Living away from your motherland comes with a lot of excitement to explore the planet with all the blessings that has to offer to humankind. I am currently living in the UAE, Dubai. When I came here my expectations were so high, the excitement was unmatchable. The journey from my country was full of curiosity as a first timer in travelling by air it was almost as magical as ever.
As a new explorer, you are so excited to see the new places, new technologies, state of art buildings and so many things around you that only wows and mesmerizes you. All these makes you to realize how blessed you are and how amazing everything is that you can only see beauty and wonderful things. Currently I am almost staying here for 3 years and there are many advantages staying here and as we all know everything has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages are as follows:-
- Learning to stay with people with different multi-racial, cultural and religion beliefs.
There are so many people from all over the world working, living or even visiting Dubai; actually Dubai is praised for tolerating people from all over the world. In fact, the ‘locals or the emiratis’ are praised for being very friendly and tolerant to the visitors and expats and from all over the globe. Being in Dubai has taught me to learn to stay and work with people from diverse backgrounds, races, cultures, beliefs, and mindset and from different religions.
- You become open minded
Your way of thinking become different and diverse as you become receptive to the changes that is happening around you each and every day. You meet people from all over the world with different experiences, mindsets and knowledge. You are ready to change your mind and accommodate other people and also try to reason with them depending on their reasoning capacity or their beliefs, cultures and customs. You also learn to listen more than talk more. You learn and re-learn a lot of things in your life as you know that you are still evolving.
- Appreciate high value friendships and relationships
When you are abroad you learn to value and appreciate the friendships that are true and genuine and the relationships that bring the best in you. You can always count on the genuine friends despite being apart and in different location. Real friendships last longer and are very rare. Having one is out of luck.
- You become brave and face your fears
When I came to Dubai, I never thought that life will be the way it is today. I had different goals for myself. I had career choices that were completely different from what I am doing now. I loathed working in a restaurant, I hated it. Today that is exactly what am doing, I have learnt a lot of things, customer service, handling different situations, became fearless and hopefully, I will rise in the ladder of leadership because I can. I feared talking to new people and strangers, now all I see is new people equals new experience, ideas and new friends.
- You become confident and embrace who you are
Life as an expat throws you to strangeness that you have no choice but to become brave, pick yourself up and become confident in who you are and what you will become. You are like a sheep in the middle of foxes and all you have to do it find a way to survive there. As a black person usually you tend to get stereotypes that you have to ignore or face them head on with no fear or worry.
- You learn that you can survive anywhere else.
With the experiences from different people from all over the world, you realize that you can travel to any other country and survive just fine as the situation differ just a little and your surviving mechanisms will start to develop in correspondence to the situations and fight the culture shocks that you find in different places as a new person.
- Different amazing sites and things.
You will see different amazing sites that leave you flabbergasted and astounded by the amount of creativity and innovation that have been used such as the infrastructural developments such as roads and metro, the Burj Khalifa and other mouth-widening and remarkable sites such as the biggest malls, dessert safaris, dhow cruises, indoor snow diving, man-made flower garden and so many more. They challenge your thinking and wish that you can make your country better by creating even more ideas.
Disadvantages are as follows:-
- The basic human needs are scarce
When you travel abroad you realize most basic needs such as food items that one is used to and readily available at home are more of a luxury now. If incase you get any, it is very expensive that you prefer to stay without. Some other items such as hair products are different and it is quite challenging to get them.
- Language barriers due to diverse race
With working and staying with different races, there are a couple of challenges such as not understanding what someone says and/ or communicating. This becomes even harder when majority of your workmates are from one race/ tribe or country and communicate using their language/ dialect at work without thinking of the impact it has on you or those around them. They will grapevine and make you feel alone as you don’t have anyone to talk with. You are there to work and go home. No fun at work at all. You learn to be quiet, enjoy your own company and be in your head.
- Few to no friends or company- everything is superficial
The friendship and relationships as an expat are temporary and superficial. You learn not to trust anyone; you realize that you got your own back and enjoy your own company. No strings attached. The changes in accommodation and work places can happen at any time; this makes one fear in making long-lasting friends as these changes come in a slip of tongue. You will get attached to someone but in a short while you will be left alone again. If you get a good friend you are sure to keep them and appreciate their company.
- Loneliness due to distance from loved ones and family members.
Life of the expats is all about being you and enjoying your own company. The family and loved ones are far away from you may be in your various countries or in neighboring emirates. You are left to depend on video calls or online messages that usually are not having any human touch. You are left lonely with the usual normal routine of work-home and vice versa all your time.
- Stress and depression
As we saw earlier the friendships and relationships are quite superficial and temporary. Usually most people spend time away from family and loved ones so once there is too much pressure and stress is high people don’t have anyone to share their feelings and emotions to, they feel unloved and unwanted. Some people result into thinking about committing suicide or into drugs and other things that are not beneficial in their lives.
- It is expensive to have and raise a family
The accommodation, basic needs, wants and other luxuries come in handy and at a higher price and require one to have higher income and well loaded to accommodate a family and be able to live normally and afford other luxuries. Most of the people work to feed their own stomachs, other daily needs and send some money to the families at home countries. It is always a hand to mouth situation, how about adding more responsibility and burden of having a family?
- Unsettled as you are in foreign country
When living as an expats, you are usually pre-occupied with the future. The questions you constantly ask yourself are: “how will my future be like?” “Where will I settle down?” “Will I be able to have friends at home?” “What kind of business can I put at home?””How are my age mates/ schoolmates fairing?” “Will I be able to give my children the best life I ever dreamt of?” So many of this fears and questions make us not enjoy the gift of the present life. We are miserable only working, saving and hoping for the best.
- Lifestyle- Sharing accommodation, and kitchen
The lifestyle you live as an expat is miserable with sharing everything from apartments, to kitchen to bathrooms as you can’t afford to pay a whole apartment alone. You prefer to use the cheapest methods that can help you save and survive.
- Climatic conditions are extremes
The climatic conditions are quite different it can be extremely cold or hot. Dubai becomes so hot especially on the summer that you have to walk around with umbrellas and sun glasses. If you are not used to this, it makes you frustrated. ACs becomes your friends even if you think of them as too cold. The good thing is that they are readily available and installed in all the essential places you go.
- Biases and stereotypes
As an expat especially from African descent, you are faced with so many stereotypes and negative biases that break your heart and may in turn make you so annoyed. Some of the biases are only based on misconceptions falsehood such as some jobs are meant for this race or that race, and other generalizations such as being African equals being a prostitute or poor or dumb or uneducated or ignorant or violent or rude. We are human just like any other living being. We are unique, different, educated, polite and even so humble. We are from different backgrounds just as any other human person.
- Religious day is different
When you are used to Sunday being a holy day and the day to go to church, forget it in UAE. The churches are open on Friday; Sunday is a usual work day that you have to show up. This has confused me that I sometimes lose track of what day of the week we are in and other Christian celebrations are just like any other usual day. No one recognizes or even celebrates.
- Tough labor rules and regulations
The labor rules are tough and every employer or employees are bound to follow it to the latter. No excuses. When you sign a contract; you have to follow it through. If your contract is limited for 2 years, you work until your two years are done whether you like it or not. Lack of which there’s dire consequences.
All in all despite the disadvantages you learn to live with them and as it was once said” when you go to the Romans, act like the Romans” and “if you can’t beat them, you join them”. You learn to live in harmony with each other despite the differences in personalities, experiences, races, cultures and religion. You realize you are in a foreign country and bound by the laws and regulation therein and people are different it all depends with their attitudes.
These are some of my experiences and everyone is different and have different reactions in any situation. What have been your experiences both the good and the bad?