by British mum of two, Um Faris
“Let’s face it, we’ve all heard the rumours, seen the Bentleys and the massive villas, and probably thought at some point or another that Emiratis must have money growing on trees (or from their personal oil pumps). Well, let me tell you this, if Emiratis are loaded, they forgot to pass the memo to my husband!
We all like the finer things in life and there’s plenty to aspire to in the UAE, however it’s a total myth to say that Emiratis are all rich. There’s a small percentage of the population who have worked hard and are now reaping the monetary rewards, mashallah, but the majority of locals here lead pretty ordinary lives, earning very basic salaries and having no added benefits of housing allowances, schooling allowances, international flights or private insurance that us expats have been used to.
Emarati people have a very private culture, and they spend a lot of time living quiet lives and enjoying their families and their homes. Fridays normally consist of prayer and a family day at Grandma’s house, big meals, lots of laughter and kids playing – not a far cry from the UK in the 20th Century. It’s so relaxing and refreshing, and with families living close to each other, cousins tend to be the best of friends and life is good!
There are many families who don’t have an awful lot, are living off a single salary of tens of thousands, but, they are genuinely happy, having their health, families and their God, and that really is enough.
I quite often get asked questions like, ‘ooooh, do you not pay DEWA then?’ And my response? Erm, yes we do! We use it, so we pay for it! ‘Oh, so you must live in a huge house given to you by the government then?’ Erm, not quite; we rent a modest villa in a compound, hoping one day to have the money to buy or build a home of our own, but we have to work hard to get there, just like other people do. And the strangest ‘oh you have wild animals running around your garden?’ No, not at all, (unless our little fluffy bunny is considered wild!)
In short, Emiratis are not too dissimilar to any other nationality; to gain wealth they have to study and work hard, and there are no free passes.
Life in the UAE is ever evolving and evolving at a rapid rate; some of the older generations I speak to, say they just can’t keep up; that those things are luxuries for the young, and that they’re happy living a more provincial life.
They are excited about change, but they’re also anxious; understandably because their culture, language and religion mean so much to them and their priority is to preserve a national identity that remains strong throughout the younger generations.
I like that – In fact, I like that a lot. Culture and a sense of being is important for everyone, it’s so easy to lose yourself in UAE, and there’s so much to learn about each other for all nationalities.
However, in learning about others, don’t we all want to keep a hold of ourselves? This is something that must be increasingly difficult for a minority population that play host to so many others. Don’t you think?”
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