I’ve been wanting to write this post since my Instagram feed was inundated with pictures of snow blanketing London a few weeks ago. In a jealous rage, I created my own InstaStory expressing my joy in knowing that the snow in London would eventually turn to black ice and I would have the last laugh. It was only when I started to receive backlash from these posts that I realised that I, too, had turned bitterly cold.
Whilst relocating to Abu Dhabi has been one of the greatest decisions of my life, the main downside for me has been the fear of missing out. Like, serious FOMO.
Bear in mind that I’ve ‘relocated’ twice; I moved to Nottingham from London at age 18 and then from Nottingham to Abu Dhabi, UAE at 26. Moving out of the city was one thing but moving out of the country was something completely different altogether. If you’re thinking about relocating to another country, you need to read this article to consider the potential impact on the following:
Family & Friends
The first time I really experienced FOMO was when one of my childhood friends was getting married. He’s a bighead anyway but out of many of the weddings I had been invited to, I really wanted to attend his.
As most of my friends were invited, I watched the wedding unfold on Instagram through the different lenses each of them provided. First the traditional Nigerian ceremony (well, all I missed there was the groom and his boys lying on the floor face down for four hours) and next the white wedding. I couldn’t go out, could I? I had to stay home and watch the whole thing!
Then, to add insult to injury, the testimonials in the WhatsApp groups started to pour in:
“That was the best wedding I have ever been to” (bearing in mind my wedding was two years prior…) and “that was the wedding of the century.” Yoooo! 100 years, really? It was that good? Trusted sources were saying “Helen, you would have loved it, you really missed out!” Thanks. You think I didn’t know that from Insta?
Becoming a stranger
I’ve two new family members who don’t even know I exist.
I make do with occasional pictures of their growth but it doesn’t really work the other way round, does it? I can’t send the babies pictures of me so they don’t scream the walls down when I visit in the summer, can I? And I can be the cool aunt that visits from abroad but the relationship I would like with them would require more investment…
I cannot get a decent fish and chips anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re on the menus but I’ve made the mistake of ordering it once – never again. The one I had literally tasted like sand mixed with sweat. I kid you not. And they didn’t even have mushy peas…what the hell? It was like Marco Pierre-White making “Jamaican” rice and peas all over again: total lies.
When I do go back to London and go out on the town, I haven’t got a scooby-doo what’s coming out of the speakers. I do this thing where I act as though I know the song when the beat drops, throw in a “tuuuune” but then make up the words. Those Londoners are a different breed though, it’s like there’s a consensus that the first verse of every song must be memorised so they can catch out the ‘paigons.’ So I can’t go out anymore unless I’ve done my homework.
Massimo and I were the only people in the cinema in Abu Dhabi wearing African clothes to our screening of Black Panther.
People were looking at us strangely in our dashikis while people in the States were performing dance routines in African attire fit for royalty. I wished I could’ve been transported to London just for the week Black Panther came out, only so I could make the Wakanda sign to fellow Blacks. Who can relate?
There are some social norms in your home country which are foreign elsewhere and you’ll only realise this once you mix with people from across the globe. That’s why I’m such an advocate for travel – we can learn so much from others; both similarities and differences can make us question the beliefs we hold.
This scenario is typical only in the UK but strange to many other cultures, see if you can spot why:
‘Matt was queuing up in the post office inside WHSmiths and accidentally bumped into Olu. Matt and Olu both apologised. After purchasing their items, they both waited by the entrance for the rain to calm down, exchanging a few words about how terrible the weather was for this time of year. They then went their separate ways.’
- British people are known for queuing. Many other cultures do not queue…
- We apologise for everything, even if it’s not our fault. We say ‘sorry’ when we mean ‘excuse me.’ Who else does that?
- Our weather is so dreadful that it is common to start a conversation complaining about the weather (it makes national headlines every year without fail).
- And speaking of complaints, if Matt or Olu didn’t receive the customer service they wanted, they would know exactly where to go to forge a formal complaint about it.
We have systems embedded in the fabric of our society that we will have to learn to live without if we move away: we become the foreigners. We miss out on the lives of those closest to us and if I’m being brutally honest, people learn to do life without you and some people even forget about you.
But there are also so many things to gain from moving away. You will be challenged, you will meet loads of new people and partake in loads of new experiences. You will grow.
If you do relocate, you need to learn to be intentional.
Be intentional about your relationships, be intentional about keeping up to date with the news and the things that will affect you but also be intentional about being present in and embracing the country you live in, too.
Although the FOMO is real at times, I wouldn’t change moving abroad for the world and I am in no rush to return to the springtime snow in the UK… There is no place like home but home can be created anywhere, especially these days.
View from my window as I type…
*I do not own all the photos that appear in this article, some of them are from Google…