Canadian Expat In Abu Dhabi - Expat Interview With Ann Marie

Published: 25 Nov at 3 PM
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Filed: Interviews,United Arab Emirates
Ann Marie McQueen is a Canadian journalist who moved to Abu Dhabi in 2008 to work on a team that launched the English newspaper The National, and is now the editor of the Arts&Life section. She launched her blog, A Canadian in Abu Dhabi (see listing here), shortly after arriving in the United Arab Ermirates. Ann Marie never dreamed she would be an expat; that always seemed like an adventure for other people. Since moving abroad her life has expanded in ways she never could have imagined.


A Canadian in Abu Dhabi

Here's the interview with Ann Marie...


Where are you originally from?
London, Ontario, Canada, although I lived in the nation's capital, Ottawa, for eight years before becoming an expat.

In which country and city are you living now?
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived here for four and a half years. As for how long I am planning to stay, good question! I only intended to stay for a year, and look what happened.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved to work on a new English newspaper, The National, which launched in April 2008.

Did you bring family with you?
I was single, so it was just me and five suitcases!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I found the transition very difficult. I wasn't prepared for how much I would miss home and worry about moving back there. Even though you know it will happen, culture shock is profound - so is turning your life upside down at the age of 37!

A Canadian in Abu DhabiWas it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It was absolutely easy to make friends; initially my social circle was all people from work. Slowly I have made friends outside work and that has been very satisfying too. But yes, I mainly socialise with other expats.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I love the Corniche in Abu Dhabi; I love going on Friday boat cruises, renting jet skis and, believe it or not, going skating at the arena in Sheikh Zayed Sports City. There are lots of other things to do too: the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Art and tons of music performances small and large.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The constant sunshine & the weather, at least the 8 months of the year it's bearable. I enjoy the mix of people I meet and interact with from all over the world; it's truly never boring.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of living is generally much higher, for example my rent is about $1500 US a month. And the cost of eating out, shopping in malls and gyms and fitness classes is much higher than home. But I find groceries and things in the corner shop much cheaper, as is gas! The salaries are higher than back home, so it balances out.

A Canadian in Abu DhabiWhat negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Missing family and friends back home, worrying about keeping those relationships close. And for me, knowing that I will probably leave at some point and wondering when that will be weighs on my mind more than it should.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Just be open to everything and don't judge others.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being far from home, family and loved ones, especially when people back home are going through trying times and I can't be there.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I think it will be a big adjustment. People are more open over here, more quick to make room in their lives for new friends, more adaptable to change (since so many people come and go). Also I will miss standup paddle boarding in January!

A Canadian in Abu DhabiWhat are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Don't rush into anything when you arrive - that includes relationships, financial investments, rampant spending, shopping etc.
  2. Be good to yourself and understanding of yourself - moving overseas is an incredible adjustment to make.
  3. Try to create a circle of comfort for yourself as soon as possible: If you like dancing, find the group who does that. If you enjoy sports, join a league. Getting that familiarity around yourself will give you a firm footing to explore and expand.
  4. Save your money! This is an amazing opportunity to get ahead financially in ways that are just not possible back home, so don't get caught up in whatever other expats are doing (often buying flashy purses or sportscars) and use the opportunity not only to enrich your life, but create a more secure future for yourself.
  5. Be open to everything and make the time you are overseas count.


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started A Canadian in Abu Dhabi the day after I arrived and it has been a great experience keeping it. All I ever wanted was to document some of the crazy things I have seen so I would have an archive that perhaps a few other people would enjoy. But I have been pleasantly surprised at its reach. I guess those are some key search words!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can email me: annmariemcqueen{at}gmail{dot}com or via Twitter: @ammcq

Ann Marie blogs at http://annmariemcqueen.blogspot.co.uk/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. A Canadian in Abu Dhabi has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Ann Marie, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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