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Monday, April 21, 2014

Confessions of a (Rookie) Expat Wife

It’s been a month now since I’ve arrived in Abu Dhabi, and for the most part, I think I’m settling in nicely. In fact, I’m almost finding that my hysteria surrounding my coming to Abu Dhabi that I wrote about earlier on this blog is almost, ever so slightly, a bit embarrassing.

Already I can say that I love the sun, the beach, the golf, the food AND our apartment.

But I have to admit, I do have this sort of low-grade uneasy feeling of this new situation I’m in. And it’s certainly not about the place, but about finding my place in it.

One of the key deciding factors for us to come to Abu Dhabi was that tourism is growing here. So the thought was that not only would John be working, but I could potentially move my career forward as well as a marketing/public relations expert in the travel industry.  Sure, I applied to a few jobs before I got here but as things go when you’re breaking things down and then building things up again in a new place, the job search hit the back burner.

Now that I’ve had a few days on the beach and enjoyed a few rounds of golf, and know how to get around, I’m beginning the search again. But I realize this could take time. And luck. And persistence. And a little thing around here called ‘wasta.’

In the meantime, I’ve become what they call…

An Expat Wife.

And seriously, folks, I just don’t even know how to begin to describe what this entails.

For starters, there are the coffee mornings. 

The American Women's Network's Abu Dhabi bi-weekly coffee mornings
regularly attract crowds of 150+ ladies from around the world

Then there’s the golf. 

Golf at Yas Island - Ferrari World as the backdrop.

And the beach.  

The Beach at the Corniche

And let’s not forget the belly-dancing lessons (Oh, the belly-dancing lessons!). 

Attempting to shake my money-maker.

There’s also the mah jong, bridge and book club. And road trips. Awesome road trips to the Falcon Hospital and the Dubai Mall and the Souqs. 

And the beach parties.  And coffee.

And more coffee.

Did I mention the coffee?

And the truth is… I am such a ROOKIE at this!!!

I’ve never done the expat thing, but a lot of the women I have met have. They come from all over the world – the UK, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Philippines. And they have lived all over. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia. And they are fascinating, savvy, no-nonsense, go-getting types of women. These are strong, brave women who know how to get things done.

I had a dream recently that I showed up at one of the many coffee mornings and everyone was wearing a Girl Scout-like sash with badges. They wore badges that indicated where they’ve lived, what activities they did, and badges that indicated everything they knew about being an expat. And being an expat in Abu Dhabi. 

And in this dream, they had a slew of badges, back and front. 

And me?  In this dream I have only one badge. And it says, “ROOKIE.”

Last week, John applied for my residence visa and in the line that said occupation, it read: HOUSEWIFE.


When I chatted with another woman who used to have a career before she came here a few years ago, she kind of shrugged and said, “So what?”

And that's just it. There’s an incredible ease about these women. They roll with the punches, take things as they come. This is an entirely different kind of life. A life where you need to be more open and flexible and always seek out creative ways to live and work and thrive. Maybe they'll work. Maybe they won't. So what. Life will continue. Opportunities will unfold.

Inshallah, at some point I will be working. But in the meantime, I need to RELAX and enjoy the ride that life is giving me right now. 

And while I don't think I need to find myself, it might not be a bad idea to just be a bit more comfortable with my situation and work to not feel quite so lost... because I'm not. I'm just getting used to my new surroundings. 

So I go and enjoy the golf. And I go and enjoy the beach.

And I consider Kerry's (one of John's friends from his expat stint in Nigeria) suggestions to sign up for the Scottish Folk Dancing, and Drama Club and to get in to the 'best damn shape of my life.'

And this guilt thing, I’m not sure if it's a New Yorker thing, a German work ethic thing, or just a ‘me, myself and I’ thing. Why should I feel guilty for having fun while the rest of it all shakes out? 

So I look at my to-do list, and sure, there’s stuff on it. Stuff that my husband even has to remind me about…

And yeah, I need to do a bit more job-hunting... but once you comb the job boards and look into the networking, you gotta fill up the time...

So I guess that means I could do the housekeeping, but hell, cleaning three bathrooms every week? Forget it.

And I could probably cook more.  But there are restaurants to check out, and delivery to take in.

And I have golf lessons, and book club to get to…

And suddenly, I realize, maybe I am starting to feel right at home. 

That's me!

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