An interview with Jameela from Diary of a Serial Expat

17 June, 2014

1.Why did you decide to move to Libya?

My husband and I were looking for better jobs basically and decided to explore what the world had to offer. We looked into the Gulf countries and Libya mainly and Libya made us several offers first so we could actually pick and choose the best jobs for us. Since Libya is close to Tunisia (my husband is Tunisian) and they offered us very good salaries, we dropped everything in the UK and moved to Libya.

2.What do you enjoy most about your new home?

In no particular order: the hot weather all year round, the spectacular colours of the sea, a slower pace of life that is not based solely on consumerism (no more of the rat race for us), an Islamic environment to raise my children in.

3.What do you find difficult about your new home?

Well Libya is a funny place, everything that is a problem also makes life easy. Confusing I know I'll explain.

 For instance, the lack of government and proper administration makes life hell, any piece of paperwork can take weeks or months to get and it's a real struggle to achieve anything. On the other hand it means that you can bypass some hurdles in some instances. Since there are no laws, you don't always have to follow the "system" and with the right connection everything is possible. 

Another example is banking, it takes weeks to open an account, countless forms and signatures and all but once you've got it, you can do pretty much what you like, no limitation like in other countries, you can withdraw all your money in one go, no questions asked, it's fairly easy to bank for your spouse too, a few times I made operations on my husband's account and vice versa… not a problem here.

4.You have previously lived in France and the UK. How does your day to day life differ now compared to the other countries you have called home?

It is impossible to compare, life in Libya has nothing to do with Europe, every little thing of everyday life is done differently here. back in the UK I liked being in charge of the house, the budget, the school runs and all, here I've learnt to let my husband handle most of our affairs, first of all he speaks Arabic, second of all in Libya men are expected to take care of family affairs.

And of course Libya is a country just out of a revolution (in 2011) I've never lived before in a country where peace is not taken for granted. We live with the knowledge that tomorrow all hell can break loose and we'll have to run away.  But again this is just the tip of the iceberg… it is a completely different life.

5.If you could take one aspect of each country to make your ultimate home, what would you take?

I really like that question…

From the UK I would take the openness to other people's differences. I like that in the UK no matter who you are, who you worship, what colour your skin is and what language you speak, the British society will make space for you and your way of life and will give you the freedom to be who you want to be.

From France, I would take the medical system and the education system too, standards are quite high in both respects and so important in the long run.

From Libya I would take Islam. I am a Muslim (I converted when I was 22 years old) and living in a Muslim country has so many advantages and guarantees a certain peace of mind that I don't find anywhere else.

We are planning to move to Tunisia eventually and it's a perfect blend of all the above: It's a Muslim country that is very open to other cultures and a medical and educational system built on the French one (Tunisia and France have a long common history).  I guess it makes sense for us.

6.You currently work as an ESL teacher, what advice would you give other expats looking to work abroad?

I would definitely advice the ESL gig. There is so much demand for it all over the world. You can literally throw a dart of the map and there’s be job offers for ESL teachers there. Not all countries have the same requirements and offers though so do a bit of research to find what country suits you best.

Also be aware of scams the Work Abroad is such a huge market that some fraudsters are taking advantage of the situation and they prey particularly on those who try their luck for the first time and don't know what is acceptable or not. Always check out with other expats before accepting a job with a company, check out how they treat their employees, if they pay on time and hold their promises. Expat forums are great for this.

7.If you were going to make the move again, what would you change?

There is nothing much I would change, before moving to Libya I made as much research as I could. I always try to make informed decisions and I would say I did before coming to Libya. Turns out I was way off the mark in many respects because the information is simply not available (which is why I started my blog). Yet I have learnt a lot from my experience in Libya and this is priceless, I'm not one with regrets… I would do it again!

8.What advice would you give to anyone looking to move to Libya?

This is difficult because it depends on the reason for moving here. If you have to come, then chose your city wisely. Some areas of Libya are just insanely dangerous so why go there.

I would also like to burst some people's bubble: I have read on forums people who want to come to Libya with some kind of romantic, even glamorous idea of the country, thinking they'll be able to live as they do back home and all. Libya is a Post war country in great turmoil! At the moment, there is no telling if tomorrow will be better or worse.

People come to Libya for work, it is a very rich country offering very good salaries to expats, that's why people move here, to work and make money. While here you can enjoy the beach yes, but Libya is NOT a leisure destination. If you want to come here for fun, think again and wait 5 or 10 years.

9.How do you keep in contact with friends?

Skype!!! It's every expat's best friend right? Only problem is internet is not good in Libya so you can't always have regular contact but I manage to keep in touch with my family and friends at least a couple of time a week. Enough to tell them not to worry lol. I use Whatsapp as well, it's a cross platform way to chat, send pictures and short videos for free.

10.Do you think it is important for expats to observe the local customs?

Yes I do. Let me ask you: Why move abroad if you're going to take your whole life with you? What's the point of moving abroad if you refuse to experience the foreign, the strange, the uncomfortable… you have to be ready to step out of your comfort zone and believe me you'll enjoy it. It's not always easy but what you get out of it in the end is priceless. You can still be who you are but a little respect for local dos and don'ts have never hurt anyone.

11.Finally, what has been the strangest thing you have witnessed while living in Libya?

It's got to be firearms. Weapons of all shape and size are everywhere in Libya and they use it all the times. Even at weddings! They use live ammunitions to celebrate weddings and unfortunately people die… it’s insane! That’s one local custom I would NOT observe I guess, forget what I said above lol.

Jameela Deen is a travel blogger who aims to help others through her posts. She welcomes questions from readers and is happy to help if you are considering moving, living and working abroad.

'I'm a Serial Expat... next time i move will be followed by another time after that. I'm here to help you if you'd like to move, live and work abroad. I write alot about Libya where I live now as well as all the other countries that I've lived in or visited.'

Diary of a Serial Expat

Tags: France | Libya | United Kingdom |



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