England to Dubai - Expat Interview With Lucy

Published: 3 Dec at 3 PM
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Filed: Interviews,United Arab Emirates
In 2010 Lucy Martin and her husband moved from the UK to Dubai with just one large suitcase each. It was one of those terribly sensible decisions that makes sound fiscal sense – a decision made with the head rather than the heart – and, while Dubai certainly has its charms, Lucy found it difficult to adjust to life in a place so fundamentally different from her rural British home... Lucy blogs at Homesick and Heatstruck (see listing here)

Homesick and Heatstruck

Here's the interview with Lucy....

Where are you originally from?
A village just outside the city of Canterbury in the South East of England.

In which country and city are you living now?
Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We’ve been here for two years now and we were originally going to stay for two years total but it seems to have become a rolling two years: our stay is currently indefinite…

Why did you move and what do you do?
We moved out here for my husband’s work – we’re financial migrants, like every other expat here. I’m a freelance writer and a secondary school teacher.

Homesick and HeatstruckDid you bring family with you?
No family, but we have recently acquired a little cat called Madagascar.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Very difficult at first – I missed my family, the rain, the countryside… I’m getting used to it out here, but it still doesn’t feel quite like home and I don’t know if it ever will. Some expats talk about their several ‘homes’ but I’m struggling with the idea – I think I’m naturally monog-home-ous…

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
We were lucky enough to know one couple when we moved out here and that really helped with finding our feet. Most of my new friends I’ve made through my work or my husband’s work - expats from the UK, Australia, Ireland and other European countries.

Homesick and HeatstruckWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
It’s very easy to stay in a safe little expat bubble, floating around the air-conditioned shopping malls and hotels, but Dubai does have more to it than that… I’d recommend walking along the creek, Deira side, past all the dhows, and getting an abra over to the textile souk; an early morning dip in the sea at the quiet bit of beach in Umm Suqeim; delicious salads and fresh fruit juice at the Basta Art Café in Bastakiya; a late afternoon drive into the desert; picnics in Mushrif Park; an evening stroll through bright and bustling Satwa, ending with a curry at Ravi’s… Some of the hotels are, of course, quite breath-taking – one of the most romantic locations in Dubai for a serene sun-downer cocktail is 101 at One and Only, The Palm, and afternoon tea on the terrace at Al Qasr is a wonderfully civilized affair with gorgeous views of the famous Burj al Arab and the bright blue sea beyond…

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The very reliable sunshine; the fact that you can feel like you’re on holiday every weekend.

Homesick and HeatstruckHow does the cost of living compare to home?
It’s more expensive than the UK – well, probably about the same as living in London, but expats here tend to have a bit more disposable income than at home as there is no income tax. Eating at unlicensed restaurants can often be very reasonable, while buying favourite imported goods in supermarkets can be very expensive. Alcohol is pricey too.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The bureaucracy – it takes a long time, a lot of legwork and at least fourteen visits to a typing office to get anything official done.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Definitely plan a long stay back home or a holiday elsewhere in the summer – between June and September – as it all gets a bit too sweaty in Dubai...

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being so far away from my family and friends. Several dear friends have had babies since I’ve been out here and it is very sad not to be there with them.

Homesick and HeatstruckWhen you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I imagine going home will be wonderful! – Although it probably wouldn’t be long before I was missing the warmth, the sea, the beachside bars…

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Get all your official documents (qualifications, marriage certificate etc) legally attested before you get here.
  2. Make sure you have Skype on your phone / laptop before moving to Dubai as you can’t download it from here (unless you have a VPN).
  3. Get an alcohol licence if you intend to drink or buy any booze in the UAE.
  4. Don’t try to drive around Dubai straight away; get taxis for a while until you get to know your way around the super-confusing and highly illogical road ‘system’.
  5. Don’t throw away your winter clothes (an expat friend once went home to a snowy UK Christmas in her flip-flops).

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Homesick and Heatstruck isn’t just about a British woman settling into a new home in the Middle East, it’s a blog about being somewhere other. I delve into the cultural estrangement so many expatriates feel, distanced from everything safe and familiar. My various ramblings dissect the nature of homesickness and nostalgia, discussing those aspects of home an exiled patriot misses most and investigating potential sources of solace (these frequently revolve around cups of tea and murder mysteries). It’s essentially a pseudo-philosophical log of my quest to thwart my sadness and silliness and embrace my new home. And it’s sometimes funny too.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I love to hear from other blog readers, bloggers and expats - just drop a comment on my blog or find me on Twitter - @LucyMartin

Lucy blogs at http://homesickandheatstruck.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Homesick and Heatstruck has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here with some great comments already - but there's always room for more, so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Lucy, please let her know by leaving a comment below.
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