Moving to the Middle East
Making the decision to move to the Middle East was both daunting and exhilarating. It seemed so far from home and worlds apart from the life I was used to. In saying that, it was, without doubt, the best decision I’ve ever made.
Four years ago, Danny and I packed our lives into two suitcases and left for Qatar. The goodbyes almost killed me and I cried the entire flight from Dublin – Dubai – Doha. We had just secured teaching jobs in the same school and the thought that I’d have him nearby kept me going. We soon settled in though and made friends for life. Doha is a lovely city, much smaller than Abu Dhabi or Dubai, but also less crazy. We got involved with the GAA in Doha which was great, although, I should point out that I’d never played Gaelic football before and I’m not in any way athletically gifted, but it was a great way to get to know people and socialise. I was also able to take up Irish dancing again in Doha. We spent a year there and then decided it was time to move on. We applied for jobs in Abu Dhabi and have been here since.
For those of you unfamiliar with the UAE (United Arab Emirates), it’s a country that’s made up of seven Emirates (similar to principalities). The seven emirates are Abu Dhabi (the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. Emiratis make up only 10% of the population of the UAE, the rest are expats. We fell in love with Abu Dhabi as soon as we arrived and now consider it our second home.
There’s a huge Irish community here in Abu Dhabi and, interestingly, this is where the first ever GAA world cup was held in 2015. There are opportunities to get involved in virtually any sport or pastime you fancy, be it dance, art, music, diving or quad bike racing in the desert ☺️
Because Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both big, multi-cultural, metropolitan cities, making friends can be challenging at times. It’s important to put yourself out there and get involved in groups or organisations that interest you. Remember that everyone here was once in your shoes too!
A HUGE advantage of living here is the tax free salary. Whilst the cost of living is quite high, it’s still possible to save and travel more than you would be able to working elsewhere. Accommodation is generally provided for you by your company, or school, as in my case, which means you don’t have to worry about paying rent every month either. Travelling from here is easy too as there are direct flights to most destinations. It’s even possible to go to Oman, Egypt or India for a weekend! Living here has allowed us to travel to countries we probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise, like Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bahrain.
If you’ve been thinking about moving to Abu Dhabi or Dubai, and are still on the fence, my advice is just do it! Even for the cultural experience alone! If you don’t like it you can always go home. I find it takes people roughly four – six months to really find their feet here and settle in. Some don’t, and end up going home after a few months, which is totally understandable, and then there are others, who come to ‘try it out for a year’ and ten years later they’re still here! The thing is, you’ll never know unless you try.
Feel free to comment or get in touch if you have any questions you’d like to ask me and keep an eye out for more blog posts very soon. ☺️