Ann: A Canadian in Abu Dhabi
Having left her native Canada for Abu Dhabi in 2008 and having gained quite some experience dealing with blogs from her previous job, we’re sure blogging about expat life in the UAE must have come quite naturally to Ann. Her blog, A Canadian in Abu Dhabi, does not only contain entertaining episodes from her life abroad, but also covers interesting news stories and everything else that can make expat life in Abu Dhabi a real treat.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Abu Dhabi, etc.
I am a journalist who moved to Abu Dhabi in 2008 to work on the launch team for The National, a national English newspaper.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I was a blogger for a newspaper back in Canada and knew before I came here that I would be blogging about the experience. Four years later I am still at it, although I've definitely slowed down!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- Only in the UAE: Cheetah roams Sharjah streets, terrifies mosque-goers at prayer time
- And then, it was a little better
Tell us about the ways your new life in Abu Dhabi differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
There are so many ways my life in Abu Dhabi is different. I live in an apartment that I rent, rather than own. I take taxis everywhere. I go on vacation every few months to amazing destinations that were out of reach in Canada (Bali, Australia, Iraq, Sri Lanka) I had a lot of trouble getting used to life here: everything was so different and I had none of the support network I was used to back home. Sure, I could call them, but they couldn't really understand what I was going through. I think it takes much longer to get used to moving overseas than you think it will. But eventually, you will become a confident citizen of the world!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Abu Dhabi? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Well, I always say that I would do more reading and talking to people about life here, but in the end I think that all the research in the world can't prepare you for the sheer number of cultural differences you will face. You really do just have to keep an open mind and remind yourself to be patient with others and yourself at all times. In the end it is a very very rich experience, one that I would never trade.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Well taxi drivers are always asking me if I am married and whether I have children, and since they are from countries where almost all women do marry and have children very young (Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal) in the beginning they would be bowled over with shock when I said that I wasn't and I didn't. I got sort of tired of it, so eventually I just started lying and saying I had a husband and two children. But their questions grew very detailed and I hadn't always worked my backstory out. One driver, after peppering me with questions, looked at me through the rearview mirror and said "you don't have any children". I confessed and we both laughed that he caught me out.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Abu Dhabi?
- There's a lot of stimulation coming at you, so be kind to yourself!
- Make a financial plan so that you can put yourself on a good track and have lots to show for your time here.
- Learn, learn, learn from others - and resist the urge to judge the differences. Trust me; all cultures at times look ridiculous to one another.
How is the expat community in Abu Dhabi? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I fell in with a great crowd at the newspaper and have since met several people through outside activities I enjoy, including yoga.
How would you summarize your expat life in Abu Dhabi in a single, catchy sentence?
So much happens, we joke it's like a television show; after hearing the latest outrageous development, my friends and I frequently put on a dramatic voice and start a sentence with: "on this episode of Abu Dhabi..."