(GUEST POST) I’ve teamed up with on of my expat friends, afro-UK Brit Helen of the travel blog helendebrahampofo.com. If you are thinking of moving abroad, this is the post for! Check out what we wish we knew before moving abroad.
Hello wonderful people! I hope you’re all doing well and staying safe during these uncertain times. In this post, I’m teaming up with Tia from TiaTakesTheWorld to bringing you useful tips about our expat experience. Neither of us had visited the Middle East before relocating here; there were so many misconceptions we had back then that we could only find out about if we had someone on the inside. We don’t want you to make the same mistakes we did so here’s ‘What We Wish We Knew Before Moving To Abu Dhabi.
Listen, we’ve got McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, AND Starbucks. This is America. We thought we’d be wading through sand to get to the local supermarket but it’s quite the contrary. To the point where you have to go out of your way to find the local culture because it’s not as overt as we thought it would be.
The Dress Code Is Not That Strict
We both thought Abu Dhabi/Dubai would be super strict regarding what we would be allowed to wear. Funny how we both went out and bought long dresses, skirts and cardigans to be respectful only to realise the way we dressed back home was totally fine. In most places. There are clothing restrictions here but if you’re planning on relocating, get here first before deciding to change your whole wardrobe.
Tia came out to the UAE as a single lady with a full teaching contract. I came out here on my husband’s visa and a promise that the restrictions regarding my work opportunities would be lifted in no time. Four years in, I’m still without a full-time career. I’ve definitely grown a lot since being here and wouldn’t change it for the world but would I have come if I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a job as a teacher? Probably not. Make sure if you’re relocating, you’re coming out on a guaranteed contract rather than a pipe dream.
With that said, the fact that Massimo and I have been able to live better out here on one tax-free teacher’s salary rather than two back home says a lot! If you do have a job opportunity here, the move is well worth it and the quality of life is fab.
Afro Hair Struggles
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I started my Abu Dhabi journey with a bald head. Never once did I consider the fact that I wouldn’t be allowed in the men’s barbershop and struggle to maintain my trim. So I decided to grow my hair out but ran into two problems: I had no idea where to find black girl hair products and I knew no one who looked like me who could point me in the right direction. So I birthed AfroHairUAE, a community of expat women in the United Arab Emirates with natural hair.
On Instagram, I flood the feeds with beautiful Black women with fros, and Facebook is where the community connect and recommend best hair services in the UAE. Check us out on the socials!
There is soooo much to do here, particularly in Dubai. Brunches happen every weekend and are always well attended. Especially by the Brits – you can spot us a mile away causing a ruckus.
If you’re a lady, you seldom have to pay for outings because there is a Ladies Night somewhere every day of the week. In specific locations across the cities, ladies get free entry to restaurants/bars/clubs with free drinks (yes, alcoholic ones!) and in some places, 50% off the food bill. So yeah, it’s lit!
This topic needs a whole separate blog post to be honest. I’m gonna have to rope Massimo into doing a video with me about it. But in a nutshell, Abu Dhabi is EXPENSIVE. Dubai is even more EXPENSIVE. It’s more pricey than London in my opinion (but I suppose because I’m from there, I know how to get by on the cheap).
But for Tia, she finds living in Abu Dhabi less expensive than North Carolina, USA, where she’s from. That is wild to me! Can’t think of many more places more expensive than the UAE!
There are only a few things I find cheaper here than back home in the UK though, like:
Fish from Mina Port
Passport Privilege in Abu Dhabi
DXB airport is at the centre of the world. You can fly pretty much anywhere from there. Tia and I are seasoned travelistas now and because the finances are up and the holidays are generous here, we have been afforded plenty of globetrotting opportunities. Since being here, I’ve been to Germany, Switzerland, Ghana, The Philippines, Colombia, Oman, Czech Republic, Malaysia and Singapore.
RIP Japan 2020 though. That would have been an EPIC trip but The Rona…
Tia and I have been blessed with passport privilege. Travelling While Black is really a thing: yes, even in 2020, Black people have to be careful about where they choose to visit. Not everywhere is welcoming to us of a darker hue. But being citizens of America and Britain has meant that, irrespective of the colour of our skin, our passports do the talking. Being friends with Africans born and raised in Africa, we know that this is a privilege we are not all afforded. We’ve never been refused entry into countries like our African counterparts. Our visas have never been denied.
Tia and I are both pleased that we have been able to practise Christianity out here. There are a lot of churches in operation and in some ways, they like it more if you have some form of religion rather than none. Our churches aren’t underground either (thank God cos it’s hot out ‘ere)! We love the fact that the UAE is dedicated to tolerance and we are allowed the freedom to serve God.
You can find out more about my experiences moving abroad in the following posts: Abu Dhabi is NOT Dubai, EXPAT LIFE: HOW IT STARTED,and ALLOW ME TO REINTRODUCE MYSELF: MY 2 YEAR CHECK IN
Take the World!