Recently, politics has become something that more young people are taking an interest in. Events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump surprised many and divided opinion all over the world. These events affect us all in very different ways. How do they directly affect British expats living in the Middle East?
Brexit had a very quick, obvious and positive effect: more money. Most GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries’ currencies are pegged to the dollar. So, when the value of the pound dropped, salaries paid in currency such as Riyals and Dirhams were worth more. The pound dove spectacularly at first – cue lots of excitement for those watching proceedings online. It then recovered to a certain extent. It has however remained lower than before the referendum. For British expats looking to send money home, saving for property or retirement or schooling, this is a big bonus.
The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States was another political event that polarised opinion. For some GCC countries, Saudi Arabia in particular, Trump is a welcome choice. This was made obvious by the welcome he was given on his recent successful visit to the country. This is not to say that all Saudis, or expats, would have voted for Donald Trump, but the positives cannot be ignored. There has been concern about falling oil prices in recent years – this has led to some job instability and worry about the future for many expats. There had also been some tension between the Obama administration and the Saudi government. Trump placed Saudi Arabia first on his recent foreign tour and was welcomed with great fanfare. He has positioned himself as Saudi Arabia’s ally in their conflict with Iran; a powerful ally for them to have. It is felt that his election has improved ties between many GCC countries and the US. There is also an appreciation and understanding of his image as a businessman, looking to increase jobs and build wealth.
Most expats, by their very nature and lifestyles, believe in collaboration, easier movement between countries and fewer border controls. Our children are educated in schools filled with pupils from across the world. This includes many children who were affected by the (albeit short-lived) travel ban to the US; children who hold more than one passport and who identify with more than one nationality, and children who hope to be accepted into universities across the world. At times this feels threatened by some of the values which are unavoidably tangled up in recent political changes.
As for everyone, Brexit and Trump bring some uncertainty and everyone has their own opinion. However, for now at least, they seem to have had positive short term outcomes for many British expats living the Middle East. Let’s see what comes with the next possible changes.
Words: Lydia Morgan