From America to England: The...
De Belgique à Madrid: Madrid...
From Melbourne to Dubai: The Hedonista
02 July, 2012 09:26
My name is Sarah, and I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I studied wine, worked in restaurants, had my own business selling wine, and then one day, my husband said – Hey, let’s move to a Muslim country! I’ve been living in Dubai for just over four years, and have managed to find plenty of happiness and activity to fill the (watering) hole.
1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband got a job paying lots of money, and I was slowly drinking all my profits. It was time for a change, and he promised I could get a maid.
2. How do you make a living?
I’m what they term here, a “Jumeirah Jane”. I don’t work. My kids are in school. I have a maid. I’m sure you’re all completely disgusted with me already, but I’ve got more to add to the list. Considering we live in the belly of the world (after most of my life sitting in the right heel at the bottom of Australia), I decided it might be a good idea to start a travel blog. So it is vital that I travel. Lots.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I used to use skype all the time, but my Mum is the only person in Australia over the age of 65 who knows how to use a computer, and she has since tragically been incapacitated. I now phone.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Dubai?
Did you read my answer to question two? My whole life over here is my favourite thing.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Dubai?
The heat. It’s mid-may currently, and already I want to take my Summer holiday. Between the start of June and the end of September, it is so horrid out here, you feel like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. Except there is no water needed or available to melt you. Fortunately I’ve got a week in the Maldives in June, South of France in July, and Australia in August.
There are other, more serious things, of course – all cultures come with a shock, expecially when so many different ones, and the classes within them are mixed. Inequality is a big issue here – and believe it or not, sometimes I feel very, very guilty about the way I live.
6. What do you miss most?
Apart from the obvious (friends and family), I miss great local food and wine. Dubai has some superb restaurants, and you can buy liquor at stores, hotels and clubs. However, everything is imported. It just doesn’t taste the same. It’s impossible to get a nice chicken to roast for less than about $25US (plenty of horrible ones for $3), Tomatoes usually taste like water, and the lack of variety and heavy presence of tax on wine is sometimes heartbreaking.
7. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Nobody seems to understand Australian self-depreciating humour or the possibility that someone is just pulling your leg without having the words “knock-knock” at the start of the sentence. All over, everybody seems to take me a little too seriously. I’m happy to laugh at my faults, they should be too.
On a more serious note, there is a distinct barrier between classes and cultures here. I’m not going to give examples as I don’t want to offend anyone, but you will receive preferential treatment, or the cold shoulder depending on what you want, who you are, what colour your skin is, what you do for work, and how much money people assume you have. I’ve seen both ends of the stick.
8. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That women are oppressed and forced to live under the veil in all Muslim countries. This is far from the truth, particularly here in Dubai. UAE national women will more often than not wear an abaya and a headscarf (a small percentage adopt the niqab – slits for eyes only). It is their choice in most cases (but it is true, not in all) in the UAE, unlike other countries where the lines between church and state are less firmly drawn. Anyone else can wear whatever they like, and there are no religious police here. However, blatant exposure and stupid sexual behavior are punishable. Unfortunately this does not stop some women wearing leggings and tank-tops when really, they shouldn’t.
9. What advice would you give other expats?
Make sure you are earning a good salary here as compared to back home. It’s true, there is no income tax, but life can be more expensive that most would expect. Food is cheaper than Australia, rent is more. Petrol is cheaper, schools are much more. You may also want to adapt certain parts of your current lifestyle to combat difficulties you find here – e.g. Summer is so atrocious, that most are overseas for the whole two months – that’s a lot of holiday to pay for.
10. When and why did you start your blog?
This blog was started in November 2010 to talk abut my expat life in Dubai (and mainly for my mum to read), but after a name-change (it was dubai-ified.blogspot.com), it has taken a more pointed direction down food and travel paths. After all, that’s what I know best.
Sarah's blog, The Hedonista
Find out more about being an expat in UAE with Easy Expat's