Im a young(ish) English expat living in Dubai with my wonderful husband, beautiful son, and grumpy cat. Since having my first baby, a completely whole new world has opened up for me, and it is on my blog that I share some of these experiences with ...
Where are you from, Abbey, and what are you doing nowadays?
My name is Abbey, I am a British expat living in Dubai. I currently work in communications while also running my parenting blog, "The Son And The Moon", as a hobby. Before moving to Dubai, I was studying a Master's degree in the UK. It was upon completion that my boyfriend (now husband) was offered a job in the UAE. As a fresh graduate, I thought, why not! It was a great move and we have been here for four years now and absolutely love it. Our family has expanded too as we welcomed our son in August 2014, along with our cat that we adopted a few months after moving over.
Why did you choose to expatriate to the United Arab Emirates?
It was all about adventure at first. My husband and I were young with the world at our feet. The job market was poor in the UK and we knew that we could probably be successful in the UAE. We had a two year plan to move over, save some money, and have a great time. But we fell in love with the Middle East and found we are really happy over here. We will move back to the UK one day soon, but we have such a great lifestyle over here that we're happy to stay longer.
As an English national, what where the procedures you had to follow to move there?
My husband's company took care of the move for us, including flights, accommodation, visas, etc. For me, it was mainly getting my degree certificates attested which was a bit of a process. I recall, it took around three weeks in total which I arranged from the UK. The majority of employers do request attested educational certificates. So if you're planning to move over, then this is something I recommend you look into. Also if you're married, your marriage certificate will need to be attested.
What has attracted you to Dubai?
The weather, the job opportunities, the lifestyle, the amazing array of people you meet, the security, the architecture, the beaches, the travel opportunities, the restaurants. Everything really.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
The variety of things to do in Dubai and the broader UAE. When you think of Dubai, you mainly think about the big cosmopolitan city, but drive 20 minutes and you're in the desert. Being among the dunes is so beautiful - my husband and I love to escape the bustle of the city to the peace of the desert. My husband also got into dirt bike riding over here, and goes biking in the desert most weekends with his friends. I can ride too, but don't have so much time nowadays with our son. The broader UAE is stunning to explore too - places like Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah have some great beaches, and if you fancy going a little further afield, the mountains of Oman are absolutely incredible to explore - we love going camping and wadi walking in the cooler months.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
We were lucky as my husband's company helped find us accommodation when we first moved over. We were in a hotel for three weeks before moving to a lovely apartment on Jumeirah Beach Residence. We really loved it there, but decided to move to a villa when our son was born (we joke that we moved to the "suburbs"). There are so many places to live that I think the difficulty when you first move over is deciding which area you want to live in! Your budget will affect where you live too, but you can get some stunning places for a bit cheaper if you're happy to live that little bit further out from the main residential hubs.
What are the local labor market's features? Is it easy for an expat to find a job there?
I would generally stay away from websites and instead meet with actual recruiters who can get to know you, help you find a job and also help negotiate your salary and package. As a fresh graduate, I thought I would be looking for a job for a while, but was lucky enough to find a job within three weeks of moving over - I am still with the same company now. I think it is important to find a job that is both secure and also makes you happy. Recruitment agencies will help you with this.
How do you find the Emirati lifestyle?
I am lucky to count a number of Emiratis as friends - they are some of the most kind, caring and loyal people I have ever met. I love their way of life, and I love that they are welcoming to the expats who wish to live in their country. I have a lot of respect for the Emirati people.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society? What about your son?
The UAE is very westernized - from Malls, to TV, to language, to the food available in the supermarket, it was not much of a culture shock at all. If anything, I feel it will be a culture shock when we move back to the UK as we have become so accustomed to the ease of everything over here. For my son, well, he was born here - it being sunny every day of the year is something that is normal to him. He has a nanny, which is something we won't have when we move back to the UK. I am not sure how he will find the move when we do come to go home, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when it comes to it.
What does your everyday life look like in Dubai?
During the week, both my husband and I work. I leave for the office at about 8.30 am to arrive for 9.00 am. During the day, I am between various meetings and often travel to Abu Dhabi for particular clients based there. When in Dubai, I leave the office at 5.00 pm to be home by 5.30 pm. When I get home, I go to meet my son, who is often busy playing in the park with his nanny and toddler friends. I'll stay and play or take him home if he has had enough. Once home, either me or my husband (sometimes our nanny) will cook dinner. Once all fed, it is bath time for my son. Once clean and in his pajamas, we'll all unwind in the living room playing with toys and watching TV. He goes to bed around 8.30 pm and after than I usually jump online to finish any pending work, or do a bit of blogging.
At the weekend, we're always up early so love to go out to various locations for coffee and breakfast. During the cooler months, we make the most of the beach and the garden. During the hotter months, we go to the Mall a lot, particularly those with good soft-play areas for my son to blow off some steam.
Any particular experience in the country you would like to share with us?
Yes, we had a very "only in Dubai" experience a few weeks ago! My husband, son and I were taking a little stroll around the block late afternoon to get some fresh air when we noticed a drone flying over us. Seconds later, we heard it crashing down with great speed into a garden just behind us. Shocked, we went to the house to let the owner know and check no one was hurt, while a fellow witness went to find the owner of the drone who was just down the street. Luckily, no one was hurt and the owner of the property let us in to show her what it was, at which point the owner of the drone also arrived. We entered the garden to find a falcon sat next to the drone! At first we thought the falcon belonged to the lady (apparently not) and then the owner of the drone (nope). My husband approach the drone and the falcon toddled over and climbed on the drone and then gave him this look like "back off, it's mine!" The drone owner was very apologetic saying it just seemed like he lost range all of a sudden, when we put two and two together and realized that the falcon had probably attacked the drone mid-flight and dive-bombed its prey to the ground! Crazy! It flew away moments later...the drone was not so lucky. Such a beautiful creature! Such an eventful walk! You can see an image of the falcon on the drone here which my husband captured on his phone.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Dubai? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
Rent and food expenses are very high, but most people will find that they earn a higher wage here than in their home country, so it often balances itself out. It really depends on how much you're earning, where you want to live, and what your social life is like. If you go out for dinner every night, then that will of course get very costly.
How do you spend your leisure time?
We love to go to the beach and regularly spend lots of nice mornings down Jumeirah Beach Residence. We also just love relaxing at home. We're lucky enough to live in a lovely community, so tend to spend our free days having coffee at the local cafes, followed by a play in the park or the garden. The Malls are great too - there are so many, and it's really nice to visit them early in the morning before they get busy.
Your favorite local dishes?
Hummus and pita bread. And of course, dates! The palm trees in our garden grew dates over the summer - it was so brilliant to have homegrown dates!
What do you like the most about the country?
The lifestyle! We work very hard, but living is easy and there are so many great things to do. Being sunny every day is also a huge bonus.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Family, friends, our house. The smell of green grass. I sometimes miss rain, crazy right? I miss village life.
What has motivated you to write your blog "The Son and the Moon"? How does it help?
Before I had my son, I used to be very active - I would horse ride and bike ride. My husband and I would go out a lot at weekends for meals and to visit friends. Life changed a lot when our son came along. I was suddenly very busy being a Mum, but had more time on my hands since I stopped my sports and stopped going out so much. As a relatively young Mum, I've been the first of my friends to have a baby. Not only that, but living abroad left me feeling a little isolated. I therefore started my blog as both a hobby and an outlet to share my experiences with others. I never planned it at first, but a lot of my readers comment that they love how my posts are "from the heart" as I tend to document the hard times as well as the lovely times. I suppose writing has become cathartic to me, and it's lovely to connect with other Mum's sharing a similar experience, no matter where they are based in the world.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in the United Arab Emirates?
Have fun, but if you're here to save money, make sure you have a sustained savings plan. It is very easy to get carried away with the lifestyle over here, and living can also be pretty costly. Once you're moved and settled, I would recommend making a date with a financial adviser (if you don't already have one) to speak about your financial goals for the future.
What are your plans for the future?
We are happy in the UAE but the UK will always be home. We will eventually move home in the next couple of years, but it depends on work, the job market back home, our financial stability and our family circumstances. So basically - who knows! We're enjoying the ride, and as long as we're happy, that's all that matters.