InterNations Featured Blog
Zvezdana: Sleepless in Dubai Blog
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Dubai, etc.
I was born in ex-Yugoslavia to a Croatian mother and Serbian father. My mother married a Sudanese when I was seven and their mutual fascination with travel and adventure led us on a series of travels and expat postings first to Libya, then Iraq.
When I was eleven we settled in Sudan, after an overland trip by ship, car and train across Eastern Europe, Egypt and the Sahara. Later I married a Sudanese/Egyptian and we moved to the United States in a quest for education and ended up staying for a decade.
Middle East beckoned us again due to its proximity to our families back in Sudan, Egypt, Croatia and Serbia. We wanted our children to grow up understanding more of who they are and where they come from. Thus begun our fifteen year stint in the Gulf. First in Qatar, and then Dubai, a vibrant city of many possibilities and contradictions.
I am a mom to four third culture children, author of Dubai Wives, freelance writer and Interpreter, as well as columnist for Expat Focus and InCulture Parent. Currently, I am working on a novel 'Africa in the way I dance' set in 1970's Sudan.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Writing about multiculture and expat life, their challenges and appeal is a passion of mine. Wanting to share my experiences and the lifestyle in the Arab world came naturally I think. It all came together after my older children moved away to college and I found myself with more time on my hands and therefore more time for writing.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours ?
This post was first published in InCulture Parent magazine and later republished in the Huffington Post. It appeals to me because it portrays the true diversity of our family as well as many others in this part of the world and elsewhere. It also focuses on how our TCK children find their own identities due to the circumstances and environment they are brought up in.
I like Multiculture in the City because this is one of my favorite topics and something I love to address in my blog. Dubai has a little piece of the world within its borders and we are lucky to be able to experience them all if we wish to.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Dubai differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Yes and no to both questions. Even though I grew up in Northern Africa and speak Arabic, and am not the usual wide eyed bewildered expat, I was still fascinated with Dubai. In terms of achievements and possibilities it is unparalleled in the region. My culture shock stemmed from the fact that the city is large and constantly changing due to frantic construction. Also, I found the extravagant lifestyle harder to cope with. Expectations are high and many expats seem to want to attain a superior status in some form. Whether it’s by the way they look and dress or their children’s accomplishments/expensive activities or the plethora of luxuries on offer, the car they drive etc. It is quite a glitzy lifestyle and easy to get sucked into if you are not careful.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Dubai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No, I wouldn’t change anything. I have moved around a lot and found that no amount of arrangements will prepare you for a new culture/lifestyle. Adapting is something that occurs over time with patience and through experience. A job, a home to live in and schools are the basics that should already be in place. But as for everything else, I sort of wait and see what happens and then adjust.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The funniest experiences I had usually had something to do with driving.
Once I got lost for two hours, ran out of gas and frantically sobbing called my husband for help because I was sure I was halfway to the neighboring country of Oman. In fact I had been driving in circles due to the newly constructed overpasses and was within 10minutes proximity of our house. Now I can laugh at this but am still a bit embarrassed and yes, still getting lost in the city.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Dubai?
- Don’t believe everything you hear before you arrive.
- When you get to Dubai involve yourself with the local Emirati people and their culture, not just the expatriate population. There is a lot to learn from the beautiful language and history.
- It is a city full of contrasts, learn to adapt fast.
How is the expat community in Dubai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Fellow expats are easy to find since they are the majority in the Emirate. There is a multitude of interest groups. Expats from around the world will not find a lack of groups, clubs or hobbies to indulge in and enjoy. In fact they might find there is too much to do and have to concentrate on just a few activities.
Finding like-minded people is harder regardless of their nationality I think. There are so many layers to the expat community and finding the right one can be challenging at first.
Personally, I like to surround myself with people who are tolerant, broad-minded and from a multicultural/diverse background.
How would you summarize your expat life in Dubai in a single, catchy sentence?
Dubai is a city where almost no one is who they seem to be... and where everything is possible.