Tag Archives: expats

Dubai 2.0

Seeing Dubai through a visitor’s eyes is a rejuvenating process

I’ve been entertaining my Dad in Dubai for the past ten days and it’s been surprisingly wonderful. Whether it’s that we’ve both mellowed enough to enjoy a more extended dose of each other’s company, or whether it’s having T around as the defuser, or much needed pressure valve, I don’t know. All of the above?

I was explaining this to my colleague, Greg, and he said ‘isn’t it wonderful having guests and showing them around and rediscovering all the things you love about the place!’. It hit me that it was exactly what had been happening. Everywhere I’d been going, I was thinking to myself, ‘wow, isn’t this a wonderful place’. I was falling in love with Dubai all over again.

The past year has been levelling. A lot of old friends moved away and the transient nature of this expat hub was drawn into all too sharp a focus for us. I’ve been finding it too easy to fixate on this young city’s room for process improvement and have let myself lose sight of the rich and wonderful parts of living here. Having Dad’s fresh eyes has helped me see through the crap. Not only his fresh eyes, but he managed to bring another set of fresh eyes into my life – kind of. Let’s just say, last week I met a friend he’s known since studying Mandarin with her in Sydney a decade ago, she’s just moved here on her own journey making New Memories and I really look forward to hearing about how she finds her feet and sharing her discoveries.

I’m right in the middle of my Dubai renaissance and I’m going to start talking it up, and shift the balance of this blog to ‘travels’ from ‘travails’. Perhaps you might start seeing a hint of the effervescence of fellow Dubai blogger Britney of Arabia and just maybe on my way, I can even convince the doyenne of all things Shamelessly Salacious to fall in love with Dubai again with me.

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Arriving in the downturn

When I left London in November 2008, Britain was in recession and The City had already adopted the spirit of depression. It was grim. Magazines were running stories on ‘tasty ways to use leftovers’. My cosy freelance arrangements were looking shaky, each every one of them. So I bailed. I had the chance to work in Dubai and I grabbed it. I thought to myself that exuberant Dubai would have to be able to ride this out. And I wasn’t mistaken when I arrived. The pre-Christmas silly season was indeed mad. Expats were splashing their cash around in bars, restaurants and shopping malls like there was no tomorrow.

But three months on,  tomorrow has arrived. Times have changed.

“It is a crazy time to be in Dubai, things are so different economically now compared to when I arrived, it’s hard to believe it’s only been 6 months! It’s all doom and gloom now!”, a twenty-something Western expat told me.

Even the most regular socialites have been postponing nights out until after payday. People are declining invitations to go away for the weekend because household expenses have been racking up. Four people in my immediate social circle have been made redundant in the past couple of months and three times that number in my extended entourage. Note that I’m only referring to expats here because it is illegal to make an Emirati redundant, or to fire them for economic reasons.

Or there’s the horrible Russian-roulette scenario one girl I know had to go through. She works at a large hospitality group.

“I just had a very awful situation at work (basically we were all on the chopping block) which thankfully turned out OK. It seems I am one of the lucky ones to have survived and still kept my job, however we are now seriously understaffed.”

The crunch certainly hit later here, but will hit hit as hard and will it last as long? People certainly talk about the bottom inevitably falling out of the false market. (And talk is really all you can do, seeing as the media is not allowed to report ‘Dubai’ and ‘recession’ in the same sentence. )

The Business Breakfast show on a local radio station, Dubai Eye, recently ran a poll on whether expats thought they were better off in Dubai.

They asked whether people thought their prospects in the financial crisis were better in the Gulf than in their home country and 63 per cent agreed.

I think I’ll stay put for just a little while longer.

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