If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would be living in Bahrain I wouldn’t believe you. I always liked visiting the Middle East but didn’t think it was for me and I certainly didn’t want to live there. But here I am living in Bahrain for over a year now. When my husband got the job offer here, we thought long and hard about it. Prior to Bahrain we lived in the UK for over 10 years and both of us needed a change. And Bahrain definitely was a change. I told myself to come with an open mind and give it a chance. When I moved here last July (2017) I was already 2 months pregnant and couldn’t have picked a worse month to acclimatise myself. So let’s talk about the obvious first – the weather.
Bahrain and weather
After living in the UK for over 10 years I was super excited about living somewhere where there is summer all year round. Well, the excitement slowly wore off when I got off the plane and thought I was going to melt alive. The actual summer months here are hell. It is impossible to do anything outside from June to September as it is simply too hot (above 40 degrees during the day and around 30 during the night). Every time you step outside you get smacked with a blast of hot air which takes your breath away. It almost feels like somebody is constantly blowing hair dryers in your face. So in the summer everyone keeps indoors where there is air conditioning and a chance of surviving. Even just walking from a car park to a shop leaves you sweating like crazy. The sea here gets super hot too and if you are hoping for a refreshing dip in the sea you can think again as the water is about as warm as a cup of tea. Sometimes you do get lucky and the temperature in the evening gets bellow 30 degrees with a nice breeze and you can go for a walk or sit outside and enjoy a shisha. Other nights you feel like you are walking in a sauna. When the winter comes though, it is heaven. When everyone in Europe is layering up and putting their heating on I’m wearing short sleeves and summer dresses (ok maybe with a little leather jacket over it but still) and loving the fact that I can finally sit outside and go for walks and feel some fresh air without the air burning my nostrils. Sometimes in the winter it even rains which it is very rare and short lived but very refreshing.
Bahrain and driving
I definitely have to mention the way people drive here because it would be crazy not to! It is definitely not the worst driving system I have ever seen, I mean I have been to Nepal and kept my eyes closed the whole taxi journey to the hotel because it was too nervewracking to watch, but it is not the best either. After living in the UK for so long where everyone lets you in all the time and drivers are so polite and rule obeying, I was in for a shock here. People kind of ignore the rules here and nobody cares. On your typical journey it is guaranteed you will see somebody speeding, running a red light, changing lanes without even checking their side mirrors (side what?),not wearing seat belts, overtaking you from the illegal side and shamelessly using their phone whilst driving. In fact if you stop at a red light and look around you won’t find anyone not using their phone. Road rage here is completely wasted because most people won’t even make eye contact with you knowing full well they did something wrong but not having a care in the world. If you see somebody using indicators you can be 90% sure they are expats. The craziest one for me is the children not in the car seats – they definitely sell them here but the locals just don’t seem to use them. If you are a chilled person like me, you will get used to the way they drive here and just go with it. I don’t even get surprised when I see something crazy on the road anymore I just roll my eyes and keep going. If you are not a chilled person (like my husband) you are guaranteed to have a little heart attack every time you drive.
Bahrain and safety
One of the first questions people usually ask me when I tell them I live in Bahrain is: ‘Is it safe?’ I feel like it is much safer than any European or Western country. The crime rate is very low due to very high punishments and I feel very safe and comfortable in everyday life settings. Today I went to the beach and I left my phone laying on the sun lounger whilst I went for a walk. This would be unheard of elsewhere. You will always see people in coffee shops and bars leaving their laptops and belongings on the table whilst they go to use the restrooms and no one bats an eyelid.
Bahrain and culture
Bahrain is a muslim country but one which is very liberal. There are lots of different cultures blended here and majority of the population are expats. In public you will see women dressed in an abaya with their head covered walking next to a woman in shorts and anything inbetween. I’m not going to lie I was a bit uncomfortable at first when we moved here a year ago and I was always very conscious of what I was wearing and that people might be staring at me. I relaxed a lot since then and I wear what I would normally wear but I do tame it down and still don’t wear short shorts and cleavage as I just feel very self-conscious. Of course when we go to the beach I wear shorts and bikini but I do adjust what I’m wearing according to where I’m going. You do get people looking at you sometimes (and I mean both men and women) but I feel like they would look regardless to what I was wearing. It is illegal here to be pregnant and not be married and I found it funny when I had my first pregnancy check up with my doctor and the first thing she asked me was – when did you get married? She did look a bit surprised when I told her May, which was also the month I got pregnant.
There are lots of things I love about Bahrain and I’m not counting the weather because that is a love/hate relationship (love it in the winter, hate it in the summer). I love Arabic food and there are so many amazing places to eat here and the great thing is that most restaurants deliver. So if you get the munchies at 2 am – there is always a restaurant open which will save you. I love discovering new coffee shops and the fact that there is a new one opening every month. I love that nothing is too far away here, it is a small island and you can get to most places within half an hour. I love the spas and beauty services here – they have absolutely no competition in Europe. And the eyebrow threading ladies are magicians. I love the sea, the palm trees and the beautiful sunsets here. What I do not love so much is the fact that some items are totally overpriced here – such as organic fruit and vegetables. I miss the greenery and the rain (who would have thought) and unlimited online shopping (which I still do but I just have to pay a lot extra to have things delivered here). Do I see myself living here forever? Probably not. But for now I am making the best of it.