In 2015, Fiona Warren left Canada to join her husband, Trevor Warren (whom we like to call our International Man of Drilling), in one of the hottest countries on the planet: Bahrain. It was quite the experience, planning, organizing and preparing the couple’s two sons for an adventure on the other side of the globe.
Trevor signed on with Trinidad 10 years ago, and was named Operations Manager in Saudi Arabia last year. The Warrens decided to embark on a new family experience, and Fiona has an interesting and busy life in a new country. We asked her what it’s like to move far from home, and start a new life in a very different country.
Q: Can you tell us what was it like preparing to move overseas?
A: Hectic! I’m overly thorough and over-analyze everything, so I’m sure I made it so much more stressful than it needed to be.
Trinidad was really good about providing me with experts in each area that I needed one, to answer any and all questions.
I would say the biggest stress was getting the kids into the international school here. There are entrance exams and limited available spaces, as the school is very good.
Q: Once you arrived in Bahrain, was it a bit of a shock, or had you been there before?
A: We flew out six months prior to our move to check it out before we committed, so there wasn’t a huge initial shock… aside from the heat. It hits you like a train when you get off the plane in summer months.
There are so many expats here, and people are generally very accepting of other cultures, which was a relief. That had been a concern of mine as Trevor and I are both heavily tattooed. I was not looking forward to covering my arms at all times in the thick heat. Happily, I don’t have to.
Q: What did your kids think of the whole adventure?
A: The boys have proven to be very adaptable and easy going. We live in an expat compound here, which has some neat pros. The boys can run out the front door to meet up with 20 built-in playmates from all over the world. In their group of friends, there are kids from Holland, Venezuela, the U.K., local Bahrainis, Macedonia, France, Italy… I think it’s pretty neat, all the different cultures and languages they are exposed to.
Q: What have you learned so far about living in a very different country?
A: Every country is so different, yet much the same. No matter how different the traditions are, people are people no matter where you are with a similar range of emotions and thoughts.
One thing that does stand out is the amount of hired help everyone has. A lot of families have a live in maid and/or nanny and/or driver. All the houses are built with separate maid and driver accommodations.
Q: What have you done to adapt?
A: I’m pretty outgoing and like to do and join as many things as I can. I joined a local football (soccer) team here called the Ravens. I actually got to join in to make history here with the first-ever season for the BWFA (Bahrain Women’s Football Association.)
I also started teaching fitness classes to an expat women’s group as well.
Honestly, the hardest thing is the time difference between here and home. When I’m waking up, my family is going to bed, and vice versa. I get jealous of all the other expats who sit on Skype in the middle of the afternoon with their mom or sisters.
Q: What do you enjoy about Bahrain?
A: I love the people! So friendly and welcoming! Bahrainis and expats alike. I think multiculturalism is now part of the culture. Expats celebrate Bahraini traditions and the Bahrainis celebrate other worldly traditions, like American Thanksgiving, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. I also love that I got to skip out on winter.
Q: What are some of the challenges?
A: Traffic can be a challenge, and some normal day-to-day things take a painfully long time. You have to devote an entire day to grocery shopping. There are no one-stop shops, either. For example, I purchased fabric to sew a costume but the fabric shop did not sell thread, buttons or needles. I was sent to six different shops looking for these things — which took an entire day — and never ended up finding them! Seriously!
Q: How do you deal with major differences, such as, for example, climate and diet?
A: Well, to be honest I plan to escape the hottest bits of summer by visiting family back in Canada for the eight weeks the kids have off school. The compounds turn to ghost towns each summer as most of the expat families do the same — aside from the men who stay behind to work.
It’s quite hard to find reasonably-priced fresh fruits and veggies during the hot months but everything is in abundance during the winter! I mean, “winter.” Food in general is much pricier, but is to be expected as it is all imported.
Q: Have you enjoyed learning about a different culture?
A: Learning about different cultures is always interesting. I think that the more a person learns and experiences, the more accepting that person becomes.