From Australia to Abu Dhabi: Baby Globetrotters
Hi I am Keri – or as I now seem to be known Mrs Globetrotter! I am an Australian, born to British parents, in New Zealand but raised in Australia, lived in London for eight years and now living in Abu Dhabi, UAE with my husband and three children.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I initially moved abroad in 2004 for some work and life experience. Like all great travelers I set out for one to two years and here I am 11 years, one husband and three children further on…
2. How do you make a living?
I am a Chartered Accountant by qualification, so I started my expat life working for Big 4 accounting firms in London doing corporate recovery work. This was exciting work but long hours and then the Global Financial Crisis hit – work became manic. After my first child I moved roles to become an Operations Manager, less hours but still stressful, then after my husband was made a job offer in the UAE and I had my second child in 2012, we pulled up stumps on our London life.
I am now ‘the trailing spouse’, but keeping very busy between the kids, committees, share trading and finally kicking off the writing career I had dreamed about. There is unfortunately little money to be made in blogging and writing as you set out but I am working on building a reader base and enjoying the connections I am making in the process more than anything.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
My parents were immigrants themselves so they understand that it can be hard to communicate across distances and time zones. I try to email every few days even if it’s just photos of the kids or brief updates then we try to use Skype once a week so they can see the kids grow. My parents are technophobes but we’re teaching them! We communicate with friends mostly via Facebook updates, and now via the blog and Instagram too.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in UAE?
We love our expat life in Abu Dhabi, we truly feel spoilt and honoured to live here. Year round sunshine is a huge benefit but the best thing is the family orientated lifestyle we can live.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in UAE?
The thing that frustrates me the most is the lack of courtesy and manners that you can be displayed. There is no one group that is to blame here, be it rudeness and carelessness while driving or general arrogance and some people believing they are more important than others, should be ahead in a queue or treated in a superior way. There is a very loud but unspoken class system in this country which I am getting used to be it shouldn’t be this way, more equality is needed.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss the convenience of having friends and family nearby. I still haven’t met my nephew who is now 18 months old and friends have had countless children who I am only getting to see on Facebook – and I’m sure they feel the same way about our kids!
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Being a parent I think it is very easy to assimilate in a new environment. There are some great play groups in Abu Dhabi, especially through Abu Dhabi Mums and we also joined the Australian social club Aussies Abroad, I am now heavily involved on the committee which is a great way to meet people new and old to town. We were lucky to have my husband’s relatives living here too so they were able to teach us the ropes, helping us finding housing in good locations and where to buy things.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I can’t believe how many people do not find it necessary to strap their children in when they drive, in a car seat or a seat belt. People pick their kids up from school and just let them bob around in the front, hanging out windows. It’s just pure common sense but apparently too difficult to bring in a law to prevent it as it’s too much of a cultural adjustment. There is tireless campaigning on this; I hope one day common sense will prevail.
I also find the practice of letting young children stay up very late at night quite odd, it’s a very late evening culture here but I don’t know how these children can then get up to start school at 7.30am. The school week is also Sunday to Thursday – strange at first but this now feels normal!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Unfortunately the first thing that seems to spring to everyone’s mind when you mention where you live is “are you safe from terrorists”. It is hugely wrong to think just because you live in the Middle East it’s full of terrorists. There are a small minority of extremists Muslims living in this part of the world (but not the UAE) who unfortunately tarnish the reputation for everyone. The Emiratis are loving, welcoming people and take a strong stance against extremists. The risk we face from terrorists is unfortunately no different to the rest of the world at present, be alert but not afraid.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Some things are more expensive like housing and clothing, others are surprisingly cheaper like utilities and even alcohol! It pays to do your sums before moving out and see what is included in your salary package. It’s vital to get your employer to cover your housing, and some will even cover education (expats can only private school or home school). You can control day-to-day spending by choosing carefully where you shop and limiting your outings, but you can live quite handsomely here too – just watch your dirhams carefully and don’t get carried away with the lifestyle!
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Be prepared for the heat. Especially while Ramadan falls over summer there can be some long indoor days ahead of you with no shops and restaurants open. Working hours do adjust but with small children you may have little choice but to wear them out in soft play centres and run them around empty shopping malls! A lot of expats still head home over the summer months but there are an increasing number of summer camps and activities to keep them busy here now.
If you are moving with children, also look at school spots well in advance. The best schools are very popular with long wait lists. These open around October/November the year before and fill immediately. Even competition for nursery spots attached to schools is fierce (you need to start looking from 2 years old to secure a spot).
12. When and why did you start your blog?
We travel with our three kids, a lot! It’s happened by accident rather than design, living a long way from our Australian home when the kids were born has meant a lot of flying over the past 5 years. We also just love to travel and explore in general and we didn’t see why having kids should change this. It certainly changes the pace and location of our holidays but shouldn’t stop us from travelling.
People always seemed interested in our travel stories and how we managed it while they were so young, so I started writing these stories down and BabyGlobetrotters.Net was born. Your expat life can give you unprecedented opportunities to explore new parts of the world, I wanted to equip other families with the knowledge and courage they need to get out there and explore.
The blog also explores parenting experiences around the world, the pros and cons of different expat locations and bringing other people’s family expat stories to life. My aim is to eventually write a guide book for expat families based on our experience.
Keri's blog, Baby Globetrotters
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