For female expats, Dubai isn’t all it seems

Published:  14 Feb at 6 PM
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Tagged: Dubai
For women relocating to Dubai, life in the expat community may not be all it seems.

Dubai’s reputation of glitz, glamour and endless parties is one of its main attractions for many would-be female expats, whether they’re arriving to further their careers or as trailing spouses with or without children. The city’s foreign community is packed with expatriate women from all walks of life, but many are finding emotional adjustment to their new lives isn’t easy in spite of financial security, a glamorous lifestyle and live-in helpers.

Genuine support systems are hard to come by, especially as the illusion of the perfect lifestyle needs to be maintained, with endless shopping, alcohol-fuelled parties and the restrictions of being a woman in Arab society chipping away at self-confidence and preventing a feeling of belonging in an unfamiliar culture. Everyone is expected to show happiness at all times but, for females, it’s hard to find in this environment.

The female expat community is composed of singles, wives, stay-at-home mothers and those who work, all of whom are serving either job and family, their careers or a relationship. It’s an unending conveyor belt of serving, with little time to spend just being themselves and no close family or long-term friends to ease the boredom and stress. Those without other means of emotional support are left with nowhere to go but onto a merry-go-round of alcohol, extramarital relationships or shopping till they drop in order to convince themselves they’re happy.

New arrivals attempting to cope with homesickness or displacement soon get dragged into Dubai’s expatriate circuit of endless parties, drinking and clubs, hoping they’ve found a welcoming tribe willing to help them settle in. Another escape from feeling inferior is aesthetics in the form of plastic surgery, especially as Dubai is home to huge numbers of specialists in the field of cosmetic procedures.

One expat psychologist and expert in wellness believes Dubai’s transient nature means support isn’t there when it’s most needed, especially for newcomers who’re missing their friends and family back in the home country. New mothers, she believes, are most at risk as medical professionals come and go in a way that’s destabilising for their patients. For expat women in abusive relationships it’s even worse, as local laws are complex and choices are limited.
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