Posted by: KJ | August 3, 2007

Maybe the Bar Got Raised Too High

Many people become expats for many reasons, whether it is for the hopes of a better future for their kids, for more money, more fame, or driven out of war.

Some, like me, have been expats because our parents were expats, and then, were re-expated from the foreign country we got to call second home, to make a third home in another country. Typically, by definition, the foreign country we expats live in should be, at least marginally, financially better.

Having lived in Saudi Arabia most of my childhood years (except early childhood), I have grown accustomed to the Saudi way of living and grew up as such, despite the fact that we mingled with other expats from Syria. The schools were male only; cafes have a male section and a family section (like any other place); the streets were roamed by bored male hormonal teens and young men who frequently went on espionage missions whenever there were girls packed in a car being driven to a mall. My weekends were spent avoiding these car chases, and, when I grew up, to making them (lol), or would be spent in some expat-friendly place that served as a “free zone” for all expats to mingle, make out, sunbathe, etc without the scrutiny of the Saudi government.

Expated again to Dubai, where I studied and now working, I have become to observe how prolonged expatism has affected the life of us expats. I am sure most of you expats will agree that, when you go back home, although you love it and it loves you and you miss all friends and family, for some reason or another, you can’t see yourself living there (not now, at least), working there or even befriending people there long enough before you discover how simple or inferior they are to your superior expat status.

Then you go back to the foreign country you are becoming to call home, and you tell yourself “my God, those people are so backward! How can they live!”

I will tell you how they can live.

They’re probably living and enjoying life more than us expats.


Because we raised the bar too high.

That’s right. Our exposure to the outer world has opened up to a multitude of cultures, traditions, and lifestyles, as well as a higher standard of living and better services. You can call in the grocery store and they’d deliver. Internet is a standard. There is more than one movie outlet, lots of cafes, lots of brands, cars, companies, businesses. You can do anything over the phone or internet. And, people, hopefully, are more open minded, have heard of something dating and, if you’re in Dubai, the major source of entertainment is in bars, night clubs and party houses, unless you’re “one of them people” who like to hang out in movies, cafes or malls (like me).

The bar is raised too high. Our expat expectations have often become unrealistic. We want to fill our role of being expats by being rich and superficially happy.

Here I am, working in a great international company. I have a car, a nice house, a great TV, high end PC and lots of ridiculous game consoles and books and an assortment of feathers. I am financially stable. But I am not happy. Because I don’t find myself. All these things are, ultimately, meaningless. My bars are so ridiculously high it may take a mini God to achieve them.

Alternatively, my friends and neighbours in Syria have so low of expectations and goals, it is almost depressing. But for them it isn’t, not entirely. They are not financially better off… but, from their goal of X Syrian Pounds, they posses part of it. From my goals of more than a hundred times that, I barely achieved a percent. They’re getting married, they’re enjoying their lives. I am trying my best to live in an absurdly competitive environment I may get a stroke. Finding a decent girl here to date, let aloe marry, is as likely as finding a komodo dragon in the arctic.

It is our fault – expats – that we set our goals so high, that we do not enjoy our lives and spend it in constant stress and turmoil. Then we die off, most probably in a hospital or a car accident, not in our homes, between our modest friends and families, in our modest homes, our ideals, and values.



  1. welcome to arabexpats KJ.
    I totally identify with your experience. However, I won’t put on it a grim end. I still envision the day I go back. It will take me sometime to re-adjust, but it is a small price for peace of mind.

  2. […] Many people become expats for many reasons, whether it is for the hopes of a better future for their kids, for more money, more fame, or driven out of war. Some, like me, have been expats because our parents were expats, and then, were re-expated from… …more […]

  3. Hey globalorama,

    Thanks for the welcome. I made it too grim, to be honest, upon reading it again (not counting the typos) but certainly of course eventually most of us go back to our hone countries, like my parents before me did. Like you said, it takes a big chunk of time to adjust.

    But the question here is not whether or not we will go back, but rather, was leaving home worth it in the first place?

  4. look, to answer ur question I think we should ask another question ” did u deserve the chance of leaving home ? ”

    I am asking this question because we should first agree on one important thing ” ALL of us left our home because our home did not want us OR in onother way because we did not find our chance their” , so no body lef his home wothout being 100% that there are much better chances overseas IF we knew how to use such chances.

    We also should agree that most of us 95% kissed many asses ( sorry for this exp.🙂 ) to get visas to other coutries ,especially U.S .

    So after all of that , when u ask ur question to some of those expats , they will start to say bad words about those coutries they ran to , and blame it for their bad situation , now the questions is :
    ” Why there are many many successful people (expats ) who really do know how the hell they will go back to their home after years of success and respectful life ”

    The answer simply is becuase they really deserved that chance to leave their homes to other countries and succeed and look at the world from onother prespective.
    However, people who spent years here doning NOTHING but eating and sleeping will say something different :” Yl3an abooha el 3’orbeh , yl3an aboha america or canada or wherever the hell he is ” although he is living the same level of a minister in his home country.

    what I want to say is , we should be thankful for the coutries that accepted us TO try our chances at its land , to be human beings, to achieve , to BE

    Thank you KJ for this good topic😉

  5. True that KJ, perhaps we did raise the bar too high, perhaps the bar is too low at our hometowns and surely it is part of our human nature to pursue better lifestyles.

    As for was it worth leaving your country in the first place, I sometimes look back and ponder upon it and I know for a fact that I would’ve adjusted my lifestyle according to the surrounding atmosphere and according to the miserable limited salary I’ll be making. But a fact is that the more time you spend out of your country, the easier it becomes to let go of the idea of going back there, because the matter of the fact is, maybe that’s only me, is although I love it and miss it so much is that I can’t spend more than a couple of weeks in Jordan without getting the feeling that I need to get out of there.

    Maybe it’s expat syndrome who’ll always feel caught in between, confused on what to call home.

  6. have u ever watched the movie the persuit of happiness? by Will Smith…..

    Boss what u said is amazingly true we lost somehow objective in whats life about in putting for us goals and targets another goals and targets wish lists dream lists plans ..our problem is that we really dont belong to our countries or even to our land anymore… I ll tell u something even in our original countries people are not happy all are persuing money and power and forgot whats its all about and what we owe our lands and nations to do.

    simply when u have something to be proud of u feel content and this only happens when u feel proud of ur nation and culture but when u loose that either expat or living in ur home soil u start looking for a personal agenda to compensate now this agenda differs from one place to another but at the end no one is happy becoz they ll never feel content.

    I hope I didnt complicate the subject with my appology.

  7. KJ, this was really good!

    There is still time to find the best of both worlds, and thus contentment. You are all yet young.

  8. Hmm so you think you would be better off not being exposed ??
    what if you didn’t fit in anywhere u have been already ? wouldn’t you keep on looking and adjusting your expectations?

    Honestly adjusting back to what your home country expects you to be like when you never saw your self in that mold is frustrating, and as for adjusting back to their level then you will be fighting a losing battle since you will have to eradicate a huge chunk of who you are or be content with being an outsider/expat in your own country.

    so stay expated and try to be happy

  9. i guess it has to do where u wanna go back and live the rest of ur life, ur bar is high, this wont work when u go back to syria, and u will never adjust easily, cuz simply life is way behind there…
    i really didnot see alot of adjustments to have, if i want to go back to jordan one day, cuz they r getting along and u can stil do things around there, we do around here….
    chill out and lower ur bar a bit…this way u wont have alot of stress and tension in ur life, these r silent killers, u know! i am not saying stop being ambitious, but cherish everything u achieve nomatter how small that is… u will enjoy ur life better this way and appreciate being there too…
    and when u decide to go back home, donot fall in the trap of comparison between HERE n THERE…this will simply KILL U!
    and yeah, take care of ur self too…
    peace to all…

  10. Thanks maaaaan. Just the uplifting, optmistic happy-feel-good posts that we expats need! Keep it up.

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