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From the UK to Dubai: Expat Interview

Raising a family in any country is a wonderful challenge, and raising one in a new country is an exciting experience for both kids and parents. We spoke with UK expat in the UAE, Mrs. Dubai, mother of two and writer, about raising a family in Dubai.

Raising a family in Dubai

Meet Mrs. Dubai: She and her husband (DH) moved to Dubai in the late 90s and haven’t looked back at the UK since. She writes about motherhood with two children (DS and DD) and her expat life on her blog, Dubai’s Desperate Housewife.

When did you move to Dubai from the UK and why?

My husband and I moved here from the UK in 1998. He’s not originally from the UK and we wanted to live somewhere that was warm and sunny, and that lay roughly equidistant from his family and mine.

moving to Dubai for the weather

Dubai was perfect. We made the leap, planning for it to be long-term, and never looked back.

How did you make Dubai feel like home when you first moved here?

It’s important to try and make new friends, obviously, so I said yes to every opportunity or invitation that came my way but, other than that, I was so excited to be living in a new country that it didn’t really bother me.

I didn’t feel a need to bring a piece of home with me, or to hook up with fellow Brits, though that’s always nice when it happens.

What are some of the biggest challenges to adjust to in Dubai?

In 1998 we had little email, no Skype, no expat forums, and no social media so it was pretty lonely back then and we had to really rely on each other, which can put pressure on a relationship.

But, these days, with social media and with so much support available online, it’s almost like you’re in the same country as many of your friends and family.

Driving in Dubai

In terms of adjusting, I’ve always welcomed the differences between the UK and UAE.

I suppose the driving was a big challenge – getting used to the fact that not everyone drives with the kind of discipline that I was taught back home. Including my compatriots!

What are some things that Dubai does better than London?

Weather, for a start! The fact that you can plan your weekends to be outdoors all winter.

Roads – I love that you can literally drive from one end of town to another without ever stopping for a light, a junction or a roundabout.

Living in Dubai: Dubai's malls

Shopping malls. I’m not saying ‘shopping’, as I find the UK and USA miles better than the UAE for shopping, but the malls themselves are wondrous. The buildings are so fancy, and they contain so many things to do, like ice-skating, theatre, incredible children’s play areas like Kidzania, doctor’s surgeries, restaurants, aquariums, skiing, and so on. A mall in Dubai means so much more than shopping.

Fireworks – we all know how good Dubai is at fireworks!

What are some of the benefits of raising your children abroad?

I love that my children learn Arabic and are reasonably fluent in it. I like that they understand more about the Middle East than most people back home do (including adults), and that they can identify different countries across the Middle East.

Opera House in Dubai

Living here also means we travel perhaps more widely than we might have done had we stayed in the UK, and certainly more frequently to places like India, Sri Lanka, and the Far East.

I like that my children get along with children of all nationalities without even thinking that it’s anything out of the ordinary – that they have, I suppose, no concept of ‘foreigner’ – how do you define ‘foreign’ when you live in Dubai?

How old are your children now and what do they currently like about Dubai?

They are 10 and six. They take Dubai granted because it’s all they’ve known. I try to show them how lucky they are, but it mainly falls on deaf ears as they have no benchmark to which they can compare. They’re currently going through a phase of really liking the idea of cold weather and rain in the UK!

Living in Dubai

On the downside, what they dislike about Dubai is losing friends as other expat families leave. This is a very real problem and it doesn’t get easier to deal with, no matter how many times they go through it.

What was the process like for finding a GP/paediatrician?

Ask around for recommendations, then pick one that’s relatively close by. There’s nothing like having to drive across town with a sick child.

If you don’t get on with a GP it’s not like you have to stick with them – I chop and change all the time, and doctors also come and go.

What is one thing you wish you’d known before moving to the UAE?

I think I was fairly well informed. I did a lot of research!

Would you consider moving back to the UK?

You can never say never – but no. I love being here in Dubai. I love that it’s not the UK.

Looking to make a move to Dubai now? Discover more about the emirate and begin planning your international move.