It is safe to say that our first few weeks in the Middle East have flown by and I feel very proud for completely throwing myself into our new life over here, so much so that I feel like we have been here a lot longer.
In this weeks’ post I decided to list out the five things that I’ve learnt whilst I have been here.
1. Driving…out here it’s a different ball game
When I arrived, I had a certain level of anxiety when it came to driving in Muscat. Back in the UK I would like to think I am quite a confident driver but in Oman I feel like I’m starting out all over again. This has something to do with the fact that you are constantly having to look out for what another driver might do.
A good way my sister described it is ‘think of the worst thing that the other driver could do and be prepared for it’.
Drivers out here don’t seem to be familiar with what an indicator is and it seems to be every man for themselves. People are also way too familiar with their horn i.e. I came to a busy roundabout and I was waiting for a gap in the traffic so I could go, but whilst I was waiting, the person behind me continuously kept beeping their horn, It was at this point I was trying to curb my potty mouth (usually comes out when driving) as I had Emma in the back of the car, but steam was probably appearing from my ears.
Danny took me out driving on a Friday, a week after we arrived (the roads are very quiet on a Friday as it’s the start of the weekend). Admittedly I had built the anxiety up to more than I should have and when I got out on the road it was actually fine. Majority of the roads are similar to motorways and if you need to take a turn down another road you just have to make sure you’re in the right lane, but 85% of the time this is easy enough as the roads are all fairly well sign posted (if you know where your going). What has been a brilliant is the Waze app, which is basically a satnav, and I would have got lost every time without it. The more I drive over here though, the better I am getting (or I hope I’m getting and it’s not the case that I’m starting to get as bad as the drivers around me).
2. Supermarket shopping….it can take a good couple of hours
In the UK, Danny and I only ever did our weekly food shop online. This was mainly because we both worked five days a week and when Emma arrived neither of us could think of anything worse than walking around a supermarket with a baby at the weekend.
The first time we went to do our food shop in Muscat it took Emma and I close to 2.5 hours. This was because a) the supermarkets are superstore size over here, b) I don’t know where items are located (it took my 20 minutes alone to find Chinese five spice), c) I’m trying to get used to the brands and finally d) I’m also trying to keep Emma entertained with snacks, her kindle and toys (she’s not a fan of being trapped inside a trolley for long periods of time, like most people I imagine).
You know you're the parent of a toddler, when you're walking around in public, singing nursery rhymes at a decent volume and you don't care if people are staring.
The brands we have available here are brilliant and to name a few we can get Heinz, Lurpak, Branston pickle, Kleenex, Hellmans, Cadburys (obviously essential), Pampers and Kraft we also benefit from having a lot of American brands. With it being a Muslim country you don’t tend to find pork in many supermarkets, however if you go in some of the smaller shops like Spinneys (Waitrose) they have a room towards the back of the store which you can by pork, but it is incredibly expensive i.e. a Goodfella’s pepperoni pizza will set you back 14 OMR (£28).
I should also mention that food shopping (actually shopping in general) is more expensive in Muscat, but not by much and if you stop thinking in £’s and think in OMR it’s all relative.
One of the key things I do love about shopping out here is that the chaps at the kiosk will unload your trolley and then pack your bags which is great, especially if you are trying to keep a toddler entertained.
3. If you get invited to something, you go…even if you’re not in the mood
I’m not usually a fan of putting myself in situations where I have to make small talk and put myself out there, but I’ve had to for my own sanity. I can’t sit in the house with Emma everyday waiting for the weekend to arrive.
I have literally thrown myself into anything I can since we arrived, so if I’ve been invited out or I’ve seen a toddler group I’ve said yes and put my hand up for it and by doing this, I have met some really lovely people, which is hopefully the foundations for building new friendships.
Emma has also been my saviour when it comes to meeting new people and it’s definitely true what they say in that it’s so much easier to start making conversation when you have kids.
Everyone I have met so far in Oman has been very warm, friendly and it is evident that there is a great expat community out here.
4. Pool days…are epic!
One of the amazing benefits of living out here is the access to the luxurious hotels to use their pool facilities. Since arriving, I have visited the Radisson Blu, Sundus Rotana and the W, which is so far my favourite as it overlooks the beach, the atmosphere is great, the staff are incredibly attentive and you can sit in the pool whilst drinking a chilled glass of rose!
On arriving at your chosen hotel you pay a fee which is usually per adult and can vary from 5 OMR (£10) to 25 OMR (£50) and for this you get access to the pool, a sunbed, a towel and some of the hotels will also offer bottled water in this cost. The higher priced i.e. 25 OMR will tend to include a buffet lunch as well.
It’s not something we will do every weekend as once you add drinks and food on top, they can be quite costly, but it’s nice to do once a month.
A key thing to mention as well is you can benefit from discounts to some of these hotels if you join the Women’s Guild of Oman (WGO) i.e. I can access the Sundus Rotana pool free from Sunday to Thursday and get 15% off their food and drink with my WGO membership.
5. Body confidence is on the rise
Talking of pool days, I am wearing bikinis at least twice a week in Oman and speaking honestly, I can say that I have struggled with body confidence for most of my life. You name a diet and I have been on it Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Cabbage soup, Cambridge diet, 5:2, Atkins and the list goes on and I’ve been on these diets in order to gain some sort of satisfaction with my appearance, but recently something has clicked inside my head.
I look at myself differently now, I’m happy and confident with my body, wobbly bits and all.
I wear a bikini in public and don’t immediately want to cover myself up with a sarong. So, what is the reason for this, I couldn’t tell you, maybe it’s because I’m getting older now and don’t give two Fs about what other people think, maybe it’s because of social media influencers like Natalie Lee (@stylemesunday) or Zoe McNulty (@schoolofstrut) who encourage you to embrace body positivity and be proud of what you’ve got or maybe I’ve just come to the realisation that life is too short and I am happy with how I look!
Look out for my next post w/c 21 October…