Survivors Guide to Expat Life in Dubai!

Recently my husband and I found ourselves discussing our pros and cons since moving abroad. A fellow expat once described that living in the UAE IS LIKE you have two buckets. One bucket full of money and one bucket full of s**t!

You leave when one of those buckets are full.

At first we laughed, because it isn’t too far from the truth, there’s a lot of s**t that gets thrown your way when you first arrive in Dubai. I can’t count the number of times we wanted to throw in the towel and leave.

To be honest my first year wasn’t easy. I was pregnant for 9 months of it and essentially a new mother of 2 under 15 months ! What a whirl wind. You try hibernating at 7 months pregnant because it’s 50 degrees outside and you can barely move from the amount of swelling. Pregnancy aside, moving to a new country and essentially starting again isn’t a walk in the park for anyone.

The job which brought us here ended up being an absolute nightmare for my husband. This happens a lot, you really do get sold the dream when businesses tell you about all the opportunities and financial gains of moving to a country that is tax free. We slept on the idea of moving to Dubai for 2 whole years before we actually decided to make the move. And I suggest you do that same. So I’ve come up with 6 tips, with the help of my other and sometimes better half, on how to survive moving to the UAE!

1. Do your research!

Get your Google skills out and do some homework. You want to be prepared on absolutely anything that may be thrown your way, from Visa laws, rules pertaining to living arrangements if your single, in a de-facto relationship or married. The UAE requires an abundance of documents which all need attestation and certification from the embassy in your home country, this includes university degrees and marriage / birth certificates. Trust me have it done before you arrive, as you’ll be paying through the nose to have those things sorted out from here.

2. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

After my year of mourning Melbourne, I realized I wasn’t going to survive life abroad unless I got out there and started to meet people. I used Instagram to my advantage and connected with a number of incredible woman, whom I am now blessed to call friends. These woman were where I was once upon a time, some of them full-time mothers to young children who quit their careers and followed their husbands abroad, while others were full time professionals, and others entrepreneurs, starting up their own busiensses. All with one thing in common, they were all away from family, away from their homes and know just how daunting the first few years of settling into a new country can be. It’s safe to say I’ve made more meaningful relationships and friendships via social media in Dubai at the age of 30, then I probably ever have in my life. Get out there, it’s an incredibly social town!

3. Hang in there !

Processes especially arranging your VISA can be a headache. If your company or partners company has as an administrator that’ll pretty much so it all for you and all you need to do is show up to your medical then you’re laughing, the rest is a walk in the park. However not all companies have such smooth processes in place and may expect you to do all the leg work. The UAE has strict laws on not granting VISAs to anyone who has had TB, or are HEP A,B or C, and HIV positive. Best to get these things checked in your home country.

4. Don’t delude yourself – it’s HOT!

Prepare yourself for the heat! Summers are looooooong, humid and hotttttt! Like in many cold parts of the world where people hibernate during the winter, well in Dubai most of us hibernate in the summer time or escape it all together. If your not traveling abroad or visiting home, you’re stuck at home, work or inside shopping malls which have the AC on full blast! Prepare for some skin dryness and getting a cold a little more often then not, because no ones immune system likes air-conditioning 24 hours a day unfortunately.

5. Budget, and spend wisely!

Many come to Dubai with dollar signs in their eyes. But beware Dubai is by no means not a “cheap” country to live in. It is in fact probably one of the most expensive places in the world to live. From rent, to lifestyle, Dubai can really suck you into it’s glitz and glam. There’s nothing you can’t get or do in Dubai, and if your a sucker for luxury, you’ll find yourself in some of the most luxurious and extravagant places on earth. Most landlords expect annual rent to be paid in 1-4 cheques. Unfortunately there is no monthly rent in Dubai, and you’re looking about spending anywhere between 90-150,000 DHMS a year on rent depending on where you choose to live and how many bedrooms you’re after.

If you’re moving abroad with a young family make sure you consider the cost of schooling for the little ones. if it’s not included in your companies employment contract you’re looking at anywhere between 20 – 50,000 DHMS annually to get your little ones education.

6. Don’t believe everything you hear!

Unless it’s coming from an ex expat whose lived in the UAE, don’t believe everything you hear! Dubai is an extremely multiculturally diverse country and incredibly tolerant and respectful of its non-Islamic expat community! Yes it’s Islamic, and yes certain things just aren’t going to cut it here but be smart. You’re not going to be thrown into jail for dropping the f-bomb in public, but you may get a few looks if your behaving like a lewd moron and yes you may even get Ted pulled up on it by police. Respect the laws of the land, no overt PDAS in public, no drunken or aggressive disorderly behavior in public either. Only licensed venues serve alcohol (at a pricey cost); the party scene is actually quite big here, I like to call it the Ibiza of the Middle East to be honest, so if that’s your thing, then you’ll have no dramas here!

City Walk – Dubai

I hated what I saw in the mirror 

Recently I looked back on some old photos from my early twenties, culling data on external hard drives to free up space, I found myself taking a longer then planned for walk down memory lane. 

I spent what should have probably been my best years believing I was excessively and extremely overweight. I would call myself fat (and ugly) at  any opportunity I got. I looked at these photos and thought now in my “post two pregnancies, early 30s mummy brain” woah – I was truly deluded! How incredibly low my self confidence and self esteem were, to believe something about myself which was so far from the truth. 

Granted I never was a “skinny” or “naturally thin” girl, but I was by no means “fat”. I’ve just always been a bigger build most my life, as puberty hit I became curvier then most in my circles. Teenage years are horrible for anyone, and I did get to a point where I was an unhealthy weight for my age at the time. But I also remembering losing a large number of KGs in my final year of high school and entering university at a healthy weight looking rather slimer than what I was used too. I always thought life was so much easier for the skinny girls, they didn’t have to worry about what they ate, they could almost always attract boys, “the life of a skinny girl must be bliss!”

It wasn’t until I entered my twenties that I realized this wasn’t the case for the skinny girls. It was far from it actually. I had girlfriends that were more self-conscious then I was, worrying about their bodies, their looks, what they ate more then I ever imagined. Sometimes I found myself arguing with them saying things like, “if only you girls knew what it really felt like to be ‘fat’ you’d be so much more grateful for them genes you’ve been blessed with”. 

I realized later that self love was an issue MOST if not ALL girls and women go through, big or small. We’re just never happy with what and who we are, always searching for more or an idea of what’s ‘better’ or more acceptable or appealing. If it wasn’t the super skinny flat chested girl wishing she had a curvier or more womanly body, to the overweight girl crying herself to sleep wishing for a size 6 body, we’ve all experienced our share of demons when it comes to body image.

I looked back on my old photos and wished 21 year old Tanja knew just how pretty and “not fat” she actually was. If I could go back and tell her just one thing I’d try and hammer that thought deep into her subconscious mind so that she would never forget it. For too long I spent so many years thinking I wasn’t enough. Wasn’t as good as the rest. For far too long I hated what I saw in the mirror. 

And this is why I wanted to have a girl so much. I wanted to raise a confident self loving girl, the girl I never felt I was. The girl I wish so many of us were. I recently came across the most appropriate quote… “all these years of education and they never taught us how to love ourselves.” – ain’t that the truth! 


Image courtesy of Tumblr 

Aerophobia

I have a paralysing fear of flying.

It hasn’t stopped me from getting on a flight as I’ve had no other choice at the time. I needed to get on that plane.

But on that flight, be it however long, every sensation and motion raised my heart rate ever so high, every take off had me crying hysteric tears anticipating the impending doom and my imminent end.

I havent been on a plane since moving abroad. I have not taken a holiday with my family, or gone back home to Australia in the past two years because I can’t think of anything worse then experiencing 14 hours of non-stop panic.

Nothing helps ease the flight for me. Not even my trusty Valium or Xanax.

It makes no sense to me; it makes no logical sense in my mind – how is it even possible for a plane to stay in the air for all those hours, through all the different environmental and weather conditions and not come down? How have I put my life in the hands of two strangers? It will never make any sense to me.

I’ve considered doing fear of flying courses, perhaps reading more statistics on “how you’re more likely to die in a car crash then a plane crash” but still nothing stops my heart rate from rising and my head from spinning, just by the mere mention of “taking a flight”.

There is some credit to be given though, it hasn’t stopped me from getting me on a plane the countless times I have managed to get on one. I guess there are people out there who wont even book that ticket online because the thought of it is gut wrenching and anxiety provoking.

I hope one day I can say I don’t have a fear of flying anymore, because I know deep down there are so many parts of the world I would love to see and experience, so many places I know would be good for my soul.

If you ever find yourself on a flight with someone like me, someone next to you crying, saying their prayers under their breath, clenching their hands and drying their sweaty palms on their pants, please don’t stare at them with judgement, take their hand and tell them its going to be ok. Distract them, have a chat and crack a joke with them. I’m forever grateful to the countless strangers that have helped me through my in-flight anxiety and panic attacks.

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#askahijabi

“But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.” Corinthians 11:5

“For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.” Corinthians 11:6

“O Prophet! Say to your wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers that: they should let down upon themselves their jalabib.” Quran 33:59. 

  • Jalabib جَلاَبِيْبٌ is the plural of jilbabجِلْبَابٌ , which means a loose outer garment.

Let’s have a chat about a 200x80cm (dimensions may vary) piece of fabric used by millions of woman across the globe to cover the hair. It seems this cloth still has many people in quite a stir, both Muslim and non-muslim alike. Lets understand something really important when it comes to hijab, there’s a multitude of reasons why a Muslim woman chooses too or not too observe head covering, like all things in life, this is her right and her choice.

Choice! Why do people find this so hard to believe when they look at a covered Muslim woman? Why are there still so many out there who believe that head covering is a sign of oppression, a garment forced upon females by their fathers or husbands?

Yes, no doubt this has been a reality for many, sadly this notion didn’t just come out of thin air. Just like there exists in the world so called “Christians” who behave or act very un-Christian like, there too are MANY “Muslims” who are the furthest thing from conducting themselves in an “Islamic” manner.

Why not ask a successful, young single woman what made her decide to wear a head scarf? Or the new convert to the faith uninfluenced by the male figures of her family. Why not #askahijabi?

For some, head covering is simply a cultural practice, apart of their national dress and customs? In some of these places men walk around wearing dress – like gowns (thawb, dishdasha, kandura or jalibbiyah) does this offend the same people the head scarf offends. I dare you to get your knickers in a knot while walking through customs in most gulf nation airports.

And finally for many others, the scarf is a symbol of their religiosity. A request and a service to God. A woman’s decision to be valued and identified by her relationship with her Lord first and foremost. Not to be looked upon as a sexual object, or a lesser creation to man, not to be viewed as a servant or slave to her husband or father, but to simply be recognized for her faith, heart and intellect before all else.

I rushed to the net to find these so called “oppressed hijabis”, and guess what… I found not one. What I did find instead were brave, confident, powerful voices, inspiring, intelligent and fearless woman. Strong and honest woman. Sisters who have helped me personally to change and form my own new opinions, thoughts and views on this incredibly powerful piece of material.

“Every hijabi can tell you — sometimes the mere existence of this cloth in a room can leave the air, thick, and the mood, tense. For some, this reality is too heavy to carry. For me, I think I almost crave it. To know my modesty carries such clout and power is simply glorious. My hijab is my companion. A constant reminder of something outside of the immediate, the now.” The Aristochick, source The Aristochick.

“My hijab has never been something to block off opportunities; on the contrary, if anything, my hijab has opened many doors for me, and a part of that has been my recent experience at NYFW.” Mademoiselle Meme, source; Exploring Muslim Influencers Around The World: Mademoiselle Meme

“You choose to do the things that matter to you, and it mattered to me that I wore this. Ran track with this hijab on and I hated it but I was proud. Every place I’ve worked, I’ve felt so conscious of myself because I know I stand out, I know I represent something so much bigger than myself, and I know I am of an immigrant generation that will pave the way for thousands forward. I get scared of failing. And that’s more than enough of a reason to stand tall.” Noha Sahnoune, source Noha Sahnoune

“Do you like wearing the scarf on your head? Well I mean there are days that I like wearing it on my head, but in general… in the bigger picture I don’t think I do like it, no… And there’s going to be loads of people saying ‘well then just take it off make life easier’ but No, I’m not going to take it off; I’ve been wearing it since I was 12……I know this is literally what God wants!…I keep it on…, because of God.” Dina Tokio – Why I wear Hijab (The truth) – youtubevideo – Dina Tokio

So I end it here with simply asking you to #askahijabi.

 

Me too

Me too

Disclaimer: heavy content.

Yesterday a trending hashtag caught my eye.

A trending hashtag brought back repressed memories for hundreds and thousands of women around the world.

A trending hashtag brought those same women together.

Virtually all women stood up and said #metoo!
#metoo, to having been touched inappropriately.

#metoo, to having been raped, date raped, gang raped.

#metoo, to having been sexually molested or abused.

#metoo, to having been harassed at home work or on the street.

#metoo, to having been told to stay quiet!

#metoo, to having been told that “no one will believe you!”

#metoo, to having been told that “you asked for it”.

This trending hashtag showed the whole world yesterday that we are failing our children!

This can’t go on!
I want my daughter to know a world that can stand up and say “nonotme”!

I understand that this may be #notallmen … but this sure as hell is all women.

#metoo
Photo credit @witchoria – http://instagram.com/witchoria

https://bravehearts.org.au

Why date nights/days are VITAL to any relationship!

I remember our very first date night with my husband as new parents. It was nerve wrecking. Minutes before we were scheduled to take my son to my mother in laws, I contemplated cancelling the whole thing a hundred times over in my mind. Could I really ‘pull a sickie’ on my husband and get away with it?

He would see right through it, mummy guilt and all. Isaac was 6 weeks old at the time, we were both sleep deprived, my internet browser was flooded with tabs and links from post-natal help to remedies to relieve a colic baby.

A date night was imperative. Mummy guilt just had to wait. Isaac would be safe, he would be fine, it was one night, just one night of sleep, one night to remember each other. And remember we did. We sat over a beautiful dinner at one of our favourite restuarants in Melbourne and spoke about being parents, spoke about our goals, our fears, our dreams for the future, spoke about each other how incredibly proud of one another we were, how we didn’t think loving another human being apart from each other was even possible.

Date nights. Date days. They are a weekly or sometimes fortnightly MUST in our home. Granted we have the freedom of having the children looked after 99% of the time by our nanny since moving abroad, and I understand this isn’t as easy back home, but when there is a will there is a way. There is a grandparent, a sibling, uncle, aunt or best friend that can surely do you and your partner a solid and take the kids for just a few hours. Those few hours to re-calibrate, regain your sanity, remember who you were before children and how great you’ve become since. It’s the chance to remember and recognise each other behind the 3am screaming crying wake up calls, the 8-6pm draining work hours, the colds, flus and night terrors which leave you both sleepless and ready to throw in the towel if you could.

It’s that one night or day you get to just have a great meal, a movie, a long drive, an icecream or a smoothie, that chance to put your feet up together and say, “kids”?, “what kids?” and laugh or cry, and remember just how incredible a job you are both doing. Trust me, your children may not realise it now, but they will thank you for it later. Healthy relationship – healthy parenting – happy family.

Day date, Bakemart Gourmet – Umm Suqeim, Dubai – October 2017

Heaven lies beneath her feet

Change isn’t always easy. But it’s necessary. Growth is essential to life, if something ceases to grow it dies. Spiritually I was at a point in my life where I was dead. Emotionally I was in turmoil and I needed something to heal some serious wounds. For me that healing was my faith. The only thing that would bring me back to life. It wasn’t a cure or a quick fix, it didn’t mean that life was never going to be hard again, in fact life become much harder for a while. 

But your purpose is shifted and everything redirects, your goals, the end-game, the whole point becomes clear to you. You finally let go of life’s trivialities and you become free. You accept, that everything is in Gods hands and that there are lessons in both the good and the bad that befall us. 

I won’t lie. It’s not easy without her. And by her I mean my mum. I think about her on the daily. I know she thinks about me too. Would you believe me if I told you I can sense her sometimes. She’s my mum at the end of the day, what kind of horrible person would I be if I said I didn’t think about her or miss her? This is just how it has to be for now, I pray it won’t be forever, I pray time with heal all the wounds of the past. I pray there will be a time where my children will grow up to know her, not only from a photograph. 

At least I got 25 years, 25 years is more then some get. She may not have been there to hold my hand while I labored and birthed my children, or watch me walk down the isle, but these are just moments in our short lives that we hold so much value on . Time diminishes them and they slowly fade from our memories. The constant that remains is that she’s my mum, I love her even when it pains me or when I’ve wanted to hate her. And I only just discovered how deep her love was for me since I became a mother myself.