The two ends of the scale; arrive on Arabian soil and immediately hunt down the nearest British pub serving your local ale and a full English, or head for the Bastakiya area and get stuck in? Clearly there’s a market for British culture in Dubai – Dhow & Anchor, anyone? – but there’s also those who think it’s crass to hanker after a touch of home when expat life can expose you to so many different cultures. Can you strike a balance? Is it okay to enjoy a spot of Britishness once in a while, or should you be spending all your time making your way through the menu at Reem Al Bawadi while brushing up on your Arabic?
One British mum says learning as much about the local culture as possible was one of the main reasons she and her other half chose to become expats in the first place. “We’re from a really quiet part of the UK with virtually no cultural diversity, and I felt my children were missing out,” says Beccy. “So we do our best to make sure they experience as many cultures as they can here, obviously with the local culture as a priority.” They’re so keen, Beccy and her hubby even go to parents’ Arabic classes at their children’s school (helpful when it comes to homework so they’re not totally clueless).
Sandra says there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a bit of home over here, and it’s right that there’s a British pub with Yorkshire puddings and HP sauce on the menu. “Dubai’s a melting pot of so many cultures, so why shouldn’t we have a taste of home here?’ she says. “I love living in the Middle East and love the culture but every now and then, (especially if I’m a bit homesick,) it’s nice to see something familiar.”
Dr Yaseen Aslam, consultant psychiatrist and Medical Director of The Psychiatry and Therapy Centre, says there’s benefits to both approaches. “Moving abroad is no mean feat, and some of us do seek solace by immersing ourselves in things that are quintessentially British, that remind us of home,” he says. “But learning about the new culture, and having the opportunity to learn new customs, traditions and languages can really help with adjustment.”
“It’ll likely also give you a helping hand with broadening your social networks and moving on up the career ladder,” he says, both of which can be handy in making your expat life more rewarding.
Looks like finding a balance could be the way forward, then; by all means raid the international foods aisles at Park&Shop for your crumpets, your Tetley tea bags and your Heinz baked beans, but don’t forget there’s a whole new world out there just ripe for exploring. We reckon the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is a great place to start, and don’t forget your UAE flag for 2nd December celebrations!
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