It’s been a while since we arrived in Dubai which started me thinking about what I originally thought our life would be like here – and how it actually turned out! With hindsight I realised there are definitely a few things I wish I’d known before we moved!

1. That although Dubai wasn’t cheap, it wouldn’t be so expensive!

And that schools would be allowed to put up their fees by more than the average salary increase and that VAT was being introduced.  Fortunately I now spend so much time reworking my budget, that I no longer have time to go shopping.

2. That driving on the wrong side of the road was really not the thing to be terrified of at all  

That was a complete non-event, although I do sometimes still get in the passenger side of my car – much to my children’s amusement! What is terrifying however, is having someone drive so close behind you that you can’t even see their number plate in your rear view mirror. 

And trying to exit the motorway by having to cross several lanes and dodge all the cars which are trying to enter the motorway on the same few hundred metres of road. 

And trying to figure out what exactly so many cars in so many lanes are going to do next.  

But I’m happy to say (for the encouragement of all other new-to-Dubai drivers) that I am only ever occasionally terrified now! These days I mostly just embarrass my kids by trying to teach car park etiquette to everyone at their school.

3. Just how much your weekend can change by moving back one day 

Does anyone that’s working for an international company truly have Friday off? My hubby certainly always seems to have more emails and phone calls on Friday than any other day of the week… and I think I’ve finally figured out why.  It’s because the rest of the working world is trying to finalise everything in time for their weekend. Talk about lack of cultural sensitivity. 

4. That it can take longer to settle here than many other expat destinations

Perhaps my foundation for this is a bit unfair. We moved from Shanghai where you make friends at lightning speed because you kind of have to – as you are so out of your depth in a very foreign land. But even old Dubai hands will admit that Dubai is different. Many people have lived here a long, long time and have established networks so, although everyone I have met is friendly and welcoming, they are not dying to be my new best friend. Which I can live with. Now that I have finally actually made some friends.

5.That my children would settle so well

Like most mothers I worried terribly about another move for my two girls, especially at their age (tween/teen) and feared that it would be difficult for them to break into established friend groups. A lovely friend advised that we choose a school that was fairly new but with a strong reputation and most importantly a school that we felt represented the same values as our family. It was wonderful advice and the girls have been so happy. The only negative is that a change to a cheaper school is now absolutely out of the question.

6. That once you are settled it would feel so disconcertingly normal

Most people speak English, the shops are so familiar, I drive my kids to and from school, I could be at home, which is why I have to constantly remind myself to explore, to experience, to learn about our new home while I can. 

7. How much I would wish I had moved here earlier

There are two reasons for this. Number 1 (above) plays a huge part, as everyone I know says Dubai sadly wasn’t always this expensive. Secondly, if hubby and I had moved here when we were younger, we’d have fitted the Dubai image so much better. With bodies more suited to beach clubs and money not needed for school fees (or pensions) we could have brunched and lunched and partied up a storm – well at least in my middle-aged imagination anyway!

8. The truth about the weather

I suppose I should have realised that having to both heat and chill the swimming pools is a bit of a giveaway – but it’s mostly the speed with which we’ve gone from melting heat to gorgeous days – to cold and rainy and then back to melting heat that has surprised me. Next year I will be better organised and have vowed not to start visiting the beach and barbecuing just as summer arrives.  

9. The truth about myself

That despite number 1 on my list (or perhaps because of it) I’d still happily pay AED 50 for a glass of grape. There goes my budget again.

10. And lastly – but most importantly….. that I had known about British Mums 

The true oracle on all things Dubai, you lovely mums have been more help than you could possibly imagine ever since I eventually discovered you.

Written by British mum Jane Taylor

Read more:

The truths about being a British mum in Dubai

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