Like many people I know, I came to the UAE with a plan to stay for just two or three years. Looking back, 16 years on, the lure of career prospects and a comfortable lifestyle has evolved into a remarkable journey, interspersed with invaluable lessons, different perspectives and extraordinary experiences.
The exhilarating ride of living and adapting to a different country is truly one of finding ourselves as much as it is about discovering the world around us. Building our life each day has had its fair share of struggles through experiencing our moments of faltering and learning to pick ourselves up, trying to keep up with the fast-paced life here, struggling to achieve a work-life balance without the support system of a large family.
In the absence of our family, however, the wealth of good friends and the reliable network of acquaintances that we build around us are indeed the intangible assets of a successful life as an expatriate. All of us have been humbled at some point in our life here, by the few friends who provided unfailing support during our hospitalisation, the friend who had lent money when we were in a financial crisis, without even knowing when it would be returned or the acquaintance who arranged the much-needed job for a close relative.
In the UAE, the treasure trove of multicultural experiences in cuisine, customs and interactions remains the true essence of life here.
Through all these interactions with myriad cultures, we are able to provide our children a unique perspective in life and give them a great head start, preparing them to adapt to a world that is increasingly turning into a global village. Learning that people all over the world have the same hopes, struggles and dreams like us, is a valuable lesson we can impart to them early in life.
The expatriate life has helped not just in maintaining a great quality of life for ourselves and our dear ones, it has enabled many of us to look beyond our world and make a difference in the lives of others.
Yet, life in the UAE is not as perfect or easy as we have others believe through our carefully tailored public image with photographs of brunch and lunch meets in fancy restaurants, circulated on social media. The escalating expenses of rent, school fees and others have affected many of us and we need to be constantly careful of the effect of too much spending or socialising leading us to a debt trap.
However, whenever we get a little disgruntled, there are numerous things to remind us about appreciating what we have here. I am quickly reminded of the several occasions when I had been partying late with friends and have felt reassuringly safe about driving home alone.
The UAE has certainly offered many of us the opportunities that we came looking for and several other perks beyond that. It provides a truly unique environment that always offers something new to look forward to. The host of events, activities, services and others certainly ensure that there is hardly a boring moment. Over the years, the UAE and especially Dubai has emerged as a successful international centre for business, which translates into several new opportunities. Life in the country is ever evolving not just in respect of the changes we see around us every day, but also in areas such as arts, literature and culture.
Reflecting on expatriate life here, the journey certainly has been fulfilling in many ways. The search for greener pastures has led many of us to the discovery of a life that has been filled with a mix of many bright hues.
Fyna Ashwath is a journalist based in Dubai.