Expat of the month
  • KhadijaTeri
Written by team on 01 April, 2010
I'm American, born in Chicago but moved with my family to a small gulf coast town in Florida when I was twelve. I met my husband, a Libyan national, in 1980. We married in 1982 and moved to Miami, but I knew from the start that one day we'd end up in Libya.

I'm American, born in Chicago but moved with my family to a small gulf coast town in Florida when I was twelve. I met my husband, a Libyan national, in 1980. We married in 1982 and moved to Miami, but I knew from the start that one day we'd end up in Libya.

Where are you living now?

Currently we live near my husband's hometown, Tripoli, which is the capital of Libya. I arrived here twenty-one years ago in 1989. For the first year we lived with my in-laws, which was difficult but at the same time it immersed me in the culture and language and helped me to adjust to life here. After that we lived for almost twenty years in a flat in a bustling suburb of Tripoli. Last year moved further out to a farm in a rural area where my neighbours consist of owls, hedgehogs and bats. We're adjusting to a quieter life and daily commute.

Libya has changed so much since I arrived. The American and UN imposed economic sanctions are over and the country has opened its doors to the world. Tripoli these days seems like a huge construction site - there are buildings going up and new roads going in almost everywhere you look. The country, which had been closed up for years, is now on the race to catch up. Satellite TV, mobile phones, internet have taken over the lives of the people here.

How is the cultural shock?

One of the frustrating things that most ex-pats face here is the language. Arabic is the national language and street signs and signs on shops are all in Arabic. Many Libyans are learning English nowadays, but unless you know Arabic you should expect to find yourself using a lot of sign language. But Libyans are friendly and helpful and are thrilled whenever anyone tries to speak Arabic with them. Although I can speak Libyan Arabic, I can't write in Arabic and can barely read it - but it doesn't matter as many Libyans themselves are illiterate and it's not a problem to ask someone to read something for you.

At one time in the past, English had been removed from the schools' curriculum. Now it's back, but Libyans have to catch up. I've been teaching English here for nearly ten years. It's rewarding to help motivated adults who realize that to get ahead in their lives they need to be able to communicate in English.

What do you like the most about life in Libya?

I guess one of the things I like most about life here is the people. Libyans are friendly and helpful, especially if you are a foreigner. They go out of their way to make you feel welcome. I've never lived abroad before but many ex-pats here will tell me the same thing about feeling so welcome.

I kind of fit into a separate category; I'm not Libyan, and in a way I'm not an ex-pat. I'm somewhere in between and I like that because I can go either direction as the mood strikes or necessity dictates. My family celebrates Libyan/Islamic holidays and we enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving too. We listen to Arabic music or English. And we speak a mixture of both languages, often times using both in the same sentence! Dinner might be traditional Libyan cuisine or American and our friends come from all nationalities and walks of life.

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

I think the thing I miss most from my homeland is my family. Being away from family and friends 'back home' (Libya is simply 'home') led me to start blogging. It was a way to keep my everyone informed about what was going on in my life and to let them know we were all ok. Soon others started to read my blog; Libyans who are living abroad read to find out what life is like here now - many have been away since before the economic sanctions, so over 20 years have passed and they want to know about life here. Quite a few readers are from intercultural marriages/relationships, a lot of ex-pats who work here or are planning to relocate here, and of course many Libyans read my blog. Lots of people say that I've inspired them to start blogging too. I try to post a few times a week if I have time, usually at the weekend.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

I've met many of the people who blog in Libya, even a few ‘anonymous' bloggers. It's interesting because you feel you know so much about the person before you meet face to face. So it's like meeting up with an old friend.

Why did you register on expat blog?

I registered on the Expat-blog because I was getting so many ex-pat readers who wanted to know about life here. Most of them just stumbled across my blog while looking for information. Because Libya had been shut off from the world so long they couldn't find much information about the country and the life here, so I get many emails with questions of all kinds. Being registered on Expat-blog just seemed like a good idea. From my site stats I can see that at least 20 people a day are referred from Expat-blog.