Wednesday 31 January 2018

Where are all the expats?

I've written before about meeting other expats when you move abroad and let me tell you it's not easy.

In the past 2 weeks we've met people who are moving to Dubai and they seem to be under the impression, like many before them and like many more to come, that they'll step off the plane and there will be someone stood there with a sign that reads

'Expats this way'

There's also an assumption from people who've never lived abroad that you just need to go and find the expat groups to make friends, it's easy.

Well that's easier said than done, because unless you work for an all British company (or company of your nationality) or you live in a compound that your company own. There is no such thing as an expat society.

In South Africa there were pockets of British expats and people would ask us why we chose to live in Centurion and not Lone Hill for example where the other British people lived. But when you looked into it, you realised they knew 3 or 4 other British people who just happened to live in that area, so it became a myth that, that was the British expat area. In Dubai only 21% of the population are locals, therefore everyone else is an expat and yes, we are all expats here because you can not obtain citizenship here and besides we call ourselves expats, not because we are British but because we are expatriated from our birth country for a period of time and will be returning one day, we are not migrants in search of work or immigrants who are never returning to our home country.

When we moved to South Africa, my husband was the only British employee of the company, in Dubai he is one of 2 or 3 and those other people have relocated here from other countries also. Just because they are British doesn't mean we are going to have anything in common and they have young children and their social lives and interests are very different from ours.

There are of course many other nationalities that my husband works with and we do socialise with them from time to time, but they are all much younger than us, mainly single or with small kids. Just because you're all living abroad doesn't necessarily mean you've got anything else in common.

I've been blogging recently about being bored and feeling lonely, I do have some friends here in Dubai and I quite often take the first step in arranging to meet up with others that I've formed an online friendship with. You have to remember that Dubai is a city and with city life comes traffic (lots of it) people work, have school runs etc and just popping round someones house or meeting up for coffee can quite often be a logistical nightmare here.

When we first moved abroad I joined every group going. I took advice from other expats and joined in with everything. There are numerous blog posts about joining a gym, searching face book for local groups, joining specific world wide expat groups, volunteering at your local school etc, but sometimes that is easier said than done.

In South Africa security was a big issue and meeting people online wasn't the best idea, however I did find some volunteer groups that I met life long friends through. Language can often be a big hurdle when it comes to meeting people and even now, the WhatsApp group still converse in Afrikaans from time to time, which excludes me from the conversation. It's not intentional, it just happens.

I find Dubai to be quite superficial, it's all about networking, whose husband can help who and what school your child is at, what job you do, handbag you carry and shoes you wear play a big part in making friends.

Of course that is a fairly sweeping statement to be making, but over the past few weeks, I've revisited the online expat groups throughout their websites and on facebook. Unfortunately these groups either meet in the evenings in bars as they are made up of people who work out here, or they're coffee mornings for 'Mums and tots' although I don't have any children living at home it doesn't mean to say I wouldn't have anything in common with some of these women, but I think it might look a bit dodgy if I turned up at one of their breast feeding support groups.

I've applied to join face book groups that look appealing but their community groups based on where you live and as I don't live in those estates I've been denied access to them. I do visit dog parks and play centres with my dog, I chat with my neighbours when I walk the dog several times a day and there's an open day at the local leisure centre soon I'll go along to.

There was a coffee morning near by this week, advertised as a British speaking group, 15 people attending and local. I thought I'd go along, so I went to register my interest to discover the only confirmed attendees were 15 Asian men, going by their profile pictures.

So you see it's not as easy as you think to just go and find the expat groups, but if anyone does know where these group of people are hiding, will they please let me know.


  1. I hope you find these people....I bet there is someone sat at home thinking the exact same thoughts as you do. The thought of you turning up to a breast feeding support group did make me chuckle. hehehe

    1. Everything here is aimed at parents or those who want to go rubbing and clubbing and networking, not us middle aged folks lol

  2. Your life is so different from mine - I've never lived in a country other than mine. I would have enjoyed it but I can see it can also be lonely. Sending good thoughts that you find more friendship.

  3. It sounds like it's quite lonely. I hope you find something suitable for you soon. Thanks for sharing at #TriumphantTales, hope to see you again tomorrow.

    1. it sure can be, but i've been making more of an effort recently to get out and about more

  4. I've no words of advice or pointers to groups to add I'm afraid, I've only ever lived in the UK and haven't even moved from London (though have moved to different parts of London) - generally I've made friends through work and sport, and while we're thinking of leaving London at some point, we're also considering how we make friends somewhere completely new. I'm under no illusion that it's hard, but I suspect even we with our reality glasses on (rather than the rose tinted ones) have no idea how hard it really is. Sending hugs and strength your way, thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

    1. thank you Stephanie, I just say i find it really easy to make friends in the UK, we recently bought a flat where my mum has lived for the past 17 years and I know all the neighbours and most people in the local businesses, no idea why it's so hard when you move abroad, especially when there are so many Brits here in Dubai