In which I listen to the voices in my head…
As parents, one of the most important life lessons you can teach your kids is also one of the hardest: to trust your instincts.
This person isn’t what they seem; this situation doesn’t feel right; that email from my new-found long-lost uncle, who also happens to be a Nigerian prince sounds too good to be true…
It’s hard because, in order for that to be effective, you need a lot of data – in this case, life experience – and the quickest and best way to build that up is to make a lot of mistakes.
It’s like every time Amnesiac mentions The Force Awakens (roughly six times daily, still with three months to go) I just want to say: “Yeah? Well they said that about The Phantom Menace, too – and look how that turned out.”
Pros and cons
The need to listen to the voices in your head goes double for expats. There’s nothing like a relocation to generate an endless stream of decisions. From the huge – do we take this job? Do we move to city X at all? – to the, er, equally huge: where do we live, which schools should our kids go to?
You can spend forever drawing up lists of pros and cons and debating long into the night, but so often the need to make a decision means it comes down to instinct. Without it, we’d never do anything. (For the purposes of balance, research suggests I might want to reassess that view.)
Take shipping our stuff, for example.
Of the companies who actually bothered to turn up for their appointment to give us a quote, they all ended up proposing a similar-ish service for a similar-ish cost. So how did we pick one? By instinct, of course: This guy seems like someone I can trust with all our worldly goods.
You’d never do anything if you didn’t draw on your accumulated experience to try and find some decision-making short cuts, which is why first impressions are so crucial.
And that doesn’t just apply to candidates getting bespoke suits made ahead of their final round of interviews; first impressions count just as much for cities.
Before I made my first visit to Abu Dhabi (AD), it existed in my mind as a city midway between the party central life in Dubai and Doha’s conservatism.
A cousin of somewhere like Canberra or Ottawa – perfectly decent cities in their own right, I imagine; but fairly quiet, administrative capitals happy to be overshadowed by flashier neighbours.
Instinct + perspective = decision
I got my first impression of AD in April, when I came over for stage four of an eventual six-stage recruitment process (I make no apologies for using that word; I’ve seen too many episodes of The Apprentice to call it anything else) and we got off to a flying start.
Forget the tourist hotspots of Sheikh Zayed Mosque or the Emirates Palace; instead, I was busy sending Mrs LC pictures of anything we didn’t have too much of in Qatar, like quiet, wide roads; actual trees; pedestrian underpasses.
(For the benefit of readers in Doha: these are tunnels under roads to allow pedestrians to cross in safety. I know, I know, they’ll never catch on…)
Add in perspective, and you’ve got yourself a decision. During my interview, one of the recruitment team told me about a candidate over from the States who had arrived and complained about how dusty the city was.
Meanwhile, I was staring boggle-eyed with joy at exactly the same scenery and wondering how quickly we could move here…
To date, I’ve trusted my instincts, and things have mostly turned out just fine. Any expats out there fallen foul of theirs?