4 Things You Should Know about Living in Abu Dhabi

  1. If you can’t make friends here, you’ll struggle to make friends anywhere. Sounds harsh, but let’s think about this. The one thing that everyone here has in common is that they are all away from home in a strange city and trying to make a new life for themselves. Everyone wants to make friends. It’s just not the same in other places in the world where there are large networks of people who have grown up together, gone to school together and have often not travelled far from home, let alone moved town or country! When my husband and I lived in Australia, we actually encountered people who openly said they already had enough friends. They just weren’t interested in meeting new people or expanding their network. It was just a completely different mindset. But there are so many people here in Abu Dhabi that all want the same thing, they all want to fit in and meet good people and create a comfortable life for themselves. I have found people here to be some of the most open and welcoming I have met – and of all nationalities. There’s always the odd weirdo or established clique wherever you go but I’m sick of hearing people whine on about how hard it is to meet new people – yes, it is hard to meet new people if you only hang around in the same group all the time and don’t go anywhere new or get involved in new things. It’s as easy or hard as you make it – you’ve just got to stop talking about what you could do and actually get out there and start doing it. Let’s face it – you’ve already taken the bold and scary step of actually moving overseas so you’re halfway there, just a little more unfailing confidence in yourself and you’ll be amazed at what can happen next if you let it.
  2. The driving here sucks. No matter how bad you thought the roads were in your home country (unless you’ve come from the likes of Pakistan, or India…!), I promise you that they’re worse here. Well, to be specific, it’s not the roads that are bad – in such a wealthy country as the UAE we are lucky to have some of the smoothest, straightest, widest, newest and most pristine roads you’ll ever have seen – it’s rather more the drivers on those roads that are bad, wait, no – terrible, shocking, appalling even! Seriously, the TV show ‘police, camera, action’ has nothing on the driving here. I suppose, shall we say, ‘idiosyncrasies’ are inevitable in a country that is such a melting pot of cultures, but if you can dream it, you can pretty much guarantee that residents of the UAE have actually seen it happen on the roads here, and probably on a daily basis. Racetrack speeds on all roads big or small seems to be fair game. Despite it being illegal not to indicate when changing lane (or turning a corner for that matter) only a brief observation of the roads here will lead you to wonder if anyone actually knows that their car did in fact come equipped with indicators. And don’t even get me started on windscreen wipers… I’m absolutely certain the majority here don’t know they do exist, partially due to the infrequency with which they ever need to use them. I have actually seen people in little more than an overgrown puddle hanging out of their sunroof waving and flailing for help as though they’d been stranded on a desert island for months. I kid you not. I’m also fairly certain that drivers in the UAE see the local road laws as ‘Top Gear’ style challenges rather than rules to be obeyed. Driving while talking on your handheld mobile phone? Illegal! Texting while driving? Illegal! Driving up behind someone at 140 km an hour inches from their rear bumper flashing your lights and beeping the horn to get them to move out of your lane? Illegal! Reversing back up the motorway to get to the exit you missed rather than just taking the next one? Highly illegal! Crossing a 6 or 8 lane motorway from the one side to the other at high-speed in a sharp diagonal to reach an exit 200 metres in front? Illegal! Yup – all illegal, yet not a day, or even an hour goes past where you don’t see this type of behaviour in action. Roundabouts are another one – Ferrari World may have the world’s fastest rollercoaster but just take on any roundabout in central Dubai or Abu Dhabi and you’re in for your own personal white knuckle ride. Come on people – it’s really not that hard… pick the appropriate lane according to which exit you require and then stick to it! But no, there seem to be very few who can actually manage this, changing lanes erratically as they drive round. Another local favourite is beeping impatiently at the vehicle that dared slow down or – gasp – actually come to a full stop to give way at a roundabout or exit. I can only conclude that these offenders must have watched too many films like the Fifth Element and contrary to their behaviour are not aware that we have not yet reached the point where road traffic hovers effortlessly, is perfectly timed and continues to flawlessly flow at warp speeds. If you pull out right in front of someone when both of you are at any speed, you are fairly likely to have an accident. It’s not really rocket science is it? Oh, and of course then there’s the Holy month of Ramadan to look forward to as well – they don’t nickname it ‘The Fasting and the Furious’ for nothing, but I’ll leave that one for another day.
  3. It can be very transient here. So, you’ve lived here for a few years, and have worked hard getting out there to build yourself a great network of close friends and good acquaintances, and as sure as the day is long, that’s about the time it happens. That’s when they start leaving. Oh, pants. Yes, life is good here but one of the downfalls of expat life anywhere is that eventually, there’s a good chance that people are going to move on. Some get posted elsewhere with work and some decide it’s time to return home. Whilst it’s unlikely that your entire network is going to disappear at exactly the same time you’re still going to want to get out there to meet other people. Which brings me back to my first point and helps explain why people tend to be so friendly and welcoming here – the country is basically pretty much a massive revolving door. But it’s not so bad. That’s really quite exciting isn’t it? As the saying goes, ‘it takes all sorts to make a world’ so just think of the things you can learn from and experience with all these new friends you make. You’ll also find yourself with an extensive address book of firm friends who live all over the globe. And that’s good news when it’s time to plan a holiday!
  4. Lulu Hypermarket – Best Supermarket in the UAE. Fact. What you can’t find in a Lulu Hypermarket pretty much isn’t worth having. This behemoth of a supermarket / department store has it all covered, from global groceries to household goods, to suitcases, clothing, homeware and more. Pretty much everything you could ever need can be found in Lulu and all for a bargain price. It does however, seem to provoke reactions in people a bit like Marmite – people seem to either love it or hate it. I have heard people complain about the standard of the fruit and veg in Lulu – but come on people – fruit and veg is not meant to be the produce equivalent of Giselle Bündchen or Cindy Crawford! Just as there are very few supermodels in the world, the same goes for perfectly, pristine fruit and veg – it is not normal that it comes out of the ground all polished and perfect – it just doesn’t happen, hence the reason Photoshop, make up, Wonderbras and Spanx were invented for people! Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I can take my fruit and veg beaten and battered – I like a decent specimen as much as the next person, but when people complain that “it looks like it’s been handled by every passer-by”, I can’t help but question that argument. I mean, isn’t that why we are supposed to wash said produce before we eat it?! Additionally, in some of the other more ‘upmarket’ stores, the one thing you can be absolutely sure of is that the produce there has without doubt been touched by far more hands than you might like to admit. Go on, take another look – every single orange, apple and lemon has each not only been touched by the person who has polished it to within an inch of its life, but then also painstakingly stacked it into that pretty, towering arrangement that you see before you…  I mean, what kind of crazy superficial world are we living in when even nature’s own foods can be judged as not meeting our impeccable standards?! As long as it’s fresh, it’s good. Just avoid shopping there on Friday or Saturday late afternoons at all cost to spare yourself from the feeling you’ve accidentally stepped into the middle of a multicultural riot where the world is about to end and food is being swiped from shelves faster than you can say ‘apocalypse’. That’s my top tip for building a loving relationship with Lulu.

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