Away From Home: Being a Filipina Expat

Away From Home: Being a Filipina Expat

Today, we're going to delve into a story that hits close to home—the journey of being born in the Philippines and making the bold move to work overseas. It's a whirlwind of change, full of challenges and personal growth that resonates with so many of us.


Journey to the Middle East

Let me share with you a glimpse into my own personal story. When I was a kid, my family made the decision to move to Saudi Arabia. It was both exciting and scary to step into a completely different world with a new culture, language, and way of life. Everything was unfamiliar.

One of the most difficult aspects of this was being far away from friends and family. Suddenly, the support network and familiar faces we were used to were miles and miles away. It was tough getting used to the feeling of being apart from our loved ones, who were such a big part of our lives back home.

As a young Filipina, I lived in the bustling city of Manila before our family made the life-changing move to Saudi Arabia. The transition was both exciting and nerve-wracking, as I left behind the familiar sights and sounds of my home country for a land unknown.

Saudi Arabia and The Filipino Community

Settling into our new life in Saudi, I found comfort in attending a Philippine-accredited school where I was surrounded by other Filipino expats' children. It was a welcoming community that helped me stay connected to my roots and eased the adjustment process.


Our new home in Saudi Arabia was located near the sea, bringing a different climate from what I was accustomed to back in the Philippines. The air was thick with humidity, especially during the scorching summer months. However, compared to the Philippines, the climate felt distinctively different, offering unique experiences. During the winter months, I relished the colder weather, enjoying the simple joy of playing with the icy mist that formed from my breath.

One of the most memorable aspects of my life in Saudi Arabia was the bond I formed with my friends at school. Together, we navigated the challenges of adapting to a new environment, supporting each other through the highs and lows of our expat journey. Our camaraderie made the experience more enjoyable and less daunting.

I must admit that my Arabic language skills remained limited, considering I lived in Saudi Arabia for about a decade. Although I had some exposure to the language through daily interactions and signs, English was widely used, and my school primarily conducted classes in both English and Filipino. While I regret not being more fluent in Arabic, it didn't hinder my ability to connect with others and navigate daily life. In an unexpected turn, we even found some Saudis who had learned Tagalog due to their interactions with Filipino expats, which made it easier to communicate with locals who were not fluent in English.

Throughout our stay, my parents worked tirelessly to provide for our family, ensuring we had a stable and happy life in this foreign land. I could sense their longing for home, but they always encouraged me to embrace the opportunities Saudi Arabia had to offer. Their resilience and determination inspired me to make the most of this unique expat experience.

Looking back, my time in Saudi Arabia was a transformative journey of growth and self-discovery. It was a chapter filled with valuable lessons, cherished friendships, and unforgettable experiences. As I moved on from this chapter and onto the next adventures, I carried with me the warmth of the friendships made, the appreciation for cultural diversity, and the ability to adapt to any new landscape life brings my way.


To the Great White North

Just as we were getting comfortable with our daily lives, a new opportunity arose—the chance to move to Canada. On one hand, we were thrilled by the possibilities that Canada held. But on the other hand, we knew we’d be leaving behind the life that we built—we were starting over once again.

As I found myself in a new country, I couldn't help but question how I should go about making friends. The uncertainty weighed on my mind. What was considered normal here? Should I take the initiative and reach out to people, or would that be seen as weird? It was as if I had to decipher a new code of conduct.

After wrestling with those questions and uncertainties, I was lucky enough to form a tight-knit group of friends with whom I truly clicked. This was a turning point that had a profound impact on my overall experience in Canada. Having this circle of friends by my side made the challenges of adapting to life in a foreign country much more manageable. Eventually, Canada started to feel like home.


Embracing the Challenge

Having embarked on the journey of moving overseas not just once but twice, allowed me to learn about resilience and growth at a young age. I now realize that this experience is not unique to my family, but rather a shared journey among many OFWs.

We learn to adapt, to be open-minded, and to find joy wherever we are in the world. Over time, we discover that community can be found in unexpected places. We build bridges with fellow Filipinos, connect with people who share similar experiences, and find solace in the support of new friends who start to feel like family.

So, my friend, if you find yourself in this narrative, know that you're not alone. The journey is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but it also shapes you into the resilient and adaptable person you are today. Embrace the challenges, cherish the connections you make along the way, and hold onto the strength that comes from navigating the twists and turns of an OFW experience.

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