Australian Expat Living in United Arab Emirates - Interview with Keri Hedrick

Published: 9 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,United Arab Emirates
Introducing Keri - Aussie expat mum of 3 from Abu Dhabi. Born to Brits who had immigrated to New Zealand, but mostly raised in Australia she started expat life over 10 years ago when she went to ‘do London’ as a newly qualified accountant for a year; 8 years on after a very hectic career that involved travelling all over Europe - for work and pleasure - she found herself married with a couple of kids. In 2012 she exchanged the hectic working mum life in London for the sandy deserts of the Middle East. She is now 'the trailing spouse', full-time mum to 3, taxi driver, freelance writer, share trader and committee junkie. Keri Hedrick's expat blog is called Baby Globetrotters (see listing here)

Keri in Vietnam
Keri in Vietnam

Here's the interview with Keri Hedrick...

Where are you originally from?
I was born in New Zealand, raised in Australia (Perth and Melbourne) and lived in the UK

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

How long have you lived in United Arab Emirates and how long are you planning to stay?
We moved here in 2012 for my husband's job, we have been here over 2.5 years now and plan to stay indefinitely

The Globetrotter family at Al Dhafra Festival
The Globetrotter family at Al Dhafra Festival
Why did you move to United Arab Emirates and what do you do?
We moved here because my husband had a job offer with one of the sovereign wealth funds that was too good to refuse. We were on our way to repatriating back to Australia with our 2 young children to be closer to our families when he got the call.

As I was already on maternity leave we decided to put my accounting career on hold. I have since extended my maternity leave and had another child, now I am pursuing my dreams to become a writer before deciding if I will ever return to the corporate world.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes, we moved with our then 2 year old daughter and a newborn baby boy. We have since added another baby boy to complete our family.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
We have been slightly transient for the last 8 years anyway. Moving to Abu Dhabi wasn't a huge culture shock for us, we had visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi before so knew what to expect, though the summer heat still really does hit you.

The city is very modern, you can see the traditional Arabic culture woven in and its incredibly multicultural, but everything we need can be communicated in English and we have most mod cons that a family would need available to us which certainly eases the transition into a new culture.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
As a mum I have found it incredibly easy to make other mum friends here, children give you a great foot in to meet other mums as you obviously share a lot in common. A lot of the women I have met are in the same situation of being first time stay at home mums when they have moved as the trailing spouse.

I also joined the Australian social group Aussies Abroad. I have ended up on the committee now looking after treasury and membership for the club. It’s a fabulous role to be involved in, meeting and greeting new Australian’s as they arrive and we of course put on some fantastic social events during the year.

Me and Mr Globetrotter
Me and Mr Globetrotter
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There are new places and activities for families being built all the time.

There's a huge range of shopping malls with soft plays and activity centres for the summer months, and in the winter there's a load of new play parks being built all over the city, as well as family beaches, sporting activities and clubs with pools and restaurants. You can now comfortably live 'on island' or 'off island' and have access to all these things with Yas Island and Khalifa City rapidly expanding; we spend a lot of time on Yas now for shopping, parks, exercise, markets, golf, dinner.

If you are moving with family, try and base yourself near the school your children will be attending or you'll spend half your day in traffic.

What do you enjoy most about living in United Arab Emirates?
I love that I can live a life where I am able to work from home part-time and be here for the kids before and after school. We have a huge range of family-friendly activities around us and we are able to make friends with like-minded people. Earning tax-free income is also a significant bonus to save for our future.

How does the cost of living in United Arab Emirates compare to home?
Compared to Australia we are probably on a par really. Housing is more expensive but dining out and entertainment is cheaper. If you buy local products not imported brands these are cheaper, but clothing and toys feel more expensive. Utilities are subsidized even for expats making them relatively cheap and fuel is much cheaper!

With our 3 children in Australia
With our 3 children in Australia
What negatives, if any, are there to living in United Arab Emirates?
Like any unfamiliar country it feels weighed down with bureaucracy at times. Once you're in and settled its fine but getting set up was hard. The traffic can be terrible too but I know there are far worse places; buy a big robust car.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to United Arab Emirates, what would it be?
Its easy to live like a king here, but don't spend like one. Brunches every weekend are terribly tempting but make sure you get out there during the cooler months, stay active and enjoy it as you will start feeling really cooped up over the summer. And make sure you are putting money aside still for savings not spending it all on the glamorous tax-free lifestyle.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I think making the mental adjustment to being a 'housewife'. I am so used to providing for myself, or at least in partnership with my husband and now I am a dependent. I wouldn't change it for the world but its definitely a big barrier to overcome, knowing he signs everything for you, even gets sent a text message if you use the credit or debit card!

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
We have been away for so long now I am really not sure we could cope with repatriation. We are able to live a lifestyle here that we simply could not afford at home and I think we would find 'home' too small with not enough income left over to enjoy the things we love (mostly travel!). That and we can't decide which Aussie Rules football team the kids should support so its easier to stay away then have to pick sides!

Camels on desert safari
Camels on desert safari
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Always arrive in a new country with a bucket load of patience and a million copies of passport photos!
  2. Don't be afraid to turn up to group meetings / coffee mornings /play dates, put yourself out there and make yourself known
  3. If you have small children with you, hire a babysitter while you do the house hunting, this can otherwise be an exhausting experience
  4. Inshallah has a lot of different meanings; Do clarify which inshallah - today, tomorrow, next week, probably never...
  5. If you know you'll be moving in advance, get yourself on school waiting lists as soon as possible, its a terribly competitive market out there for school spots
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Baby Globetrotters is all about Family, Travel and Expat Life.

After a trip to Vietnam in 2013, one of many trips that year, I realized how well travelled our children were getting and many friends would ask us for advice on travelling with their children too. The idea came together to help travelling families and those who live abroad cope with, and enjoy their nomadic lives with kids so Baby Globetrotters was born.

On the blog I discuss issues ranging from expat packages for families to flying tips, I also have a special series where I interview parents who have lived abroad to get parenting tips from around the world - I am always looking for contributors to this section, or to share anyone's amazing travel stories with kids. I continue to be inspired by others stories every day and hope my blog will inspire others too.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Please use my email address as provided or twitter, I'd prefer not to have direct contact from future expats by phone.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingKeri Hedrick is an Australian expat living in United Arab Emirates. Blog description: A parents' guide to travelling and living overseas with children... and enjoying it! Join Aussie Expat Keri and her 3 baby globetrotters based in the UAE while slowly making their way around the world *Travel*Family*Expat Life*
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