The modern ‘joint’ family

Has economics pushed people to live in a new kind of joint family system?

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Gulf News

Life is not easy on your wallet, from the constantly increasing rents to daily expenses, everything has to be carefully budgeted to make sure you still have something left to add to your savings account every month.

To cope with this, some expatriate families in the UAE choose to share their living space with other families, or their friends in order to cut expenses and save more. We take a look into the lives of some Gulf News readers who have created a joint family system, to survive the economic situation.

According to 35-year-old Indian expatriate Hayider Malik, a purchaser living in Dubai: “A joint family helps to support in case of financial issues. It has helped me save a lot of money since the house rent, electricity bills, internet bills and even grocery costs are divided.

“Other than economic efficiency, it also helps environmentally because I notice that food wastage is much less comparatively. We get to share food and make different types of food. It is different from living with your own extended family because when you choose to live with another family, their cultures and customs are also different. You get to celebrate different festivals, learn about their family traditions and participate. It also helps children understand concepts like giving other people their space, tolerance, sharing, helping and building relationships with those other than your immediate family.

“Another thing is that you do not feel lonely and can always be assured of more helping hands around the house. When a problem arises, there are more people finding solutions for them.”

The choice does come with its own drawbacks. “Sometimes there may be conflicts, which can’t be resolved immediately because it’s easier with your own family but your don’t want to make the other family dislike you or make it uncomfortable. But then it also helps you find the smartest ways to communicate without hurting the set-up,” Malik added.

Samnad Abdul Rashid is a 29-year-old Indian, who works as a driver in Dubai. He stays in Sharjah, with his friend’s family who also have a three-year-old son.

Rashid said: “I love to stay with them, when I come home tired and stressed, it relaxes me to play with the child, He is like my nephew now. My salary is not very high and I cannot afford to rent a whole house and manage to pay all the bills with the money I make. A chosen joint family system helps me save enough to send money back to India, to my family members who depend on me. I am newly married, and the family I stayed with helped me learn core family values, which I now try to uphold in my own new family. This is a family away from family.”

Dubai-based Filipina, Vhienna Al Marinez, has been living in the UAE for more than seven years and has moved apartments four times. “It was really required to share an apartment, there was no other option because rents was rocketing during that time. However, it is difficult to live with other people who have different personalities. Some are so loud, some may use up your groceries without paying or asking and some may even trash the house. But there are times you just enjoy sharing your stories with them or listening to their stories, eating your favourite food with them, or just sitting in front of your favourite hometown television series.

“I guess, I have learnt a lot from sharing my home with another family. The advantages are more than disadvantages. It will make you more diplomatic, assertive yet polite, adaptive to different situations and with a wider range of friends in real life,” the 34-year-old service adviser told Gulf News.

According to Filipino expat, Stewart Kenneth Briones: “The most important part when you stay in a joint family system is that we feel less sadness in life. If we are in bad mood or depressed, we always need someone to share our feelings with and someone to support us. Loneliness will only you get more depressed.

“We will have someone to support us in difficulties. While making important decisions other people’s perspective will help you make a better choice. If we need to buy things for the house such as furniture, we can make a better choice since the expense will be divided and there will be more ideas. It also helps save a lot of money.”

Sharjah-based expatriate Hashim Al Deen Nashim Al Deen, 30, stays with his family and shares his apartment with his friend.

“Most of us have come to the UAE to work and save money. This becomes difficult especially due to the rents in most places. I choose to live in a system similar to a joint family, with a trusted friend. Not only has it helped in building my relationship stronger with him, it has helped both of us financially to split our expenses. We also enjoy many more things when friends are around. There are many more birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate, many more fun movie weekends or outings. Life in the UAE is very fast, it is hard to see time go by. I think it is much better to spend it with family and friends like this, instead of dragging on like a robot while still not saving anything. This self-chosen family is a great idea, and I plan to continue living like this for a few more years at least.”

While most expatriates live away from their family members, these are a few of the UAE residents who have chosen to build their own joint families. Do you think this is a good idea? Do you live in a joint-family system with friends? Tell us on

— The writer is based in Dubai and works in the automobile industry


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