When we decided to become expats, I knew there were others like us out there – I just had to find them. Once I started looking, I was amazed at just how many people have chosen an expatriate lifestyle. So many people tell me that they wish they could move to another country; I want to share the stories of those who have made the choice. I hope that these stories might encourage others to take the plunge. Today’s guest post is from Dylan of The Travel Manor, a site geared at luxury travel in the Middle East. Dylan has made Dubai his home base for the last five years.
Life In The Gulf
‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Dubai International airport. Local time is 5am and the temperature outside is 34 degrees celsius’.
Seriously? At this time of the morning? I had never been to Dubai before, but having quit my job rather abruptly, I asked my headhunter to please find me a job within the month. She came back a week later with an opportunity at an international advertising agency in Dubai. I was keen to leave South Africa and live the expat life again after previous stints in London and Singapore, so I jumped at the chance.
As much as I love Cape Town, it had got too small for me again, so I did my telephone interview, rented out my apartment, gave my mother my car and hopped on a plane three weeks later.
I landed in the height of summer, during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but fortunately I had two friends already living in Dubai, so they were the first to welcome me. It certainly helped, and after a good night’s sleep and some familiar faces, I felt infinitely better.
I won’t say everything was easy from the start, because no matter where you go, especially if it’s a country with a different religion or culture, it will take some adjustment. There are also quirky anomalies that all countries have developed over time that you need to get used to. In my case it was discovering only after I had started work, that my rent was payable annually, with one cheque. So I, like many other people, had to take a bank loan to pay for it, and that’s something I really wasn’t used to.
Over time I’ve got used to most of these rules and quirks, and sure I still find the rent system strange, but none of them really bother me anymore. If I think about them in context, I find that every country I’ve lived in has had things that I didn’t like or found unusual. Nowhere is perfect. And in fact, after about a year and a half, things in Dubai just got easier and easier which tends to be the case for most expats here. Because of this, the rule of thumb is that if you stay past two years, you tend to settle, or at least stay for quite a few more years.
I may have traded some home comforts, or familiarities since moving, but the upside for me personally has been monumental. In Dubai, the sun always shines, the city is safer than most, it’s extremely cosmopolitan and I can travel anywhere in the world pretty easily. Factor in a tax-free income and the choice isn’t a difficult one to make.
Do I miss home? Very rarely, though admittedly it has got easier every time I’ve lived in a new country. I do miss some friends, and some experiences, but social media makes life easy and I make sure to take my mother on a nice holiday every year.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I love the luxurious expat lifestyle because I always feel like I’m on holiday, even if I’m having a bad day. I meet so many interesting people I never would have, and have so many amazing life experiences I could never have imagined if I’d stayed settled in one city.
What has helped me settle in to my new country? Making friends who have grown up and lived in the region has made a big difference. I have built up a fantastic circle of friends that makes me feel more integrated and settled in the Middle East. They haven’t replaced my friends and family back home, but they make it easier to love my life here. And when I do want to see my friends back home, I can always hop on a plane.
The simple truth is that no matter where I live, there will be things I love and things I don’t. That’s human nature. So I choose to live somewhere exciting and exotic and enjoy all the challenges and thrills it offers. It takes a bit of adjustment, but so does moving down the road. And moving somewhere exotic is infinitely more fun and rewarding in the long run, even if is hot as hell in summer.
More about Dylan
I’ve been living in Dubai for almost five years now. Recently, after fifteen years as an advertising copywriter, I realised I was burned out. So for my 40th birthday I gave myself a gift. I quit my full-time job to spend more time travelling, doing what I love and hopefully inspiring others to do the same. Because as Bhutan’s King once said: Gross domestic Happiness is more important than gross domestic product.
I hope you’re enjoying these expat guest posters as much as I am. If you have suggestions for other expats you would love to hear from, or specific countries you’d like to hear an expat story from, leave a comment and let me know!