I’m here! I’m in Abu Dhabi, UAE and I’m officially an expat for at least the next three years! Today marks one month of residency and the beginning of my third week of work.
I really wanted to write leagues of details about my first few weeks, but . . . instead I’ve been busy setting up and getting to know people around here.
Abu Dhabi is a fascinating city. It’s located on an island and it’s very densely populated. There aren’t any “residential” areas that have been separated from “business/commercial” areas like there are in the states. Almost all of the apartment buildings are 5 – 12 stories, with a ground level that has shops, restaurants, and small businesses inside. There are a few condominium-type residential compounds scattered around, but they are much smaller than I’m used to seeing.
I have a really cute apartment. It’s near the Al Wahda Mall if you want to Google Earth my neighborhood. Tile and concrete everything, lots of IKEA furniture, and a kitchen that is waiting for me to start throwing dinner parties. Pix of that are on Facebook if you’re curious.
I’m working for the Higher Colleges of Technology, but will not be posting anything about work online. I’m enjoying the job and my coworkers, teaching my little heart out, and stumbling on cultural differences every 15 minutes. There are essays about cross-cultural communication in the brewing! Since I know lots of you are curious, here’s the answer to your unspoken question: I don’t have to cover my hair or wear an abaya to work, but I do dress conservatively – knees and elbows covered, high-ish necklines. Wearing long and loose clothing feels comfortable in the morning and sticky and heavy on the days I decide to walk 2 – 3 blocks to the mall at 3 in the afternoon.
Nobody ever said I was the smartest girl in the desert.
I’ve been making a list of random observations that I think would be fun to write about, but haven’t really gotten that party started. So I’ll finish up by telling you a little bit about being new.
- I never thought I’d have to buy another can opener.
- There are bidets or extra spray nozzles in all the bathrooms here. Washing up is key!
- All of the restaurants deliver. Dangerous. But! Making sure my order is understood over the phone is a little more challenging than I’m used to.
- There are still lots of little shops that specialize in specific things here. Mobile phone shops, stationery shops, chocolate shops, curtain shops, electronic shops. . . You name it, there are at least a dozen stores that sell just that. Personal service is easy to find.
- Communication around the city is primarily in English and Arabic. I have not needed Arabic to function, but sometimes have difficulty communicating with non-native speakers of English since the number of other native languages (Urdu, Tagalog, Hindi, etc) and the proficiency level is so varied. It’s always a situation of “I know what I’m saying and s/he knows what s/he’s saying – but somehow we’re not getting anywhere!”
- I’ve witnessed numerous Western/native English speaking expats do that thing where if they aren’t being understood the first time they say something, they just get louder. I get stabby when I see that. Seriously. Being loud and frustrated at someone who happens to have a different native language than I do doesn’t give me permission to be a jerk. It just means that neither of us are from here.
- The word patience is taking on a new meaning. More on that later.
One more thing. I’m working on a snail mail letter for all the friends and family who sent me their addresses over the summer. I’ve got an Abu Dhabi PO Box now! I also have a huge snail mail addiction. SO if you’d like to receive a letter from me and I don’t have your address already, send me a letter! I’ll write you back. I promise.
Missing the USA, but glad to be away from the political TV ads. I am planning to cast my absentee ballot for the November election, of course, so I’ll soon be registering with the American Embassy here. Know that I’m well, I’m having fun, and my brain is totally saturated with logistics and errands and endless phone calls to service providers as I set up. I’ll get back into a regular blog routine soon and make this a blog worth reading again.
Sending love from UAE!