Have you ever wondered what life would be like in another country? Meet expat, La-eeqah Galant from Cape Town, South Africa currently living in Bahrain. In this #ExpatAdventure series interview, she gives us insights into living in a new country as well as teaching 5th Grade, English!
La-eeqah Galant, a young Capetonian who took the leap and moved to the Middle East 3 years ago. She has since developed a serious case of wanderlust and is now in a committed relationship with her passport- always looking for new adventures!
What country are you from? Where were you born?
I was born and bred in the Mother City, Cape Town, South Africa.
In which country and city are you living in now and for how long?
I’m currently residing in The Pearl of the Persian Gulf, Manama, Bahrain.
Are you working in Bahrain, and if so, what are you doing?
I inspire, guide, enlighten and motivate the young – this is commonly referred to as “just a teacher”. I recently completed my second year of teaching 5th Grade English and Social Studies at an American Curriculum school – so I have sharpened my pronunciation of the letter A and that of R is almost non-existent.
What was it like moving and how did you find the experience of settling in and making it home?
Being only 23 at the time, moving away from home was rather scary but also extremely exciting as it had been a dream of mine since before I started my studies in 2014. Settling was a little easier than most people coming to work abroad as my employers had already set up accommodation, city tours and transportation for me. The school staff were also made up of a number of South African teachers and as you know, you never lost with your fellow SAFAS.
Tell me about life in Bahrain – what is it like for foreigners?
Unlike most Muslim countries, Bahrain is considered to be rather liberal as it pertains to racial equality and internationalism. Foreigners make up about 55% of the Island’s population – and almost all of it’s working class. In other words we run the show over here.
Can you describe Bahrain in three words?
Warm – The weather and even the people.
Lively – The atmosphere at night.
Diversity – The multiple cultures and nationalities all coexisting.
What are the best things to do in the area you live in, anything to recommend to future expats?
The beaches are amazing- there are no waves, but amazing nonetheless. Visiting the 33 little islands around this little island is bucket list material. Bahrain also has a famous ‘Souq’ called Bab-Al-Bahrain where you can find a lot of cultural souvenirs and everyday things. It’s basically a dolled up version of Muizenberg Flea Market. We also have beautiful malls, with upmarket stores – if you have the upmarket money to match (sorry not me).
What are the most significant adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Bahrain?
South Africa is known for its multiculturalism, thus I thought I’d adapt well to life at an international school, but in a country with so many expats, one needed to learn to be mindful of so much more than cultural differences. My biggest adjustment was learning what was socially acceptable for people from different nationalities. Believe it or not a game as simple as UNO has its own set of rules around the world.
Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock? And if so, what was it.
I didn’t experience many cultural adjustments and neither did my non-muslim friends from South Africa – having been exposed to the Muslim culture helps a lot when trying to exist in this environment. Again, the country is rather liberal thus the wearing of Abaya’s and Hijab’s are not compulsory for females. Females are allowed to dress freely, with very little, almost no limitations. The mutual respect for cultures makes coexisting so much more pleasant.
How would you rate the healthcare and public transport in Bahrain vs. that of South Africa?
Both the healthcare and transportation systems are manned by foreign nationals. It has been proven that working internationally comes with an unspoken mentality to give your best and represent – and that’s what you get. So quite simply put – Better.
Was it easy to make friends and socialize?
I personally found this very easy as the school had all the new teachers set up in the same accommodation building, we ended up exploring together and ultimately becoming the best of friends.
How does the cost of living in Bahrain compare to South Africa?
I live by a simple rule – DO NOT CONVERT!!!. When you do it could appear to be much higher but when you consider the exchange rate and bear in mind that you’re earning this currency it balances to be about equal.
Do you have any recommendations for others looking for work in Bahrain, how do you suggest they go about it.
I feel like I can only speak to fellow teachers on this topic as I am not very familiar with other fields. So I would suggest creating a TeachAway profile – https://www.teachaway.com and check the websites of schools in the region for any vacancies.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to relocate to Bahrain with their family?
It’s the best decision I’ve made, so go for it! Also, make sure you find accommodation in “kid friendly” areas, the city is made up of mostly apartment buildings which can become confined for young children, they don’t provide the space needed for children to be children.