Jan: Travel Arts Life
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Dubai, etc.
My name is Jan D’Sa. I was born to Indian parents who were already living and working in Abu Dhabi in the early 1970s. I am an adult third culture kid in its truest sense. As a child, I would travel to Dubai on the weekends with my family, and I have seen both Dubai and Abu Dhabi transform to cities bustling with tremendous activity. Soon after my parents retired to India, I moved to Dubai to take on role in a global engineering company. That would be six years ago. I have since launched my medical writing and communications consultancy, with a keen interest in medical and wellness tourism.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started to blog as an extension to the articles I was writing for various magazines and while working in a corporate communications role. I first started to write about art events and handcrafted activities happening in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Over time, I started to write about similar events wherever I travelled. Blogging is a very cathartic process which has helped me to find my authentic voice and my ideal target audience.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have many favourite blog entries, but The fear of being seen was one of the more challenging blog stories I’ve written, but it also seemed to have resonated with quite a few people. The fear of being seen is something that many adult third culture kids (who are seeking their authentic voice in this world) struggle with and, having been there, I know what this fear feels like.
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?
Dubai is very different to Abu Dhabi where I grew up. I was already acquainted with Dubai as a child, so it didn’t take much getting used to. I like the contrasts that both the cities offered and these days, I spend time between both the cities. I will be very honest and say that I experienced culture shock when I moved to my passport culture for my bachelor’s degree. That was where I was made to feel by my peers that I was an outsider. That was when my culture identity crisis arose, and one that I have struggled with for more than a decade. I never questioned who I was before then. Thankfully, when I moved to the UK to complete my Master’s Degree, I felt welcomed and at home. So when I moved back to Abu Dhabi and after that to Dubai, my identity as a third culture kid and a global nomad was fixed.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Dubai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Yes, I was. When I was living and working in Abu Dhabi, after my higher studies in India and the UK, I used to frequently take weekend breaks in Dubai. I think I was already thirsting to live in another country or city, so I was well prepared for the excitement and challenges of that move.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I think it is my issue with pronouncing ‘v’ and ‘w’ correctly. I worked for a German boss for nearly a decade, and I was influenced by the way he and my German colleagues pronounced the words. As you might know in German the letter, ‘w’ is pronounced as ‘v’ and ‘v’ is pronounced as ‘f’, so you will sometimes find me saying ‘vomen’ instead of ‘women.’ It’s embarrassing at times, but it’s funny too, because it highlights how easy it is for us to become influenced by other cultures. I have since studied A level of German at the Goethe Institut in Abu Dhabi and I am proud I can pronounce ‘v’ and ‘w’ in German real well, if not in English.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Dubai?
- Research about the city you are moving to. There are so many informative blogs about living in Dubai – read these to get insights as to what day-to-day living is really like.
- Be mindful of local culture and customs.
- Do not assume anything about the new country you are moving to.
How is the expat community in Dubai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
It’s not hard to find like-minded people. What I find is that the expat population is very transient and so it’s difficult to build deeper and meaningful friendships due to this. There have been many times when my closest friends moved away and it’s heart-wrenching.
How would you summarize your expat life in Dubai in a single, catchy sentence?
Dubai is my creative muse.