Never Have I Ever related to a series about the coming of age of an Indian-American teen as a Gulf Kid. If you’re wondering what a Gulf Kid is, it’s a term for those who grew up in countries that are in the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Some would call Gulf Kids Third Culture Kids, defined as people who spend a significant portion of their formative years outside their parents’ or their country of origin’s cultural setting. If you’re a fellow Gulf Kid like me who is constantly longing for home, finding their identity, and living the best of both worlds anywhere in the U.A.E., you’ll love binge-watching the Never Have I Ever series! Beware of spoilers ahead!
1. People come and go
When Devi’s dad suddenly passed away, she had to cope with the trauma she had from losing her father. When you live in the U.A.E., you’ll learn that it’s a country where it’s like a modern silk road to different continents. At an early age, you’ll experience losing your close friends since they have to move abroad or go back to their parent’s home country.
People come and go; even as you grow older, your colleagues may study for masters in Europe, or your close friends may settle down somewhere in the U.A.E., but you’ll lose contact with them. Dubai is a city that has plenty of opportunities, and some would stay for vacation while others would try their luck in the city to get a work visa permit for a better career. Growing up in any of the G.C.C. countries gives you an early peek at the sobering reality that will help you not take people for granted or the memories you have with them since nothing lasts forever.
2. Seeking therapy or professional help can be helpful
Mental health issues are on the rise, and many factors can contribute to why you’re dealing with depression or any mental health issues, from having a quarter-life crisis to office stress and work-life imbalance.
For Gulf Kids who grew up abroad, it can be a struggle to know your identity since either you grew up abroad but are not familiar with Filipino culture or find it hard to learn Filipino since you’ve been speaking English or foreign languages your whole life or you love listening to Arabic musicians, and you couldn’t relate to Filipino culture memes.
Fitting in school can be challenging if you studied only in international schools and then transferred to one of the Philippine schools in the U.A.E., the culture shock can be real. In Never Have I Ever, Devi finds it hard to connect with a new student of the same ethnicity since she’s mostly friends with people not of the same race as her. Or wearing a traditional dress or cultural events can be challenging for her since she tends to disconnect. Seeking therapy can help you find your footing, get a new perspective and overcome any emotional or physical turmoil you’re going on in life.
3. Let things happen at your own pace
Dubai is a fast-paced city, and no one can deny that since it was once a sleepy fishing town into an ultra-modern and technologically advanced city that is home to well-known places to visit. Growing up in the U.A.E. can make you feel pressured to leave your mark immediately after graduating college or go up the career ladder since there’s plenty of competition and opportunities all waiting for you.
Devi tends to be impulsive and easily pressured, often making mistakes that don’t go well for her since she always has a one-track mind to her goals and dreams. Let’s not forget the two sides of Dubai, which are old and new. Moving at your own timeline will help you grow and discover who you are amidst the hustle and bustle.
4. Having a solid support system is important
Devi is not the only one who is dealing with loss but also her mother, Nalini, which is why she wanted to move back to India to get a strong support system. With the encouragement of her mother-in-law, she realized her life is now in the U.S., where she has built a successful career as a dermatologist, and her daughter and niece are.
Nalini learned that home is where the heart is. As a Gulf Kid growing up, you know all too well the constant nagging fear of not being a citizen of a country, where you will have to go back to your parent’s home country, or you’ll have to pack your backs since you’re just an expat even if you consider the U.A.E. your home, its a sad reality.
Devi managed to deal with her grief with her friends and her therapist. Living in Dubai, you’ll realize you’re not alone since you’ll have friends from your community or workplace. You’ll be able to build a strong connection with people from all walks of life that will foster your growth and individuality.
5. Being open-minded and highly adaptable
If you’re a Gulf Kid, then you’ve been exposed to diverse traditions, cultures, societal expectations, and various opportunities. Of course, it can be confusing during your younger years, and knowing who you’re supposed to be can be challenging.
As a Gulf Kid, being open-minded to a lot of things help you see the pros and cons and let you enjoy the best of both worlds or adapt to different situations. Being flexible and open will do more than help you survive but thrive anywhere you go, which is also an edge for every Gulf Kid.
Devi is open to trying new things when it comes to love, pushing her limits as a student, all while navigating life as a normal teenager who goes through the hardships of adolescence. As she grows older, she realizes the importance of being teachable and open to new perspectives and experiences that help her deal with her grief and propel her personal development.
6. Don’t be defined by labels
Yes, you’re born abroad, and sometimes connecting with your cultural roots and traditions can be challenging. It’s a struggle for every Gulf Kids or Third Culture kid globally, but just like what Devi did in the series, the school may call her crazy Devi for all her mistakes and impulsive actions; she may be a typical nerd at school. Still, her loved ones know who she really is.
The series showed her personal growth and how she’s slowly becoming the person she’s supposed to be, beyond the labels and societal expectations. I hope you’re doing the same, too, being true to who you are without labels!