It was exactly 4 years ago when I left Philippines to work abroad, to a place that seemed so far away then, named the Sultanate of OMAN. Time passed by so fast that I didn’t even realize that I’ve been to this place for quite some time now. A place I now called my second home. Let me have some flashbacks to where it all started.
I was working then as a staff nurse in a private hospital in Legaspi City. I worked 8 hours a day, 6 days a week with only a day off. It was indeed a tiring and tough schedule. I don’t have a choice then. I even have to work on holidays and holydays because you’re called for it. I missed all those holidays that I should be spending and celebrating with my family. Finding a nurse job at that time was not easy, because there were a lot of registered nurses around. About the salary, it is on the minimum range not enough to suffice daily expenses. But for someone who was young that time and full of dreams, I resigned and quit my job for new challenge and better opportunity.
I started searching for a new job, whether it is local or abroad. After months of searching and waiting, a breaking & good news came in! An agency in Manila in partnership with hospitals in Oman is in need of NURSES! Luckily, I took and passed all the exams & interviews given. And finally left Philippines for Oman on the 20th of June 2011 as a proud OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). My journey started….
Welcome to the Sultanate of Oman! There were mixed emotions when I arrived in Oman…excited, ambivalent uncertain, but challenging..! It was completely indescribable! Leaving my family behind and facing a new challenge in life was not an easy task for me. But I accepted the challenge.
I wouldn’t deny I had a culture shock. Growing up in a place surrounded by Filipinos, having same culture and faith , it’s like rotating your life 360 degrees in a new foreign territory. It wasn’t an easy start. Every day was an adjusting day. Firstly, you have to adapt to the weather. It is really so hot when I was first arrived in Oman. I remembered hanging out my wet clothes then after an hour it would be so dried up. Walking around was like putting yourself in an oven! Well that’s during summer time around May till August of the year. Good thing, AC’s are everywhere! Secondly, there are some modifications to what to wear. Oman is an open country but being in Gulf country it is not accepted to wear neither a short nor a pant above the knee on public areas. It not something that is prohibited to wear but a way of respect to their culture. It is important to familiarize one with the local laws as well.
I have to learn to speak Arabic to communicate with the local especially at work. It is somewhat necessary to know the basic Arabic phrases such as “Al Salam alaykum” which means Peace be with You and to be answered back by “Alaykum al Salam” which means Peace be with you too and the basic “Kefhalik/ Kefhalish to ask how they are doing. The majority of the Omanis speak Arabic. I felt it is more of your advantage if you know the local language to easily relate to someone. Omanis in general are nice people.
Working abroad as a whole, would mean that you have to deal with different people with varied nationalities and ethnicities like Indian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Pakistani and Omani in and out of work, each having different faith, beliefs, traditions, practices, and way of life. There are times I couldn’t grasp the way how they pronounce certain words and end up letting them repeat the words so I can understand them fully. Those are just some of the usual cases I have encountered here but can easily be resolved. Another thing I’ve have noticed, Omanis are very laidback people. They are seemed to be so relaxed in terms of way of life. As an expat living here for quite some time, I have learnt to adjust myself according to their time or maybe not at all as it is almost the same with the “Filipino time”.
Another adjustment to make would be how to deal with other people especially if you are living in one roof. I’m sharing a flat with 2 other Filipina nurses. Each having room with her own little privacy. I have no issues with them. I’m glad we have a harmonious relationship with each other. By sharing a place with someone, you learn how to share what you have, help one another and live as a family. Lastly I have learned that “whatever it is, you will get used to it”. I must admit I wasn’t that open to trying new foods from the start. Every single day, I miss having “Sinigang” o “Kare- Kare” cooked by my father. My taste bud was longing to the Filipino taste but as time passed by, I have learned to cook Filipino foods and learned to like Arabic foods as well. In fact I love Hummus and Labneh for breakfast!
In general, living as an expat is like placing yourself in between as a tourist and as a local. You live, enjoy the perks of being a resident. You work, explore the culture, traditions and practices of the country and be friends with different people. Summing it up, I have no regrets with my decision of living and working abroad. As an expat living in Oman for 4 years I have learned to be independent, open minded and more respectful of each other’s differences. Indeed, I enjoyed being a tourist and a local.