Personal experiences · Travel destinations

The highs and lows of 3,5 years in Dubai

Although it seems like ages ago, I can still remember the day I left the Netherlands and jumped on an airplane to start my new life in Dubai. I was 30 years old and needed some adventure :). Now 3,5 years later, what are my experiences?

High: I found a job and my partner for life in the first week I arrived!
Lucky me!!! :)

Low: Job didn’t work out as planned
Unfortunately the job didn’t give me the positive energy I was hoping for. It was quite stressful and I lost 9 kgs of body weight in a short period of time. Stress kills your mind, body and spirit. I decided to quit my job without having another job in hand. This is a tricky thing to do, since you then pretty much have only one month to find another job. If you don’t succeed in this and do not have an alternative solution for a visa you will need to leave the country. Though knowingly about the risks, I quit my job as I chose for my health.

High: Did things I otherwise wouldn’t have done
I decided to start a blog since I wanted to share my passion for traveling the world with a broader audience. ‘Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer’ is my life quote. Traveling is literally in my blood. My (great) grandparents came from China, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Surinam and Venezuela. All migrants who settled on Aruba and mingled with the local people. And still, I don’t have an identity crisis ;).

Desert, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A second thing I did was investing in myself. I reached out to one of the leading financial coaches of the UK and asked her if she was willing to train me one-on-one to become a financial coach myself. I’m so glad she shared her experience and tools with me and I have learned a lot from her! I started to read articles and researches about money management, debt and savings (particularly in the Netherlands and the UAE) and realized that saving money is not achievable by everyone. More and more people are in debt and are taking out loans due to various reasons. According to the UAE Central Bank, total personal loans hit Dh349.9 billion in February, a 3%  increase from January. Being in debt, can result in psychological stress for a person and his / her family. I hope that with my training I can help other people manage their finances in a better way and change their relationship with money.

Low: Not being there for my family back home
I never felt the impact of being away from my family for such a long period of time, until a relative who was very close to me became terminally ill. I couldn’t support my family the way I would have done when I was back home. These were tough times. 

High: Living in a vibrant international city
Dubai can be an example for the rest of the world in various aspects. About 200 nationalities live here together in peace, almost everyone can practice their own religion and it’s a very, very safe city. There are countless shops, restaurants and bars. On a regular basis, the best DJ’s from the world come to Dubai to give an amazing performance as do some of the most famous music artists. If you are an outdoor fan, you can practice all kinds of watersport activities, aerial sports like skydiving or paragliding, go off-roading on 2 or 4 wheels and go camping in one of the many wadi’s, mountains or deserts within the United Arab Emirates or its neighbor Oman. Never a dull moment in Dubai!



Low: Saying goodbye…
I have met the most incredible people in Dubai and made some friends with whom I’m very close. Since our families live abroad, friends become family. With the expat life and Dubai being a transitioning city, many people only stay for a few years and then move on to another country for a new adventure or move back home. The good thing is, I can visit them anytime and explore their new country.

High: I realized the value of my Dutch / European Union passport
I never realized the value of my Dutch / European Union passport, until I moved to the UAE. So many people from various nationalities face a lot of difficulties when trying to travel to another country. When I heard all the stories from the various workers in the UAE about how life is in their home country, only then I realized how lucky I am I was born in the Netherlands. A country without war, a country with a social-welfare system and a country where there is a relatively small gap between rich and poor.

Low and high: Dubai is all about the money
The above quote I often hear from people who have visited Dubai and didn’t like the lavish / luxury lifestyle, which includes showing off materialistic stuff. I understand where this comment is coming from, since I personally also don’t care much about luxury and materialistic stuff. For me, Dubai is also all about the money, but I would put it in a different perspective: Dubai is all about the money for the hundreds of thousands of workers who come from Asia to work in Dubai and send their hard earned dirhams back home on a monthly basis. Even more people in Asia (parents, children, spouses, aunts, uncles, cousins) are dependent on the remittances of these workers. And believe me, most of them work very, very hard. They only came to Dubai because they could get a better paid job than back home and with this can now financially support their families in a way which they wouldn’t be able to back home. With the money they send to their home country, houses are being built, families are being fed and children are able to follow an education. So yes, for a lot of people it is all about the money.


Low: Culture clashes
I always thought that I was very adaptive and considerate to other cultures, but only since I moved to Dubai, I realized that I’m more Western minded than I had ever thought! My principle is to always respect other cultures, but the male version of a particular culture and I often clash. There are exceptions of course. Me, being a direct Dutchie with a finishing touch of the ‘you better not mess with me’ attitude of a Latin-American woman, trying to communicate with the ‘male version’ who is often not telling me the truth. One of the many examples: I had brought my car for service and when I collected it the radio wasn’t working anymore. When I told one of the guys, he called up another guy who had worked on my car and the explanation was this: “He says that the radio wasn’t working when you brought the car”. Steam out of my ears. “The radio was perfectly working when I dropped the car so I want you to fix it NOW”. A few hours later they admitted that they had forgotten to connect the wires. I come from a background where it’s accepted to make mistakes, you admit it when you have made a mistake (it’s totally human to make mistakes!), you tell the person ‘I’m sorry’ and how you are planning to fix it. Now I know that in some other cultures people don’t acknowledge that they have made a mistake and they just simply tell it’s somebody else’s fault. Or that they tell you ‘yes I understand’, where in fact they don’t have a clue what you mean.

High: Working in an international environment
I have always wanted to work in an international environment with colleagues who come from all over the world. At the moment I feel that we are representing the United Nations. It’s so meaningful to learn from other cultures. And just as important: not a day passes by without me having a good laugh with my colleagues :).

Low: The rising cost of living in Dubai
The cost of living is increasing (especially for families paying school fees), but unfortunately the salaries are not. The underlying inflation rate is not being compensated and this can particularly cause issues for the people on the lower end of the pay scale.

High: I put everything in perspective
A crazy example: when I hear people complaining in the Netherlands that it’s too hot when it’s ‘only’ 30 degrees celsius, I think: ‘seriously’?. When people in the Netherlands hear me complaining that it’s too cold when it’s ‘only’ 18 degrees celsius, they think: ‘seriously’?.

So far, the positives of this city outweigh the negatives more than I can explain and by no means will the annoyances I experience make me want to leave this city soon. Every country, every city in the world has its own positives and negatives. At the moment, I can say that I really feel at home in Dubai. But I’m not staying here forever, that is for certain, and who knows there might be an adventure around the corner in Asia :).

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