Welcome to the Wild West
By: Peter Chambers
Hello, and thank you for being kind enough to read my entry for the 2013 Expat Blog Awards. My name is Peter Chambers, and in August 2013 my family and I moved from the UK to begin a new life in Abu Dhabi, following my appointment to a senior role with a mid tier accountancy firm in the Emirate.
So what are my reflections four months in? Has it been what I expected? What have I missed? And would I change anything? I answer these questions below in the form of six reflections which I hope will be of interest to anyone about to make a similar move.
Reflection 1: The job won't be what you were expecting
Starting with work, because that is what brought me here. It is fair to say that the role hasn't turned out to be what I was expecting. And from speaking to people, this is not untypical.
The difference is in a good way, because my role has rapidly expanded from focusing on the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, to covering the whole of the UAE for the healthcare and education sectors. Given that these are the two sectors that the UAE Cabinet has just been deliberating during its retreat on Sir Bani Yas Island, they feel like good areas to be focusing on in the years to come.
A year ago I spent all my time working with public sector clients. It couldn't be more different here. On day one I was being taught about virtual oil fields, on day two I was immersed in financial services, and the variety has continued unabated; yesterday I was discussing the security industry, and today I am attending an auditors' forum at the UAE Central Bank.
So, come with an open mind about what your job is going to be like, and you won't be disappointed.
Reflection 2: Remember your Stetson
Of course work isn't without its frustrations, and I know for a fact this is true for almost every expat I have spoken to. I blogged last week about the "interesting" approach to the procurement of professional services I am experiencing. But I have rapidly understood the need to take it all in my stride (insh'allah), and do my best to influence things in the right direction little by little. Before I came out someone described the Abu Dhabi market to me as the "wild west of the business world". I completely get this description now, so I have donned my metaphorical stetson and am out there panning for gold. I suggest you do the same.
Reflection 3: Take the opportunities and prepare yourself for many "is this a dream?" moments
How about out of work? I've had many surreal moments, where I've suddenly stopped and thought, "am I really here?". It still happens when I drive to Dubai and first catch sight of the Burj Khalifa, even though I've seen it many times now, and most mornings I still get it as I glance across to the Grand Mosque as I drive across Sheikh Zayed Bridge.
Having moved from the Northwest of England to a capital city, we've had opportunities (and grabbed them) to attend some great events as a family, and they too have caused "is this a dream" moments: watching (and hearing) the F1 cars arrive in front of the grandstand I was in for the first time; cheering Muse onto stage at the du Arena; as the Red Arrows arrived over the back of the stand and flew away over the expanse of desert at the Al Ain Aerobatics Show; and sat in a car park next to Sheikh Zayed road in Dubai, with Burj Khalifa towering above us, watching the Red Bull Car Park Drift competition. Of course there was lots to do back in the UK, but we have been more determined to get out and do these things now we are here.
Reflection 4: Get out of your rut
Please don't think I am being negative about our lives in the UK. We lived in a great house, had some wonderful friends (still do), and did some brilliant things as a family. Quite simply, we were happy, and we certainly never had a burning desire to uproot the family to move overseas (quite the opposite). But looking back, maybe the opportunity in Abu Dhabi was what we needed to get us enjoying life even more.
By way of illustration, lets look at how we spent our free time in the UK. I'm a self confessed numbers geek. I am known (indeed I suspect I am "laughed at" rather than "laughed with") for my very sophisticated household budget spreadsheet (copies available on request). But it's not just financial numbers that I like, it is any sort of data. I'm increasingly interested in the "quantified self" or "lifelogging" movement, something I will be blogging about in 2014.
How is this relevant to this blog post? Well at the start of 2013 I decided I would get involved in lifelogging, and started diligently recording data in a number of areas I was interested in understanding a little more about, including: alcohol consumption; exercise, and how I spent my free time.
We'll leave alcohol consumption and exercise for another day, but the free time data makes for interesting reading. In the six months that I recorded (January to June) we watched an average of 4.5 hours of television a day. I say watched, what I mean is we sat in front of the TV for 4.5 hours a day but we were probably playing on our iDevices, talking or sleeping, and every now and then one of us would look up and ask the other what was happening in whatever we were "watching". On their own Coronation Street and Eastenders took up four days in total during that period!
I haven't been recording the television we have watched here. I don't need to because I can count it up in my head - four episodes of The Choir and three episodes of Casualty, and one of Doctor Who for me. Our average has definitely come down. Yes, we still sit down most weekday evenings doing the same things as in the UK (without the TV on in the background), but we are much more likely to be out, or have people round, for at least one evening of the weekend, which is when we bumped our average up back in the UK.
A simple point, but I think it illustrates how things have changed.
Reflection 5: Of course it won't be perfect
So is it all as wonderful as I'm painting? Is there nothing I am missing? Of course there are things I miss. It goes without saying (but for the avoidance of doubt I'll say it anyway) that I miss family and friends. But I also miss some great people I worked with in the UK, being able to watch at first hand Burnley dominate (ok, maybe that is a little strong) the Championship, the countryside, being able to keep a stash of sweets and chocolates in my car without them melting instantaneously (although it actually means I have an excuse to scoff them down all at once, I never had that excuse in the UK but I still did it), and I've still not found a shop near the office that makes a half decent sandwich for lunch.
Reflection 6: But it will quite possibly be the best thing you'll ever do
But those minor things aside, would I honestly change anything? Do you know, I don't think I would. When I made the decision to move on from my previous employer I spoke to a lot of people to get advice. Two themes came through consistently. Firstly, "you will end up doing something you could never have imagined". Well, that one has come true. Secondly, "you will look back in two years and say it was the best thing that could have happened". Well, I'm only four months down the road of my new life and have to say that it is looking good that this one is going to be true as well.
So, to summarize my list of reflections:
1: The job won't be what you are expecting, so embrace whatever it turns out to be like
2: Remember your Stetson, you are coming to the Wild West, not the Middle East
3: Take the opportunities to enjoy your new life, and savor the many "is this a dream?" moments
4: Keep on doing number 3, and don't let yourself get into a rut
5: Accept that it won't be perfect every minute of every day
6: But rest assured, it will quite possibly be the best thing you ever do
Thanks for reading, and hope to see you over at my blog in 2014.
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Contest Comments » There are 34 comments
I really enjoy Peter's blog. Living in Peter's hometown (ish) and having lived/worked in Abu Dhabi his insights feel all too familiar and amuse me. I rarely read blogs but always read Peter's!
As Peter's parents we really miss the family and grandchildren. However we think your blogs are so well written and informative that we really feel you are not so far away. Keep them going Peter, they are great.
Really enjoy reading Peter's blogs - they are both entertaining and educational. I'm really pleased to see how nicely things are coming along!
I read Peter's blog on a regular basis and really enjoy his balanced observations on many aspects of settling into a new life in a different country. The enthusiasm of the whole family for this exciting challenge and their ability to tackle new and sometimes daunting situations shines through with an accompanying sense of humour.
OMG Pete! You right the best blogs - they are always so real and really help me feel I understand your amazing lives in UAE. As an expat I completely get where you are coming from - we have a saying here with some UK expat friends .... "It's just like being abroad!!" because we always feel like we're on one big holiday and the weather and blue skies go a long way to help that! I am sooooooo happy your adventure is going so well - for me - anyone can make a big move a success with a POSITIVE attitude and approach like yours! Well Done! Miss you all thou!!! XxxxX
Yet another inspirational blog Peter; you write very eloquently. It is lovely and a little bitter sweet, to read all about your exciting new life. Please keep on blogging. I love to read your take on the big differences, and the little day to day observations about being an ex-pat in Abu Dhabi. Best wishes.
So just how much alcohol are you consuming then Pete?! Love reading your blogs. I wonder how many badgers have been in your garden in the UK recently?! Miss you can't wait to see you in February and you can show us all the ropes. Keep up the super blogging x
Love reading your blog Pete, glad we are not the only family trying G to find our way in UAE. Very honest and informative blogging.
Very informative, I feel like I understand the UAE much more now and am wondering myself what a life out there would be like for me and my family :-)
A fantastic read! I look forward to reading Pete's blog. It's an amazing thing they have done and to be able to follow their journey is fantastic! Pete allows us to see everything going on and we can visualise it all. He lets us in on their life and at the same time educates us about a place I could only dream of visiting. He is honest and hilarious! I love reading everything he writes.
Peter, I love your posts. It's so hard to explain to people at home how things are here. You do this so well, with passion, humour and respect. I hope you win. X
Fascinating and entertaining, these are very educational and we always look forward to getting them. Keep it up!
I have several friends who have moved to UAE & Peters blog makes me feel more informed about the place. My son misses Flossie too!
Pete, I really enjoy reading your blog. It gives me so much pleasure to keep abreast of what's happening with my favourite niece Jo and your lovely children.
I have to agree with everyone else, always a pleasure to read the blogs, very entertaining!!
Great blogging, fantastic insights about work ans family life in ad. it's wonderful to hear what you're up to and how things are going. I miss your spreadsheets;-)
Hi Pete, I really enjoyed reading your blog. After living here for 2 years it's great to see the UAE through "new eyes". I'm looking forward to reading more from your blog in the New Year and I wish you and your family every success here in the sandpit.
Love your stories Uncle Pete! I can't wait till we see you all in UAE - it sounds really exciting over there but I miss Henry Archie & Flossie xx
Fantastic Blogs. Reading your blogs makes me feel like I know the place. You write with such clarity and humour, I love this style. I look forward to your Blogs knowing that they are going to be insightful. If I didn't recently make a similar move with my family from the UK to Austrilia, I would definitely consider moving to Abu Dhabi.
Pete as your sister-in-law back in the UK, I gave the greatest insight into the life and culture out there Abu Dhabi. In the words (sort of) of Bruce Forsyth 'keep writing' xx
Really look forward to your blogs Pete. Very informative and easy to read. Gives me a real insight into your life in UAE. Love your style of writing,
Love reading Pete's posts, very entertaining, they always show how expat life really is!
Look forward to reading Pete's blog, finding out what there up to and the places and experiences they are enjoying .
FANTASTIC WORK! You definetly deserve to win this as your blogs are very good, and very interesting! Good luck!
I am new to this whole "blogging" thing, but you clearly are not, your blogs are very well written, and very interesting! Keep up the good work Pete!
Hi Pete, just love reading your blog. You seem to have a wonderful life in Abu Dhabi. Keep posting! Cx
Really look forward to reading Peter's blogs, love his honest way of writing about his families new adventure here in the UAE. Funny, informative and real life. We'll done x
Peter. When you took your new job in the UAE we waved goodbye to our beloved daughter, wonderful grandchildren and of course a fine son-in-law. We were very saddened by this move and knew we would miss you dreadfully. However your funny, informative and up beat blogs assure us that you and your family are very settled and happy. We love hearing about your adventures and look forward to visiting in march to see for ourselves your new home and the UAE. Keep up the blogs Pete, they make us very happy.
Pete FAB blog again! I love reading what you and the family are up to it makes it seem that your not that far away! Life sounds good in UAE! Good counting Flossie with the flags! Look forward to the next one! Xx
Really enjoying reading about your new life and work, it's always amusing and nicely balanced. And it almost makes me want to come out and join you - almost! Keep blogging!
I always enjoy your blog Pete, interesting, informative, funny and really well written. Keep them up for 2014
Hi Pete, Still feels like you are all just up the road! Its lovely to here how you are all doing in Abu Dhabi, your blog is great reading and a wonderful insight into your new life. Take care round the pool side! X
Loving your blogs Pete. It sounds like you are having a great life out there in Abu Dhabi. Looking forward to reading more of your blogs very soon.
Are you the only entrant from Abu Dhabi, Peter? Well done for managing to get such a handle on things after such a short stay. Hope your business associates see the funny side of your 'wild west' jibe - I certainly did. Keep the stetson handy and keep blogging - lol.