Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Five Tips for Moving to the Middle East

Five Tips for Moving to the Middle East
Guest Writer: Caroline[1]

So you’ve decided to move abroad and have set your sights on the Middle East—good for you! This burgeoning region is home to some excellent historical places, picturesque scenery, and an interesting and deeply traditional culture. Moving can be difficult, though, and it’s especially so if you’re moving to a foreign country. Here are five things you need to think about:

1. Sort Out Your Paperwork
If you plan to enter your new home-country on a tourist visa, you might only be granted entry for 30 days or 90 days. You will likely be limited on the number of times you can renew the tourist visa before you’re required to either leave the country or obtain a residency permit. And if you’re planning to hold a legal job there, you will probably need to acquire a work visa and/or residency permit. Either of these will generally require both patience and obtaining paperwork.
If you’ve already lined up a job, your future employer may be able to offer you some guidance regarding what you need to do. You can also look around online and talk to other expats in the same situation as you, but know that the final decision on any Visa-related issue is up to your local embassy and/or the authorities.

2. Be Smart About Packing
It can sometimes be difficult to part with our things, but when preparing to move abroad, some downsizing is generally a necessity. Not only is international shipping expensive, but you might find that some of the things that you have now aren’t going to be useful to you in your new location anyway. You’re going to find yourself in a typically warm and humid climate in the Middle East, so think about selling or giving away things and getting yourself a more climate-appropriate wardrobe abroad.

As far as technology goes, these days, it’s very rare for a person to totally eschew electronic devices, and most of us have two or three devices—a phone and a laptop and a camera, for example. With your electronic devices, you may find it useful to make yourself a checklist including the device and any related components (batteries, chargers, cords, SD cards, or whatever else). You don’t want to find yourself in your fascinating new home without any way to charge your camera! It is also smart to set up a VPN to protect your personal information when travelling or living abroad—and this has the added bonus of allowing you to stream Netflix, Hulu, and other sites from outside the US!

3. Learn About the Local Religion Prior to Arrival
Much of the Middle East is deeply religious, and this is reflected in both the culture and, in a lot of cases, the laws. You’ll want to learn at least a little bit about the main religion of your new home-country, if only so that you know which days shops and banks will be closed for holidays. Some countries may also limit the purchase and consumption of alcohol, pornography, and other such things.
Clothing is one aspect of the culture in which you can often see a clear tie to a country’s religious roots. Depending on where you are, you may have to dress more conservatively than you are used to. Women may need to wear sleeves and keep their shoulders covered, and in more conservative areas, they might do well to cover their hair with a shawl or scarf. Men may feel out-of-place dressed in shorts or form-fitted shirts. Do a little research into these sorts of things prior to your arrival or you could be in for an unwelcome surprise.

4. Be Culturally Sensitive
Even beyond learning about the religion of the country that you’re moving to, you will want to find out information about that culture’s customs and beliefs to avoid drawing unwanted or even dangerous attention to yourself. In Oman, for example, civility in public is a must—you can have a defamation lawsuit filed against you if you get visibly frustrated with someone or call them names.
As long as you keep an open mind about the local culture, though, you’re guaranteed to have a spectacular time immersing yourself in this whole new world that will be available to you. You might find yourself invited to someone’s house for a traditional meal or celebrating a holiday that you had never heard of prior to your move—and those are the special moments that make any frustration in the move absolutely worth it!

5. Explore!
What better reason is there to move abroad except to explore a new area of the world and immerse yourself in another culture? If you’re working abroad, you may find it difficult to do as much travelling as you might like—but it’s okay to stay home and relax sometimes too! However, you should take advantage of all the opportunities that your new location can give you and see at least some of the important sights.

Don’t worry about “being a tourist”—there’s a reason things become tourist attractions: because they’re impressive. Just because you live in a place, it doesn’t mean that you have to totally do everything as a local would do. Instead, use your time in that place to both be a tourist as well as learn and do things that the ordinary tourist doesn’t get the opportunity to do. This will enrich your time abroad and give you stories for everyone back home.

You might feel a little trepidation at the idea of moving abroad, especially if you’re moving into a culture that is vastly different from what you’re used to, and that’s totally normal. But don’t let that stop you from seizing a fantastic chance to see more and learn more about the world and its people. A little planning goes a long way, and as long as you’re respectful and remain cheerful, you’re guaranteed to have a terrific time in your new home!

[1] Caroline is a long term expat and traveler who has lived in various locations across the world including spending time in the Middle East. Although she has a day job, writing about her international experiences is her passion. Traveling from a young age with her family, Caroline’s goal is to see as much of the world as possible and soak up as much culture as she can!

You can contact Caroline through her email

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