Pam: Glimpses of Pam
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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.
People at work call me Pamela, while friends call me Pam. I’m a Filipino, but I was born in Papua New Guinea where I stayed until I completed Primary School. After that, my parents brought me to the Philippines where I thought I would stay for the rest of my life. When the golden opportunity to work in Dubai knocked unexpectedly on my door in 2004, I grabbed it with the plan to stay here for only a couple of years. Of course, that plan changed, and now it’s been 11 years since I first set foot in the Middle East.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started my blog in 2010 after my eldest daughter had turned a year old. I wanted to keep a diary or record of her accomplishments, my thoughts, and anything significant our family experienced. After almost 5 years, I’m glad I have this blog to look back at all the memories and things that have happened.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite post is when I passed the road test and was issued a driving license. I’ve been terrified to drive for as long as I can remember, but that entry reminds me that if I really want to achieve something, I shouldn’t let my fears get in the way. We are more capable of doing things than we give ourselves credit for.
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?
The first thing I noticed when I arrived 11 years ago was how organized Dubai was. You couldn’t see a piece of litter anywhere, practically everything was in order, and the air was so clean! Needless to say, I was very careful to throw my rubbish in the trash cans :) And even when I would go out alone, I felt safe wherever I went because there were hardly any crimes or accidents happening in the streets. It was completely different from the Philippines. With a great place like this where people are disciplined and generally obey the laws, I didn’t have a hard time adjusting. I was just grateful that I was here.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Dubai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I didn’t know what to expect when I accepted the offer to work in Dubai. People kept telling me that it was an “open city” even though it was an Islamic country, but I didn’t really know what that meant back then. I just told myself to expect the unexpected and not do anything illegal. Looking back, I don’t think I would have changed any of the decisions or preparations I made. Sure I felt homesick during the first few months, but that’s normal and it helped make me become stronger and more independent.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My job entails coordinating and calling various establishments, and there was an instance when I finally came face to face with a woman whom I had been dealing with over the phone for a long time. She was so surprised when she realized who I was when she saw me because I wasn’t what she expected. Apparently she thought I was a big (tall) lady from a western country, and I was the absolute opposite from what she had pictured me. We had a good laugh over her shock, and she almost always brings it up whenever we meet.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Dubai?
- Do your research. Know what you’re getting into by asking friends or family, read reference sites, newspapers, and blogs, and familiarize yourself with the laws and culture. This may be an open city, but it is a Muslim country where the local people are still conservative.
- Remind yourself that your life here will only be temporary. Expats will always be expats. There is no law yet that allows expats to be citizens of the country, regardless of how long they’ve lived in the UAE.
- As long as you’re not planning to do anything illegal, be prepared to enjoy the exciting life that awaits you.
How is the expat community in Dubai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Even though I got along with my colleagues when I first moved here, we didn’t have the same interests in the social sense or maybe I was still trying to get used to working with people from other nationalities. It was only after around 5 months when a colleague invited me to a church community. That’s when I was able to get over my homesickness and meet people with the same interests as me who eventually became my friends.
How would you summarize your expat life in Dubai in a single, catchy sentence?
Constantly changing, continuously growing, and always colorful and exciting.