This week marks 3 years since Tom and I moved from Chicago to Abu Dhabi. Over the last three years so much has happened both personally and professionally. A lot of you have been following me since the beginning and I want to say thank you and to share a few remarks from our experience of being expats in the Middle East.
Friends will always come and go: The UAE is an extremely transient place, most expats move with a 2 or 3 year contract and therefore people are always coming and going. When Tom and I first moved, we didn’t know a single person in the UAE. I made it my job to meet as many people as I could; I did yoga, boxing, joined a running club, contacted people over Instagram and overall put myself out there to meet other women and couples to make friends. In my case, I quickly learned that even though you meet many other wives you will only “click” with a handful. I am happy to say that after 3 years of living in Abu Dhabi I have a solid group of girlfriends: from Pakistan, Syria, London, Brazil, Australia and the US.
Being Respectful: Before Tom and I moved to the UAE, we received an “on boarding guide” from his company highlighting the most essential things for us to know such as the religion, attire and custom of the UAE. It sounds redundant but it is important to remember that I am a “guest” in their country and therefore should respect and follow their rules.
With that I want to share one experience with all of you…I drove to the “Department of Affairs and Transport” to pay for a few speeding tickets and wore this dress. I remember asking the local woman behind the counter about where I could go to pay my parking tickets, she looked at me from head to toe, stepped out of her desk and said, “your dress is too short, you need to go home and change.” I stood cold…in retrospect my dress was too short for a government building and I should have remembered and perhaps wore jeans or pants. I always try to be respectful and remember that we live in a Muslim country.
The importance of showing up: This is more of life lesson that has proven extremely important during the past three years in Abu Dhabi. When I moved to Abu Dhabi I had 3,000 followers on Instagram and as you heard before I didn’t know anyone else. I learned that if I wanted to meet other bloggers, make friends and grow on a personal and professional level. I had to show up. What does that mean? I mean like physically show up…go to every event, visit every PR company in Dubai, support other bloggers, meet and talk to whoever would talk back to me. Since moving to Abu Dhabi, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Harpers Bazaar Arabia, Cosmopolitan Middle East, The National Newspaper, and work with hotels such as the Four Seasons, Hyatt, St. Regis and Conrad Maldives, all opportunities that happened after I took the time to drive to Dubai (1.5 hours) and show up to a meeting or event.
There’s no way to beat the jet lag: HAHA…This is a silly one but so true! I read somewhere that sleep deprivation is similar to being drunk. Tom and I often fly back and forth from Abu Dhabi to the US (Chicago, Miami, DC or NYC), often stopping in Europe for a 5 hour layover and finally landing in the US in the early morning. The time difference from Abu Dhabi to the East Coast is about 9 hours and more often than not…I feel like a zombie the first few days. It really does take a toll on you mentally and physically. I remember waking up at 4:00am in Dallas at the RewardStyle conference starving…technically lunch time in Abu Dhabi. Jet lag is part of the package when living abroad and a few things that help are: exercising as soon as you land, trying your best to adapt to the schedule and hydrate, hydrate hydrate!
Being independent: I moved to Paris when I was 17 for a summer and moved to Chicago for college not knowing a single person. My parents raised me to be independent and a strong minded woman, which were all a great lessons for my life in the UAE. Tom works long hours and often flies back to the US for work and sometimes I’m in Abu Dhabi by myself. I will never forget the time I was crying in the middle of the Abu Dhabi highway because I was lost and had no idea where I was going and going to the emergency room at 5 am by myself (long story). Each of all these things have made me the person I am today and I do not regret a single a thing.
When people ask me “do you like living in Abu Dhabi” I always respond “I have a love and hate relationship with it.” It’s extremely honest but that’s how I feel. I love being able to go to the beach in January when most of my friends in Chicago are hibernating and love to be able to travel to places like the Maldives (only 4 hours away from Abu Dhabi). But the truth is that I often miss being with my family and friends back in the US and find myself frustrated with different elements of being abroad. Tom and I were newlyweds when we moved to Abu Dhabi and it has been an incredible experience for both of us. When people ask me how much longer are you staying in the UAE…I simply say..time will tell.
Thank you so much for reading and being a part of this wonderful adventure over the past three years. If you have any questions about living or traveling to the UAE please don’t hesitate to email me! Wishing everyone a wonderful week ahead!