Dubai: How do you find your feet in a new place? How do you cope with being away from your loved ones back home? How do you help your children navigate the challenges of an expat upbringing?
These will be among a series of questions that two Dubai-based women will address at a special “evening of expat stories” to be held in the city on June 5 and 7.
Giving Gulf News a heads-up, the women, both bestselling authors, said they will drawing upon their works on expat journeys to discuss with adults and children alike the pleasures and challenges of moving to a new city.
The free-to-attend events will be held at Book Hero Café in DIP and Umm Suqeim.
While Rachael Lynn, originally from the US, has written the book At Home Anywhere, Briton Giselle Onanian is the author of the Alfie & Oak expat adventure series for children.
Lynn, who moved to Dubai at the end of 2018, said she came up with the idea of writing At Home Anywhere in 2019 because she felt a need to do so.
“When I came here newly, I was looking for resources on expat living. But everything I came across spoke to a different time. I couldn’t relate to any of them.”
With a personal development background from the US, Lynn said she decided to write a book that could particularly address young women like her who moved into the city. She employed journaling and active exercise techniques at the end of each chapter in the book to help readers process the information.
The 189-page book has nine chapters in all, each looking at a different aspect of expat life.
The second chapter, for instance, is titled ‘The Moment It Hits You’. “It’s about the time when you get through the excitement of unpacking and discovering where you are. People have a hard time as everything seems new. So it’s important to acknowledge the big change in order to settle in.”
June 7, Book hero Café Umm Suqeim – 7-8pm
Similarly, the last chapter – ‘Creating your Community’ – focuses on how to stay connected with family and friends one has moved away from, while also forging new relationships here in Dubai.
Lynn said she wishes to remind women to find the time to self-reflect and reconnect with themselves amid all the golden opportunities in the new city.
“I am that expat friend talking to them through my book,” she added.
Onanian too has a similar aim, but her targets are children.
Born in the UK, she moved to Dubai when she was five. Now, a mother of two and a copywriter by profession, she felt motivated to start a children’s book series on expat adventures that would also address simple questions that expat children may have when they move into a new a city.
“I have written three books so far – ‘Daddy Has a New Job’, ‘Can we Go to See Nana?’ And ‘Where Did My Friend Go?’,” she said.
As the titles suggest, each of the three books looks at different but typical contexts in expat living when young children relocate to a new city after a parent takes up a new job, ask to see their grandparents back home or wonder where a friend suddenly went away after summer vacations?
“As Alfie, the protagonist of the book series, asks these questions, he gets the answers in a way that he can process them. For instance, in the book on the friend (Sophie), Alfi is made to understand that expat living is transient and people come and go,” said Onanian.
She said she is looking forward to interacting with children at the Book Hero events. “During my school readings, I always ask students if they remember the time they first came here? How did they feel then? How do they feel now? What did they call their Nana – and so on.”
The books are relevant to expat life in any new city.
A platform to grow together
Spanish expat Montserrat Martin of Book Hero, said, "At Book Hero, we are trying to offer a platform where we will grow together. Many of us expats have many things in common: The missing family, friends , the mere street sound, food, our own humour interpretation etc. Here in Dubai, expats are still lucky. We are an amalgam of cultures, journeys, tears, laughter, chameleonic experiences and lots more that we pick up on our journeys."
She said, "When we gather for dinner, we get the world around the table, and we say kuya, yaldi, give me the bill. Shukran!"
I myself have travelled since I was 17 and have lived in UAE longer than in any other country, including my native land. I have learnt that home is where I am at that particular time and this brings a level of comfort. I am a Gypsy by nature and mixing with other cultures only offer me wisdom and happiness. It will be interesting to see how those two authors will explain their research inside their books. Sharing ways to add a little happiness in people’s life is such a blessing. For those expats or expat kids facing challenges during the adjustment period, this event is for you," she added.