Online Again

Upon our arrival our kids were transitioning to Gem’s American Academy in person school. The school is beautiful, and the staff is friendly, as well as helpful! The teachers work hard to connect with the kids, and some have a bit of a language barrier if you are an American English-speaking student.

Transitioning to a school out of the country can have its challenges, but when you add Covid on top of it all transitioning becomes even more complicated. Teachers and staff are tested every two weeks and the students were tested upon entry to school. The society at large moves freely to the mall and restaurants with masks and social distancing. At restaurants once you are seated at your table, your mask can be removed. The staff and kids then filter into a school that have more strict guidelines to adhere to, as well as enforce.

At Gems this week, a teacher or staff person has tested positive and all students were moved to online distance learning from home for 14 days. The school itself is new and highly technical already so the transition seemed easier than what I have witnessed in the states. The teachers are more organized and well versed in interaction with their students online at home. Every student was already required to have a laptop and was operating paperless in person at school. Teachers were utilizing the superior technology they were already amazingly comfortable with to bring to online platforms.

Tuition is exceedingly high but is often partially paid or completely paid by the employer here in the UAE. We have six kids, and some have or are currently enrolled in college back in the states. The Gems tuition feels like college tuition. But I must say for the quality of what my kids are receiving as compared to public education, it also feels well worth it.

I am a strong supporter of public education, but our teachers have not been able to keep up with technology in many of our classrooms. Part of the problem is simply the technology is not available for schools struggling to stay funded by the community and keep enrollments up for federal funding. The other issue is training. How can you train and use technology confidently if it isn’t available to practice and use regularly? Covid has forced the issue, at least it did in our little rural community.

As a parent, it becomes a real difficult decision to keep with what feels like a sinking ship by having our kids in public education and on top of that in a rural school that experiences even more difficulty. The technology gap is just too large now to be ignored. Adaption is key! These kids in rural schools are getting caught in the middle; especially for those who are forced because of financial issues to stay in a less technologically equipped system. Outdated technology is not the answer and does little for the rural kids having to compete in the real world with kids who have more advanced technology available and updated consistently.

For expat families, I consider the education a reason to be here. Your kids will have an advantage above the majority of publicly educated kids in the US and even around the world. Education is no longer a memory game for college and testing, it has become a race into teaching your kids how to work and be productive in a technologically advanced world. The world will not wait for your public-school kids to catch up! Education is another example of the UAE doing things right!

Our Favorite Way to Travel Locally

Careem has become our favorite way to get around the UAE. First download the app to your phone from the Google Play Store. You should already have the app preinstalled on your phone. Apps are the preferred way to navigate UAE expat life.

Our family likes Careem because you can earn free rides, the cars are nicer and cleaner than your average taxi, and are heavily managed by their app. Not only can you follow the progress of your trip on the app itself, but you can enter your destination and even change it mid travel. This solves a lot of confusion about your destination that can occur with a language barrier of any given driver.

At pick up, your driver looks for you which is nice. A tip as well as a rating can be given after your trip. All financial exchanges occur by card. During Covid, it is prudent to have as little exchange as possible.

Another nice thing is that your driver can communicate with you directly to clear up any confusion that may be associated with the booked trip. Also, free-wifi is available. Long trips can be used to keep working or communicating with friends and family. The ride is incredibly smooth in the upscale cars.

Enjoy your travel!

Have it Delivered

The UAE has a huge service industry, everything can be delivered here. Couriers and delivery people are found everywhere often on small motorcycles with a little box attached to the back. Even large items involving a truck can be purchased and delivered in only a few hours. If the store doesn’t offer delivery there are couriers waiting to serve you with amazing response time.

It is not unusual to make a purchase at Ikea for example and then be rushing home, so the delivery doesn’t arrive at your door before you do. A large order is no exception. Many deliveries are free or so affordable that it makes little sense to carry your own items from the store. installation of almost anything is readily available, as well. If a store doesn’t offer the service (which is highly unlikely) then a private company will be attending your needs promptly.

Food delivery of prepared meals through Talabat, directly through restaurants, or even groceries is part of daily living here. Lu Lu’s Webstore seems to be the favorite for groceries by most expats, but that can change on a dime as competition is alive and well here for most things. It’s important to stay networked on social media to keep up with the change and companies that are doing things better than one you have gotten used to using.

Often, ordering food from restaurants can be less expensive than trying to make a meal for your family. Having lived in the land of Costco, we found ourselves speculating where the bulk suppliers were. We were wondering not only for our own use but to explain how restaurants were able to provide such an affordable menu. The sad news fellow American expats, Costco has not made its way to the UAE yet.

Amazon has recently acquired Souq (which can also be added as an app on your phone). I have ordered things and they have been delivered from Dubai in only a few hours for a nominal fee. Amazon is working hard to transform this company to be the staple here like it is for families in the States. I am pleased with their progress. You can use your Amazon account here in conjunction with Borderlinx. All delivery options seem almost too reasonable and make expat life much easier.

It can be difficult to let go of American thinking that it’s better to do and acquire needed items yourself. However, this economy thrives with delivery options and in this case, it is definitely better to adapt and save yourself time as well as money.

As always, thank you for joining us on our adventure as we expat in Abu Dhabi!
Continue reading “Have it Delivered”

They Pride Themselves on Service

In a lyric from Disney’s Aladdin you might recall Robin Williams as the genie singing, “We pride ourselves on service.” As trite as that may sound, that is exactly what kept running through my head as people tried to help me do everything! I had to get used to people calling me Madame everywhere I went. There is a huge population of service here.

Many people have hired help in the form of maids, nannies, and drivers. The service industry comprises mostly of Filipinos. They are very polite and seem to enjoy working in Abu Dhabi. This took a lot of getting used to for me. We do hire help in the states such as housekeepers and lawn care quite frequently. However here, the help is imbedded in the family. Every home has separate quarters for the help with at least a maid’s room and adjoining bathroom.

Restrooms in malls and restaurants have attendants running in the minute you leave the stall to clean up after your visit. Some stand by to offer you towels or anything you might need. I often felt like I need to apologize and assure them I did not soil their very clean restrooms. I could accept that a fancy restaurant would want that type of service, but a mall has heavy traffic, so it takes some getting used to.

Women advertise on Facebook when they are leaving the country to place their nannies or maids with other families. The ads usually are glowing testimonials of how they could never have managed life without their maids.  If the family stays in the middle East these maids often move with them. Many wear uniforms like scrubs as they move about the community with people’s children.

You can’t really be a “No Helpian” if you come to the UAE. These people depend on us expats to make a living. I just do my best to tip well. Unfortunately, tipping is a bit of a Western habit as well. However, I will save that for another post.

If you are going to expat in the UAE, you might as well get used to the idea that there is a whole service industry set up to make your life easier at very little cost. Hopefully, you can find ways to adapt to this as expats will not change the economy here. You can be generous with your tips and what you choose to pay your help.

Once again, thank you for joining us on our adventure as we expat in Abu Dhabi!

Three Essential Apps

Before even landing at the airport in the UAE, make sure you have three essential apps. Not only will you hit the ground running, but you well keep a little more of your money, as you learn to expat.

When you arrive at the airport the first thing you need to do is get to your hotel without breaking the bank. As you attempt to walk out to the curb with your bags, you will be accosted by transportation handlers. There will be the professional looking ones behind desks and also random people walking around asking you if you need a taxi. Ignore them all! They will hustle you into one of their vehicles and quickly get you to agree to an overpriced fare that does not involve turning on the meter.

Instead make sure you have already downloaded a taxi app such as Abu Dhabi Taxi App. Call your taxi using your app before you leave baggage claim with your luggage. It usually takes a few minutes to arrive and they will give you a license plate number to look for at the curb with a nice little text. Often the taxi driver will call you directly to inform you when they will arrive. You will then be armed with the phrase when you are approached, “I already have a taxi, thank you.” Make sure the taxi driver turns the meter on and ask for a receipt when you get to your destination.

When you get to your hotel, you will be dazed and possibly a little hungry. If you don’t want to go down to the hotel restaurants because you would rather just take your shoes off and put your feet up; you have the Talabat App at your fingertips. Food delivery is quick and affordable. There are many offerings that will give you more options than your hotel.

If you do want to go out after your bags have been delivered to your room and you have your family with you then use your Entertainer App. In our case we chose our location as Abu Dhabi. This app allows you to get two for one in many venues. Most likely, even your hotel will have their restaurants listed. This by far has continued to be one of our most valuable in terms of cost saving apps! We have six people that are here in Abu Dhabi. So, we essentially pay for three meals when we go out. You can use up to four per visit. Make sure and alert your server that you have an Entertainer app before you order. Save yourself a headache and be assertive with the number you plan to use. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure that the items you choose to order are indeed covered by the voucher. Unfortunately, the servers try to limit the number of vouchers you cash in despite being allowed four by the app.

Hopefully your arrival goes smoothly armed with these three apps! Thank you for joining us on our adventure as we expat in Abu Dhabi!

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