It’s Wednesday, so I am excited to share another World Mama with you guys. Last week you read Olivia’s story, written by her brave and strong mom Finley Kate. Today it is time for a little culture shock. Youmna grew up in Lebanon, but now lives in Angola with her husband and two children. Turning a strange country into a home is hard work. Especially when that country is nothing like anything you are used to. Read Youmna’s story and tips about making a new country not just a place where you live, but a real home.
Let’s start with the basics. I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. For 5 years I worked in the media field as an editor and anchor of the English news, on a local tv channel. I met my husband, we got married and boom, we moved to Luanda, Angola. We had two kids; a boy (6) and girl (3). That’s basically it, normal no? But no, it isn’t because nothing about Angola is basic or falls within the norms of anything I was accustomed to.
Angola is located on the African continent and Luanda is the second most expensive city in the world. It’s not your average expat- country or a comfortable place to live with a family. But like any other country you have to adapt and make it home.
But how? How do you make a new country feel like home?
Learning the language
Communication is very important when you are living in a new country! I took some classes and learned Portuguese, to at least be able to communicate in my everyday errands around the city.
At first I was worried that I wouldn’t find anyone that I would click with, people who shared the same interests or just to be able to meet for coffee and nag about the husbands or daily life. But in expat, you discover that people in the same community don’t need to share much to get together and enjoy each other’s company. A board game always gets us together and with my kids in school, meeting the parents of their classmates and establishing friendships was a great addition. And if you are lucky you might as well make one or two friends for life!
I would definitely advice to keep a busy schedule. When I first moved to Luanda I had too much free time on my hands which was making me overthink everything in my life. Getting a job was absolutely impossible, so I tried to fill my days with things that I didn’t do in Lebanon. The thing that took my time and my body (gained 10 kgs the first year!) was cooking and mostly baking. And I started getting involved with other expat women in organizing events for the international expat community in the city. Recently I joined amazing mamas who have build a basic school for underprivileged kids in a poor neighborhood.
Loving the little things
It’s the little thing that keeps you going, like the time I bought 2 pomegranates for 20$ each and how until now we buy the Nutella jar for 25$! Or the time me and my husband decided we felt like croissants at 6 pm , and I don’t know if you are familiar with their complicated process, but they were only ready to go into the oven at 1 in the morning. We also try to travel as much as we can, back and forth to Lebanon and discovering the African continent.
Accepting and adapting
When your kids go to kindergarten they cry the first few weeks but then, when they like it and understand that they go back home by the end of the day, they start to enjoy it. They need time to adapt. Anything new is scary, whether it is a new job, a country or even marriage. But once you accept that this is your life now and you have to make the most out of it, you start viewing everything in a new perspective. Because time is rushing by and you cannot live your life unhappy!
The hardest part
Having said that, I live in an African country and the hardest part up until now has been when my kids get sick! Only then I curse the day I landed at Luanda’s airport! Once I had to google different cough sounds at 10 in the evening, only to discover that my 1 year old was having croup. There were no emergency rooms or doctors available to see him so I had to DIY! Yes, google is my friend around here.
Diversity is beautiful
It’s difficult at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My kids are growing up in an international community amongst friends from different countries, religion and race and they don’t even realize they are different.
Sure, I do not have any support system with me besides my hubby, but as my friend says we expats always have extra grandparents credits to spend when we are in our hometown. So if you ever find yourself in Angola, feel free to contact me for some tips and tricks for Luanda, the city that has surprised us every single day, for the past 7 years!