though. There’s a reason my face is never really in the pictures on my blog or on my Instagram. I just can’t be bothered to do the whole make up and hair business. Give me a camera with a sunrise and I will flourish. Give me a hair iron & a contour kit and… I will be confused.
I cannot express my admiration for bloggers who are out there reviewing beauty products while I am just sitting around waiting for those blog posts so I don’t waste my time and effort on useless products!
3. We are on a never-ending revolving emotional rollercoaster
So one of the drawbacks of being an expat, more especially an expat blogger, is that you are constantly stuck between two (or more) worlds and consequently, always climbing a mountain of guilt as a result. And you cannot always blog about it! Let me explain further: at the beginning of this year, my mum (Mummy Panda I guess we could say) had a terrible accident and couldn’t walk for most of the year. All of this happened while I was traveling in Sri Lanka. There was nothing I could do or offer and I was isolated from sharing in the family pain, being the only one living in the Northern Hemisphere. Although tragedies like this don’t happen often (Mummy Panda is mobile again after months of bedrest and physiotherapy) but you do frequently feel guilty about living your life away from your loved ones.
Even when you do return home it isn’t the sweet reunion you anticipate it to be- you feel that your old friends have moved on without you or you feel you can no longer fully relate to family because your life experiences have been so different. Blogging about these sort of things is difficult because you feel you may hurt your family/friends or just seem whiny because after all- you CHOSE to leave,
We miss birthdays, anniversaries, funerals and so many monumental milestones in the lives of our loved ones… There is nothing cool about this aspect of expat life believe me!
4. We actually have very little tangible talents
So as I mentioned, most of us expat bloggers can’t do a perfect winged eyeliner or stay up past midnight (guilty!). Photography is just our hobby to supplement our the tales of our life here and the stuff we write about is more a personal account of our lives rather than any sparkling political commentary. So no- we don’t seem to have any tangible talents. But let me tell you what we do have- undefinable superpowers. We can have an entire conversation using body language and hand gestures in order to achieve what we want with people who don’t understand us. We can field through stacks of bureaucratic paperwork- in a language we can’t even read- in order to live legally. We can cry our way into countries, flirt with police officers in basic Arabic, eat whatever is put in front of us in order to respect local culture and drive on all sorts of terrain in foreign lands. Or maybe I am the only one who does such things?!
When you say to me, “I could never do what you do!”, its probably true. You couldn’t do these crazy things in a familiar place where you might be concerned about how you would be perceived. At home, you often feel under pressure of social conventions but once you are out there on your own, you realize you can do whatever you want. But in a new place where no one knows you or would report back to your parents… you embrace the unhinged nature of being an expat and let the crazy spew forth both in real life life and later, on to your blog!
5. We have nowhere to run home to
Well guys this is it. I am not writing about my kayaking experience in Abu Dhabi once I am safely in my home country, surrounded by people I love. I live here in Abu Dhabi, by myself, and this is my home for now. Traveling is a scary experience of course but let me tell you something- you always have that, “Soon I will be out of here mindset”. Its only when the dust has settled that reality kicks in and expat life proves this to you very quickly. The very things you find funny or quirky as you travel through a country as a tourist can just get plain frustrating when you have to live with them every day. A language barrier, rude shop assistants, bad drivers, people cutting in line, lack of personal space, attitudes towards gender, sexuality or religion can all become big issues when you’re living in a foreign land for a prolonged period of time. Sometimes it eats you away inside because you want to blog about it all but the truth is that you know these frustrations are just personal gripes and since you made the decision to move here, you have to suck it up and deal! I also feel that if a country is generous to allow me to work and live there, I have to be just as accepting of their quirks and idiosyncrasies as they clearly tolerate mine!
It is also worth me mentioning that living in the Middle East means there are lots of things I CAN’T blog about while I live in a particular country because this is the price I pay for enjoying the life I live here. Remember how I laid it all bare when I left Kuwait? I couldn’t be that honest while I lived there. This is one of the drawbacks of being an expat blogger depending on where you live.
The truth is once you realise that this is “home” and that there is nowhere to run, the smoother your whole living abroad experience will be!
To be honest…
Expat life isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone. But even with all of these challenges, I wouldn’t change my expat experience for anything. For me, the benefits far outweigh the challenges and even on days when expat life sucks, I know it’s making me a stronger, more flexible person. Every day I learn something new as I’m getting familiar with my environment no matter which country I live in– sometimes it makes me happy, sometimes desperate and sometimes surprised but I do not get tired of it!
As unglamorous as it may be, I believe being an expat blogging is one of the best ways to educate people about new places from the perspective of someone who is seeing their environment through fresh and untainted eyes. Although it isn’t always one big adventure, it does have moments that take your breath away and make you feel like you’re on an episode of Sex & the City!
What are some of the misconceptions you have/have heard about expat bloggers? Do let me know in the comments below!