Two years ago, my longtime friend (10 years going strong) Liz of the ‘The Tongue in Chic‘, made the move to Kuwait to work abroad as a first grade teacher and to do some travelling as well. Initially, I questioned this decision. Mostly because of that time we spent a week together in 50 degree (celsius) heat in Palm Springs and couldn’t stand each other by the end of it. Deserts and Canadians don’t usually mix. We like our knee-length parka winters, and our mild, keep a sweater around just in case, summers.
I remember the conversations about whether this was a good idea or not but once she had made up her mind, she was confident in the decision. That’s something that has always drawn me to Liz as a friend. She has a confidence that is unmatched by most of the people around her but she is also one to sit with things and really question if it’s right for her. The first time I met her she was wearing LuluLemon crop leggings with bright purple stripes down the sides of the legs. I don’t even think Lulu crops were a thing at the time, but girl OWNED IT like a boss. Once we had bonded over our mutual love for 90’s girl band pop songs, ‘Say You Love Me’ by The Cardigans, I realized that the confidence was matched by her insight.
It’s been two years since she left and Liz now has something like 23 countries under her belt. Honestly, I’ve lost track but I’m incredibly proud of her for pursuing something that at one time seemed so difficult to imagine.
So I thought it would be a good idea to ask her a few questions about the last couple of years that she’s spent travelling for any of you who might be interested in living and working abroad.
As I’d mentioned above, I remember the two of us having a conversation or two about whether this was right for you or not. So, what was the deciding factor on your decision to move to Kuwait?
I actually had the option to go to London. So for about two weeks I really sat on whether to move to Kuwait or the UK. For some reason, maybe the “exoticness” of the Middle East, I chose Kuwait. Do I regret it? No… but damn after visiting London last year, I really wonder what life would have been like.
What was your first week like in Kuwait in terms of first impressions, how you felt and the people you were meeting?
I was on the biggest emotional high I’ve ever experienced. Everyone was dressed to the nine’s, fast cars everywhere I turned, and the FOOD – heavenly. I distinctly remember telling a new friend that “Kuwait was my new home”. Unfortunately any kind of high is followed by a deep low, in my case a low that lasted months.
I remember some FaceTime conversations where we talked about that. About the loneliness and the cultural differences. What would you say is the biggest difference in Canadian and Kuwaiti culture?
In Canada you can be whoever you want. You can do anything you want (within reason) talk to anyone, wear anything, say anything… That is not the case in Kuwait. I don’t care what any Kuwait loving person says. There is censorship here to an extreme. When I go to the mall I change my outfit 4x thinking what I will look like to others. Dating here is the strangest thing you’ve ever seen. Twenty something’s at restaurants are rarely mixed. A good friend of mine dated a Kuwaiti and they were in mad love. One day he comes to her and says I’m getting engaged. They had one week to spend together before he basically dropped off the earth, because he wasn’t allowed to be even seen talking to other women. This isn’t an isolated case, it happens all the time. That was a bit of a tandem, but you get the picture. The culture here is very different, but not so much that it’s in your face obvious, you really need to live here and see things to understand what goes on behind the scenes of Kuwait. I’ve gotten a lot of hate on my blog for expressing my true feelings on Kuwait “if you don’t like it, then leave” well AL HAMDALLLAH I am out of here in 3 months.
Yes, thank God, and home to me and wine and a shared piece (or a not shared piece) of raspberry ganache cake. What would you say is the strangest experience you’ve had over the last two years while travelling?
HA! Okay this actually happened. I was at a home stay in Vietnam, we arrived at night in this tiny ass village. Like I’m talking maybe 100 people in huts with goats and chickens running around. A few of us were sleeping in a little makeshift tent with no electricity. The owner of the hut, a very old woman, stood outside pacing back and forth holding the biggest machete you’ve ever seen. It was terrifying. Valium is your best friend when backpacking exotic places. I will push it until the day I die. Am I a drug pusher?
Haha, I remember that story and the video you took of yourself while it was happening. So much profanity. What do you miss most about home?
YOU! But actually, I miss the people who get me, who I can be my most authentic self in front of. I miss seeing my brothers grow up, my friend’s milestones, and my home. I see everything through a screen, and when I’m having a hard day it really sinks in that I only have like two people in Kuwait who could make me feel better. Shit, I’m getting all emotional. Living abroad is hard, when things aren’t going well it is so easy to say “this would never happen back in Canada”. I say that or at least think it ,daily. Oh and not paying $9 CAD for a Starbucks latte. Yep, everything here is insanely overpriced
You forgot to mention my offspring but we’ll let that one slide. What do you miss least about home?
Responsibility? The lifestyle here is super easy. That only began to resonate with me recently. I barely clean, I get my food delivered, I spend my weekends doing nothing. The only person I really have to worry about is ME. Yes all those things come with a cost, but not having many bills gives me the option to hire someone to do almost anything I need. Oh and the cold. I am terrified about coming back to snow.
Favourite country you’ve visited so far and why?
This is hard but let’s say Ubud, Bali and Hong Kong?
Ubud because it was straight out from Eat, Pray Love and I went truly solo for the first time and did a lot of self work. I sound like a total hippy, but there was something really cool about driving a little scooter to The Yoga Barn and then downing a maca green smoothie. But then again, people who fall into that lifestyle can be very pretentious and judge you for eating white rice. I remember one traveller who scoffed at me for not being into “moonlight free dance”.
Hong Kong is really cool. I could live there one day. It is so efficient and everyone was really nice. So much to see and do. Plus the food was to die for. Cheap dim sum or a $600 dinner at a Michelin star restaurant, the CHOICE is yours.
Don’t we all love some cheap Dim Sum. What are some of the best places you’ve stayed?
I have been BLESSED with staying in some nice places. I don’t skimp on hotels, 5 star or stay home. Just a few that stand out:
Bangkok – Lebua State Tower
Bahrain – The Domain
Mykonos – Art Pelican Bay
Langkawai – Meritus Pelangi
Dubai – The Ritz Carlton JBR
Palm Springs – The Parker
Next week, I’m headed to Jordan and staying at The Kempinski Aqaba. OMG it looks like heaven on earth. Follow me on snapchat to see a lil’ play by play.
‘5 Star or Go Home’ first world advice to live by… Best experience while living abroad and travelling?
I’ve learned a lot about myself. So cliché, but it’s true. If I hadn’t moved away I may never have started blogging, or expressing myself so freely. Fitness has become a massive part of my life due to SO much down time in Kuwait. When I come home I hope to get certified in PT. I may put a pause on teaching and explore different avenues. That’s scary but exciting.
So you’re coming home in a couple of months. Do you think you’ll miss Kuwait at all?
I will miss the ease of life, but I really think that’s about it. Everyone says once they go home they have enough after a month and want to come back. That might happen, so I won’t rule out living abroad again. But a definite “reset” is necessary for me. If I move abroad again, I want to pick a place that I can really settle into. I would plan to stay longer so it would have to be somewhere I LOVED, and not just for the money. I don’t hate Kuwait. But looking back, I would have done things differently. Starting with getting a car and moving into a better place. The school provides these accommodations that are so cringe worthy, I felt like I was in a dungeon.
Finally, some tips for anyone interested in travelling and/or living abroad?
Research research research! Not just on Wikipedia either, try and connect with other expats or bloggers who have explored the place. Ask the hard questions. And remember, a contract literally means NOTHING when teaching overseas. You can leave at any moment, don’t stay if you are unhappy because your emotional health will affect you more than you ever thought possible.
If you want to read more about Liz’s experiences with travelling and living abroad, check her out at TheTongueinChic.com You will laugh, you will wonder if you should be laughing, you’ll be entertained by her brutal honesty and you will love her for her relatability.