In Parts 1&2, Hayat shared some of her experiences as a single female living in an Arabic speaking part of the world, then shared some wisdom from Romans 12 on finding our place in belonging. In this final part, Hayat shares some helpful tips and insights for those involved in supporting and sending singles overseas.
If you know those living overseas, maybe you could seek to support them by:
- Offering both those who are single and those who are married with a place to externally process. Remember, that often those who live overseas and are not married can lack a place in which to externally process things which take place in team life and the country. Good, wise external voices to with whom I can “bounce” thoughts and not necessarily solve challenges has been so important for me.
- Asking questions like “are you finding anything challenging culturally regarding expectations people have of you as a single or married person?”
- Visiting spiritual communities in the U.K. can be one of the most encouraging and challenging times for those who are single. Contrary to those who are married, who have the continuity of a person who knows the environment they have come from and provides a space of processing, laughing and crying about the challenges of re-entering a culture you once lived in but no longer feels familiar. A person who is single often finds themselves in an entirely different space with little shared awareness. We can expect the person visiting their passport country to have changed in their mannerisms, speech and world-view, it can be helpful to provide space and ask the question of “how are you finding being here, is there anything you’re finding challenging culturally, anything you’re missing from where you now live, anything you’re enjoying about being here?” Regardless of marital status these are great to ask, but bear in mind, if you don’t ask those who are single these questions, nobody else may be doing so!
- Arrange calls to catch-up, and do your very best to keep to these. Many of those who I know who are single are very good at resourcing what they need, be that a chat, a laugh or professional support. If someone reaches out to you, please reply to them, they likely have a number of people that they connect with so it’s easy to presume that if you don’t respond, they’ll be talking with someone else. True. But there are seasons in which due to various circumstances in the lives of all those that I know I have had a lack of response from everyone I have contacted in a given week, as a single person, reaching out can feel vulnerable at times and a lack of response can fuel feelings of loneliness and isolation. A simple message of “thinking about you” does wonders for remaining connected to those who send us.
As a single person, or married person without children living overseas, maybe you could:
- invite families you know over for a meal or a day out
- babysit for couples so they can have a date night
- invite married friends out as a couple, and individually for a “girls” or “guys” night
- invest in learning about supporting children living as third-culture children and give your friends children dedicated times of connection
As a family living overseas, maybe you could:
- Invite others into some of your family activities. I personally love being invited into things as simple as a family movie night or being able to read a bedtime story before kids go to sleep
- Go on holiday with others, it gives the added bonus of more grown-up conversations and more people to play with the kids!
- Have an open home and repeatedly emphasise to others that they are welcome any time. People from my birth country don’t like feeling like they’re imposing on others, so this re-emphasis is needed! The greatest gift I have ever received is being welcomed into families in this way.
For anyone living overseas:
- invest in learning about culturally appropriate ways of interacting with the opposite gender, particularly how people treat their cousins as this is likely the most appropriate relationship to mirror when interacting with those who are part of your community.
Hayat (not her real name) lives in the Arabic speaking world and loves spending time drinking good coffee with friends, chatting about life and sharing stories together to grow in following God.