The transient life of expats

The conundrum of whether to spend money on a house you will only be in temporarily.

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Mr T and I have a daily conundrum. To paint or not to paint? The question is putting a serious strain on our marriage. That and, of course, the multitude of other questions this brings up: should we install molding? Invest in expensive light fixtures? Build an island in our kitchen?

Making these decisions has made the transience of life in the UAE sink in. This is not a home we own, unlike the loft our friends in Copenhagen recently purchased and are painstakingly renovating. This is not where our children will grow up, unlike the three-storey house our friends in Toronto spent the first two years of their marriage building.

This is certainly not like the brand-new apartments our friends in Jordan have decorated and prepared in the year leading up to their weddings; sprawling spaces that will be the setting for their first 10 or 15 years of marriage, at least.

Mr T and I come from different countries, and we are living together in a temporary home, made thus simply by the nature of our careers. Familial obligations, job opportunities, immigration papers: all will soon compete to drag us around the world. Will it happen before we've had our money's worth out of the Italian, ceramic-topped electric hob and oven? Should I live for the here and in the now, or wait for a future I cannot predict?

For an expatriate in the UAE, being married, and freshly so, demands finding a balance. On the one hand, you want to live well, with no regrets, enjoying your current blessings and the luxuries at your fingertips, going ahead and buying that dream car because no where else in the world will it be as cheap as it is here, nor as easy to fund.

But on the other hand, how prudent is it, really, to invest in quality furniture that you hope will last you a lifetime, when you don't know yet where that lifetime will be lived?

We don't want to pass every one of our ideas by and just shrug and say: "One day." But we can't figure out yet which of those ideas to implement, and which to place on the back burner. Molding, I understand, is necessary trim in rooms where we want to paint the walls and and not the ceilings. And yet I cannot get my mind over putting so much effort into a bit of plaster to border walls that don't truly belong to me.

One thing I can say with assurance: if you are ready to spend some serious brain power contemplating the importance of molding, then you are definitely ready for marriage.

But marriage, I have learnt, does not necessarily come with the sense of security or stability that a girl who grew up in six different countries and attended eight different schools before her high-school graduation has always craved.

A sense of permanence with regards to my surroundings is still beyond my reach. That feeling of belonging that I have with Mr T, however, makes for a perfect substitute.