Monday, 17 September 2018

What it's really like living abroad? Dubai and South Africa.

Every now and then a little thought passes through my brain and I ask myself

'What am I doing living in Dubai?'

'How did this happen?'

Sometimes this thought is triggered as I drive past the Burj Al Arab or the Burb Khalifa and I think 'this place is a dream holiday location for a lot of people and I'm just going about my daily business'

Usually I'm on the way to or from the vets, the doctors or a food shop.

The other times I'm ironing or sweeping endless piles of sand out of the house.

Life isn't actually any different from living in the UK or South Africa. But there are many things to take into consideration when you leave the UK shores.

In the UK I worked and studied full time, we had 5 kids at home. In South Africa we were down to 2 kids and I didn't work or study. By the time we came to Dubai, there were no kids, but I did work full time for our 2nd year here.

In South Africa I had to deal with issues around personal safety, worry about armed robberies and car jacking on a daily basis. So all trips out were planned, someone was notified of where I was going and when I would return. But I had the most amazing experiences from camping in townships, taking the kids to Kruger National Park. Catching the train from Joburg to Cape Town with the then 12 year old and travelling alone to see the Spring Flowers in the Western Cape.

In Dubai I have the freedom to go anywhere at anytime on my own, walk, drive, use public transport, but my world is much smaller and contained to Dubai which is a huge city, but I also have to contend with the oppressive heat, which does limit my activities.

Temperature in car after parking for an hour.

Living abroad means I spend a huge amount of time on my own. Peter is out the house at work from 8am till 5pm every week day and he also travels a lot which means I'm completely on my own. Whilst I'm safe here in Dubai on my own, compared to South Africa, I still have the odd fleeting moment of panic when I realise if I had an accident or was taken ill, that I'd have to manage in it alone.

In South Africa that happened a few times, but we had a wonderful network of support to turn to. In Dubai I pretty much have only one person who I could call on in my hour of need.

Living abroad is lonely, you're isolated from family back in the homeland. In South Africa we had issues with the internet and even lack of electricity at times. In Dubai all voice over internet is blocked. It makes communication difficult. But at least the postal system works in Dubai unlike South Africa.

We now consider the flight from Dubai to the UK as short haul, despite it actually taking 7 hours to reach and another 4-6 hours to get to and from our homes. From South Africa it would take 24 hours door to door, with a direct flight taking 12 hours, or a stop in Dubai involving 2 x 7 hour flights and a minimum 2 hour stop over.

So what do I do all day as a none working mother of 5 whose kids have all left home?

Well I do the house work, washing and ironing. I food shop. walk the dog, scoop dog poop and clean the litter tray, load the dishwasher and cook dinner. I visit the dog park, get my nails done once a month and pretty much do the same things as I did when we lived in South Africa and the UK, just minus having to go to work.

We're not here on holiday, this is our life. In South Africa we lived on a golf course over looking a small river and the 16th green. In Dubai we live in a villa near the Marina.

My instagram feed is a mixture of an photos of daily activities just with a glamorous backdrop.

I drop Peter at the train station when he travels for the week and after parking i'll get the tram to the beach and the ferry back to the Marina. To me that is just normal life now. I get used to seeing the big buildings, tripping over the tourists, coping with the heat, buying bleach to clean the toilets with from the mall and having a Mcdonalds for my dinner in the food court.

I post the pictures, rarely do people read the comments, they just see me in a holiday destination, having fun or showing off. Being envious of my glamorous life style. But the reality is I just popped to the local shops, I could've been sitting in a park in the UK, instead of a beach in Dubai or a nature reserve in South Africa. I go where I need to go to do what I need to do, it just happens to be 'exotic' in many people's eyes.

We rarely do brunches, we save them for when the visitors come, as they're expensive. We go out for dinner with friends occasionally, but we're not dining in 5 star restaurants. We go to the World's largest Mall on the weekends so we can get out of the house, but stay cool indoors and go for a walk.

It's 8am and I can only sit out in the garden till then or after 8pm when the sun has gone down. The air con is on, set at 25c, you'd not heat a house that high in the winter, the bills are huge. My cold water tap doesn't run cold, even in winter it's luke warm. So I go to the pool over the road for a swim. It's lined with palm trees and sun loungers. It's £400 a year membership. If I swam in the UK 3 days a week for 30 weeks of the year, I'd pay £360, so while it sounds luxurious to have gym membership, it isn't really.

I'm not complaining about life abroad, I guess it's more about expelling myths about how glamorous it is. At the end of the day it's still the shame shit, just a different City and a bit harder to get home when I need to.


  1. Wow, thanks for this. So interesting. I don't know if I could live aboard. Kudos to you.

    1. if i had to make the decision again, with what I know, I wouldn't move

  2. I watched a programme recently about the legal system in Dubai recently and it scared me shitless to go there, even though it is a place I'd love to visit... one day perhaps!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

    1. I don't know why the negative side is always reported, there's usually much more to the stories than the headlines

  3. I think I would miss so many people. Good for you for doing this. In Dubai...that is amazing! #keepingitreal

  4. I guess we all see the glamorous backdrop and think how wonderful it must be, but we rarely consider that everyday life still goes on and don't consider the downsides like being so far away from family. Thanks for dispelling the myths that expat life is like one long holiday #pocolo

  5. Your life is so interesting and I love that you share it online. Dubai always looks stunning but I read your blog and know it's not all glam and glitz. x

  6. Thank you for your sharing articles. I have been finding interesting posts and your articles are what I need. They are really useful and engaging. They are precious pieces of advice. I can branch out with new knowledge. Learn captivating things. Hope you will upload more me.
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  7. Hi Suzanne, I really do love your posts. We may live in different countires, but I feel myself nodding as I read them. The amount of people who think we live here as if we are on one long holiday is unbeleivable. I tell them we still have shopping to do, food to prepare, ironing to do and bills to pay. It really is no different to living in the UK, apart from the weather... It must be very hard for you not having such a close network of people you can call on in Dubai. Is that because the lifestyle in general is different?.. I know I could never settle in South Africa for good, it's a beautiful country, but I never felt totally relaxed there. I would never just jump in the car and take the dogs for a walk on my own there.

    Thank you for linking up with #keepingitreal


  8. It must be hard people assuming life is just one big holiday or jolly - I'm not sure I could cope with those temperatures though. Thanks for sharing with #POCoLo

  9. My husband is currently making applications to teach abroad. Thank you for enlightening us to live abroad. I love South Africa and I always say that the safety issues and crime is the main factor why we are considering leaving. But my support system is here and I worry that life overseas will be very lonely. I have also heard that life is not all glamorous abroad

  10. I have only been to the Dubai airport and so far it has been the one I've been to. I have lots of friends living in Dubai as expats. Hope to visit Dubai in the future. #BlogCrush

  11. I love your candid honesty here. I don't think I could live away from the UK, but that's because I already have a glimpse of what it's like (where I currently live is 3 hours from my nearest family and I often feel isolated). But I'd love to visit Dubai - it really does look like a stunning city!

    And someone else really enjoyed this post too because they chose to add it to the BlogCrush linky! Hurray! Feel free to grab your "I've been featured" blog badge :) #blogcrush