British Expat Living in United Arab Emirates Interview with Reeta

Published: 1 Dec at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,United Arab Emirates
Reeta is a UK expat who has called the UAE home for over 4 years and counting. She started a business in the UAE just a few months before the recession arrived and introduced her to the UAE phenomena of customers absconding in the middle of the night with unpaid bills and cars abandoned in airport car parks.

The years that followed provided a rich education and she's developed resilience and a sound appreciation of the influence of complex cultural dynamics and government processes in this part of the world.

Now older, wiser and still capable of seeing the magic through the plethora of head-scratching, mind-boggling, go-back-to-bed moments, Reeta helps others make Dubai work for them, their business and their dog through her blog.

Her husband and her labradoodle keep her sane, focused and at peace. Reeta's expat blog is called Happy Witchie (see listing here)

Labradoodle Max (aka Happydoggy) loves Hunting tissue rolls and shoes. He is totally flummoxed when it rains as he hates getting his feet wet.
Labradoodle Max (aka Happydoggy) loves Hunting tissue rolls and shoes. He is totally flummoxed when it rains as he hates getting his feet wet.

Here's the interview with Reeta...

Where are you originally from?
I'm from Croydon, UK.

In which country and city are you living now?
I'm now in Dubai, UAE

How long have you lived in United Arab Emirates and how long are you planning to stay?
I first came here in 2007. For a couple of years I travelled between the UK and UAE spending 3 month stints in each country.

I applied for UAE residency in 2010. I'll be here as long as my business is a success and I have something to do.

Take the time to do touristy things.
Take the time to do touristy things.
Why did you move to United Arab Emirates and what do you do?
I moved here to set up a business with my husband. I'm the Operations Director there.

We both had successful careers in the UK but were keen to try a new challenge in a new country.

Did you bring family with you?
My husband and my dog are with me.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
After the novelty wore off, I realised that I would have to learn how to relate to all the different cultures here.

There is a large Western population here, but the majority of expats are from developing nations and their approach to life and situations is so much more relaxed and fatalistic than I am used to seeing.

Language wise, it's very useful to be able to speak Hindi to get by on a day to day level. But to go through government processes, knowing Arabic gives you a distinct advantage.

I was at a police station once where the policeman didn't speak any English so I had to leave and came back a few days later... at which point the same policeman was suddenly able to speak perfect English.

It was frustrating at one level because a few days had been wasted but equally so, it was enlightening. Being in an Arabic country, I really *should* be able to converse in Arabic. It's basic manners.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I work really long hours and don't get a chance to meet people in normal ways. Mostly my friends are people I've met through my job or on expat forums where we've swapped numbers and met up.

There are so many expats in Dubai and in general I find people to be friendly and open to socialising. Locations can be a factor though - places in Dubai are fairly spread out and it can take a while to travel between them - not appealing when you've just arrived home from work and your friends want to meet at the other end of town which is an hour away.

Come and visit my blog... Everyone has such differing experiences, I'd love to know how you find Dubai.
Come and visit my blog... Everyone has such differing experiences, I'd love to know how you find Dubai.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
"Best" is so subjective and depends on the person's age and interests.

I'm in Mirdif which is on the outskirts of Dubai and has a lovely family feel to the place. Restaurants and malls feature strongly here and there are real streets.

Some communities (eg Arabian Ranches) have been built as gated communities with limited entry and exit points which leads to bottlenecks at peak times.

I'd recommend future expats pick their location carefully to correlate with the things they enjoy doing. There are no licenced hotels/bars in Mirdif for example. The beach is a trek from Mirdif too so no good if you want to enjoy water sports every day.

What do you enjoy most about living in United Arab Emirates?
I love the weather and how you feel more alive here. In the UK, things are orderly but sanitised. (I appreciate that I may be remembering the UK with nostalgia!! lol)

Over here, things are "raw". Some of the rawness beggars belief - for example how does the electrician not know that he shouldn't touch a wire with wet hands?

Almost everyone is an expat here, which makes for a great stimulating environment. I've realised that expats are happy, resourceful people.

How does the cost of living in United Arab Emirates compare to home?
Things are expensive here. Clothes here are generally 30% more expensive. Anything imported has a price mark-up on it. It's often cheaper to wait for the online sales and ship your products in from overseas.

Rents have gone wild in recent months. They feel artificially high to me but I'm not an expert! Imported food is costly, especially fresh fruit fruit and veg. So my advice to future expats is to get used to locally produced options. They are significantly cheaper and possibly nutritionally better since they haven't had an aeroplane trip.

A significant difference is that rent is not paid monthly. Landlords expect a full year's rent to be paid upfront in anything ranging from one to four cheques.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in United Arab Emirates?
There are several cultures here where the people don't like offending you by saying no or that something can't be done or that it will take some time to do it,

So what you get is a lot of people saying things they don't mean. They know it's not true and after you've been let down a few times, you realise it's not true either. Yet it continues to happen and you have to adapt to their rhythm.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to United Arab Emirates, what would it be?
Keep calm and don't panic. You can get through any situation if you keep your head and stay polite.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
There was some employee collusion and fraud that took place in my business. That was a hard lesson because I had trusted all of the people involved. An equally hard lesson was the dealings with the police and lawyers.

I'd recommend that all expats spend time finding a lawyer they have confidence in when they arrive and that they make themselves familiar with the legal system. That way if a situation arises, you will already have the basic foundation in place.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I imagine the UK will feel small and quiet... and cold Brrr!!

There are many positive points to going back. Working from home (illegal in the UAE for expats) and enjoying standard easy to follow government processes for example.

Nevertheless, I think repatriation will be hard because of the sun and the fact that it feels alive here.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Understand clearly what you are coming here for and do your research accordingly.
  2. If you are an animal lover, there are many cat and dog rescue places here. You can foster, adopt or volunteer.
  3. Learn at least enough Arabic to be able to have a basic conversation.
  4. If you're a married couple, have a car and a healthy separate bank account in the wife's name for emergencies. If anything happens to the husband, all joint accounts and assets are frozen and can take up to a year to be resolved.
  5. Don't let your car get below a quarter of a tank. Petrol stations are thin on the ground and the road layouts mean that you often have to go a couple of km's out of your way just to be able to turn round.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog started as a bit of relaxation and fun. As I found myself learning more about the processes in Dubai and getting things done, I realised I wanted to make it into a useful resource.

Its tag line now is "Make Dubai Work for You, Your Business and Your Dog" and I hope that it does help someone.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
The best way to contact me is through the contact page on my blog.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingReeta is a British expat living in United Arab Emirates. Blog description: Tales from an Expat wife/Business owner with her dog in Dubai.
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