Zoom into the UAE

Communication is key! In the UAE the way we communicate has drastically changed in the last five years. When our family first came to Abu Dhabi Video calling was difficult, at any given moment the government could shut down those capabilities. This was based on intelligence decisions to safeguard their citizens or for reasons the public will never know. This forced communication back to real telephone calls or email and text. With Covid the need to communicate, educate and do business has changed. Zoom has become a reliable platform in the UAE for all these tasks.

Business could not stop any more than necessary under the Covid restrictions. Communication has now been required to be more reliable for their citizens. In the past, disabled video calls crippled social media’s ability to connect its users. The effectiveness and reliability of commonly used Facebook or WhatsApp was a challenge. One could say Covid helped make Zoom in the UAE a trusted tool as a result.

If you do not have a zoom account it is easy to get and essential for an expat! Most friends and family of expats live elsewhere. Navigate to the Zoom website in your browser or go to the App store on your phone. Sign in using your Google Account. This is much simpler than creating profiles in every app or platform you use. Most have a choice to link your accounts.

Communicating as an Expat has never been easier! Keep those you love close, with Zoom!

Laws are Changing

For many Americans looking from the outside in, the UAE may have seemed repressed and unsupportive of women. I often hear this complaint from American women. Culturally the shift has been happening quietly in support of women. Honor killing crimes were not prosecuted and unless laws concerning women were blatantly broken, highly ignored. Now the laws are catching up with a culture that existed anyway and largely supported women. This could have interesting implications on the society.

It may make the service women who try to attach themselves to lonely working men struggle harder for support. These men are either here without their families or single (in a culture with very few women of their economic strata). Culturally it is customary to support the service women who become live ins with a monthly subsistence payment. It is how service women offset low wages that do not compare to skilled or western women. It was essentially a black market for lonely men.

These women work ridiculously hard to make these men attached to them to keep the money flowing. Now they are no longer considered underground or illegal because cohabitation laws have changed. If these women are no longer technically illegal it becomes similar to what laws have done for marijuana in Washington State, or prostitution in Nevada. Black markets exist when there are legality issues or a lack of supply. The supply is not lacking in this service worker/desperate woman market and now the live ins are no longer illegal (provided the man isn’t married).

All in all, I once again applaud the government as they adapt the laws for personal freedoms and to protect women! It removes exploitation and sets the stage for real reform with human rights by exposing many behaviors that have been underground anyway. Customary support is no longer illegal for the live ins and if caught the risk of deportation or a fine has been removed. Laws now have a chance to make some difference and protect these desperate women, by acknowledging that the cohabitation is so prevalent.

Time will tell what happens with this market, but it is important to note that since the culture is changing for many personal freedoms; it only makes sense that the laws will also adapt.

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!

An American Perspective

When first hearing of our family’s new adventure to Abu Dhabi, my husband and I began scouring the web for all the information we could find to expat successfully. Expat is our new verb, just like google, lunch, etc. To expat well we needed others to tell us how they did it successfully. Unfortunately, we found very few blogs or websites from an American perspective. Most were Brits, Aussies, or New Zealanders and frankly if we were to suddenly move to those locations we would still be trying to expat successfully. I say that from experience as we were once moving to the UK and trying to figure out how to do everything despite being in an English-speaking nation.

The experience of living abroad in the UK prepared us for this move and we found the void of information from an American experience something we would like to address. Rule number one to expat successfully is look to a community for support. Luckily, we live in the world of information and social media. It’s much easier now than it was for us to connect to social media groups such as Facebook. You may have gotten tired of Facebook in the states. However, it will now be one of your most valued resources in a foreign country. The UAE is no exception. It is convenient to post a “looking for recommendations request” and information will be delivered right to your wall. No question is too small, and the expat communities tend to be helpful and kind.

The UAE is expanding incredibly! This feels like the next frontier and much like our westward expansion. The UAE can look like a modern version of the wild west with skyscrapers and at times blowing sand, just like the image chosen for this blog. Everything is new and being built faster than the Wal-Mart’s went up in the States. There is a huge need for everything. If you have a niche or an adventurous spirit, come to Abu Dhabi! The culture is very welcoming to everything American. From food, to clothing, to entertainment, all your new favorites and even many of the old brands are already here just waiting for you! Other nations with their branding are also well represented in this new sort of cosmopolitan world.

Hopefully this blog will be a place where other American’s can share their experiences and we can all learn together. I hope you will join our family on this adventure and let’s expat together!

 

 

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