13 tips to make the most of your UAE expat experience – Yahoo Maktoob article

Last week I read an article on Yahoo Maktoob on Expat Life. The article title is called “13 tips to make the most of your UAE expat experience“.  (<– Click on the title for the actual article)Even though I live in Kuwait, I clicked this to see what types of tips I could get from it. This article was written by an expat who has been living in Dubai for the past 12 years. So I read through her different tips and thought WOW I am doing EVERYTHING that she said NOT TO DO! I wrote my comments on the first few because those are what we’ve been doing wrong.

Here are the different tips she wrote:

Tip #1: Stay in the present. Don’t waste your time longing for your past life “back home” or daydreaming about your next posting or next visit home. Instead, cherish and enjoy every moment that you have today—in whatever city or country that may be. –> I always think of “back home” and daydream about when I will get to move back..
Tip #2: Make your new house your home. Take your time choosing a new home. Don’t be rushed. When you move in, unpack quickly. Decorate and personalize your home as though you will live there forever. Expats who don’t take time to set up their new dwelling often feel stuck in limbo.–> It took us 2 months to find a place and then when we did move in, we kept our stuff in suitcases and only bought a bed. After reading this article we finally bit the bullet and ordered some furniture (sofa and dining table)…
Tip #3: Meet people and make friends as soon as possible. I always tell newcomers to join a group and make connections right away. Don’t wait until you are “settled” to start making friends. You can begin to make contacts with expat groups even before you arrive. It’s not enough just to make friends with people of the same nationality or from your workplace. Branch out! Find people with common interests, be it bicycling, charity, art or photography. Join a faith community, meet your neighbors or become a volunteer. –> We have kept to ourselves mostly… Slowly getting out there now, but it’s been rough
because we kept to ourselves…

Tip #4: Create a community for yourself. One challenge of expat life is leaving our family and friends behind. New expats often move to a foreign city without knowing a soul. It takes time, but it’s important to create a community—new friends to share holidays with or to turn to during difficult times. And because our fellow expats eventually move away, we need to keep adding to our circle. –> same answer as #3
Tip #5: Stay positive. Make your overseas move with the attitude that you will succeed. Focus on the positive and the exciting aspects of your new place of residence, not just on what is missing. Hang out with people who embrace the expat experience. Avoid those who just want to complain or criticize the new place. –> HAHA! Trying to stay positive takes so much work! Some days I just don’t even feel like getting out of bed and facing the new day, but really depending on God’s grace to take me through the day! 
Tip #6: Dive deeply into the new culture. I have heard expats complain that Dubai has “no culture.” I think these people expect the local culture to be served up to them on a gold platter. It requires more effort than that—a lot more. In Dubai, start by taking a tour of a mosque or join in a cultural breakfast. Take a course in learning Arabic or take an Arabian food tour. Read books about your new country. Explore places that make you a little uncomfortable—be it a hole-in-the-wall eatery, a fruit and vegetable souk or a neighborhood where no one looks like you. –> This we have been doing 🙂
Tip #7: Experience as much as possible. Be open to what is new. Read guides and local magazines to find out what to see and do in your new city. Don’t wait until you have houseguests or you are leaving to start exploring. The most exciting and memorable experiences are outside your comfort zone. –> We have been exploring on our own 
Tip #8: At work, be flexible and willing to adapt. Avoid continually comparing your new workplace with your last. Bring lots of patience and be open to new ways. Those who thrive in an international work setting are those who tolerate differences and avoid stereotyping based on nationality. –> The work situation is a bit different and it has been hard adjusting, but I’m trying to be flexible. Overall, I am grateful for the opportunity and I’m trying to do my best in what I do. 
Tip #9: Learn how to stay safe. As soon as you arrive, find out the emergency phone numbers for your new city. Figure out how to get to the clinic and emergency room. In addition to a GPS, get a street atlas to help you get oriented. Learn how to keep yourself, your home and your family safe in this new setting. Not sure how to find out those things? That’s what all those new friends are for. –> Safety is actually something I am parinoid about! I don’t like to be out by myself here or be out so late because I just don’t feel so comfortable. Hopefully as I stay here longer and get used to the place my views on safety will change. As for the GPS comment, we use that to get around everywhere! We have been trying to figure out where to get a paper map from, but no luck so far! But we have learned the main roads here so that helps and traveling is easier than when we first came because we have familiarized ourselves with the different areas. 
Tip #10: Always remember you are a guest. Read up on the local culture, know what is expected of you, and act accordingly. Dress and behave respectfully. –> I think being raised in a conservative environment has helped me with this.. There’s really nothing that I do different here, than when were were Stateside/in Canada… 

Tip #11: Take advantage of travel opportunities. The Middle East is truly at the crossroads. It’s possible to do short trips in all directions and experience endless destinations and cultures. Even if you can only scrape together one trip per year, you can see much of the world this way. –> One of the reasons both of us wanted to come to the Middle East was because we like to travel.. Hopefully work won’t get in the way and we can do that more often. 

Tip #12: Keep in touch with the best of “Back Home.” Expat life is exciting and challenging because of all the unexpected lifestyle changes. Stay grounded with some carefully selected traditions and customs from your home country. For example, at my house, no matter how busy we are, we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday each year with a traditional meal. –> The Husband and I talked about this, and we are planning on celebrating Thanksgiving! We wanted to celebrate July 1/July 4 (Canada Day and American Independence, but couldn’t this year) 

Tip #13: Live as though you’ll be here forever—but also be ready to pick up and go. Oh, the paradox of expat living. Create a life for yourself in this new place, but live each day, week, month, year in your expat home as if it were your last— because it could be. This way, you’ll have no regrets. –> This is really scary because I crave structure and roots, so packing up and coming here was a big step for me. The thought that we could leave at anytime is also very scary, but I look forward to experiencing Kuwait life and learning about a new culture. I also think that I will learn a lot about myself as I live here, but I am looking forward to being near my family and friends also! 

All in all, living in Kuwait is different compared to living in the UAE, but I believe that I am here for a reason. There is a purpose for my coming here and I am looking to see what doors are opened to me while I am here.

I have talked a little bit about my struggles of living here, and it’s great to have the support of my readers and also my wonderful friends. I have been encouraged always and it really helps to have such wonderful people in my life who are there to support me. Even though I am living across the world right now, my close friends have really helped me in this transition and I know when I have my down days they will be there to give me the encouragement that I need.

Living here has been a step of faith and I think God brought me here to take me out of my comfort zone and live by faith. One thing I have to say is, on days that I feel so low there is some type of encouragement that comes into my life that gives me that spurt and happiness and it just shows that God is always looking out for me and taking care of me!

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