Friday, September 16, 2011

Month 1 is done....what stands out?

Today marks the end of Month 1 in Abu Dhabi for the Faria Family.

What have I figured out so far?

  • There is no right of way.  
  • It's fight or die out there on the roads.  
  • Honking and Flashing Lights is the norm.  
  • Enter a Roundabout, take a deep breath and hope you make it out for your exit
  • Everyone follows within a foot of your car, give too much room and someone will sneak in front of you
  • Never drive in the left-hand lane unless you are planning to go 180 k/h or so.  
  • People pass on the shoulder if you are going to slow
  • It was explained to me that it's considered a nuisance and means to an end - they don't mean to be rude but just get out of the way, could you?
  • The roads have two or three names to the same street
  • No one uses addresses, only landmarks
  • Buy a GPS - I can't get around without one
  • Once you get used to it, it's really not THAT bad

  • Not EVERYTHING is more expensive
  • Western products are two or three times the price
  • Bread Products are cheap
  • Hummus is cheap
  • Cucumbers are cheap
  • Eggs have almost orange yolks
  • I can't find organic milk
  • Milk goes bad quicker because of the heat
  • Water from the tap is funky so we buy lots of bottled water until our water dispenser arrives
  • When you buy produce you have to bring it to the produce scales in the produce section to have each bag of items individually weighed and tagged before taking everything to the front of the store.  When you get there, stake your place and hold to it.  Blink an eye and people will cut in front of you or stick their stuff on the scale next.  It's like driving - no right of way.
  • Just because I bought something at a store one week doesn't mean it will be there the next week.
  • You may have to shop at multiple places to find what you want
  • Major grocery stores tend to be really inconvenient to get in and out of.  
  • It's not uncommon for a major grocery store to be three stories up at a mall and you may have to park and walk through underground parking, take an elevator and go up two moving walkways to get to it.
  • You may not get exact change but you'll get as close as they have from the till.
  • Things are sold in kilograms, not pounds.  
  • Lots of the clothes seem cheapy like they will fall apart with one wash or they are really expensive


  • You know those lines that show parking spaces?  Here those are considered "suggestions".  
  • Some parking areas are insane - double parking/triple parking.  
  • Make sure when you park that you have a good exit or two
  • Use underground parking when you can because it's hot outside
  • Get a parking shade for your car or tint your windows because it's hot outside
  • It's common to REALLY tinted windows on cars.  It's not because they're trying to be cool, it's because you shouldn't see that it might be a woman driving the car

  • Be aware that you're in another country.
  • Yes, you can wear sleeveless - just not during Ramadan or a mosque or something
  • Don't dress provocative unless you want EVERYONE to stare at you.
  • Just because someone's face is covered up, it doesn't make it scary - just different
  • I learned that the girls don't start wearing abayas until after they've had their periods and then they have to wear them.  There is something to do with curses if you don't.
  • The women here love their fancy shoes and fancy purses - how else can they show off what they have if they wear those abayas?
  • Wear cotton - it breathes better and it's hot

  • It's hotter than a dessert in the middle of hell
  • Seriously - it's hot
  • I don't understand why I feel like my face is melting off when I'm wearing a dress and I can see someone in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt not be phased by it.
  • I'm hoping it doesn't take too long to acclimate to the weather
  • Supposedly it cools down by October......

  • There are TONS of things to do
  • Lots are outdoors and it's CRAZY to attempt to do them in the middle of August with three kids in tow

  • You can't use the US Dollar anywhere
  • They use dirhams here.
  • I made a chart to help myself when food shopping

5 dhs/1 kilo                         $  1.36/kilo                          $  .61/lb
10 dhs/1 kilo                       $  2.72/kilo                          $1.24/lb
15 dhs/1kilo                        $  4.08/kilo                          $1.85/lb
20 dhs/1 kilo                       $  5.45/kilo                          $2.48/lb
25 dhs/1 kilo                       $  6.80/kilo                          $3.09/lb
30 dhs/1 kilo                       $  8.16/kilo                          $3.71/lb
35 dhs/1 kilo                       $  9.52/kilo                          $4.33/lb
40 dhs/1 kilo                       $10.88/kilo                          $4.95/lb
45 dhs/1 kilo                       $12.24/kilo                          $5.57/lb
50 dhs/1 kilo                       $13.60/kilo                          $6.19/lb

  • They are crazy expensive
  • You have to pay for the whole year at once + lots of different fees
  • I am grateful that Brian's job includes schooling for the big kids
  • The school has more activities that I could ever imagine
  • The kids get to ride a bus to and from school (thanks to Brian's job)
  • The school day is an hour longer just for the education and another 45 minutes each way on the bus

  • Toilets flush differently here - they have buttons on the back that split for partial flushes and super flushes.
  • Toilets have little nozzle things attached - someone said it's because people here don't use toilet paper, but I don't get how that works because you'd be soaking wet.  Maybe it's to help when cleaning the toilet?
  • It's common to find bidets in the bathrooms
  • It's common to have ensuite bedrooms
  • The outlets are different.  There is a mix of outlets in the house and not everything can be plugged into every outlet.  The power is different and we need a transformer for some small appliances to work or the motor will blow up.  We need just an adapter to plug in other smaller items.
  • Lots and Lots of tile
  • Most houses have maid's quarters.  They are usually MUCH smaller than a regular bedroom
  • It's not uncommon to have apartment-sized washers/dryers/dishwashers/fridges in a GIANT house - I think it's because the maids do it and so it's not a big deal???
  • Our dishes don't fit in our dishwasher and the dishwasher sucks
  • Ants are a HUGE problem
  • I've only heard a dog bark once since I've been here.  People have to keep them inside here.
  • There are feral cats everywhere
  • We sang Old MacDonald at a Playgroup and were reminded not to mention "the pig"
  • Dry Cleaning is crazy cheap
  • Any labor thing is cheap
  • Most people have live-in housemaids/nannies 
  • I've never discussed people's ethnicities so much as I have here
  • I was raised to think that the outside doesn't matter, it's what on the inside - here they seem to have a different attitude.
  • They bedazzle everything here - cell phone covers, ipad covers, laptop covers, car windshield wipers, license plate frames, car symbols on a car
  • There is constant contruction
  • Preschools are really day cares and people don't need any qualifications but can charge an arm and a leg anyway and the waiting lists are over a year long for good ones
  • Temperature is in celsius
  • People are generally friendly
  • Cameron attracts a lot of attention and gets free things whenever we go out - it's weird
  • It's very dusty and sandy because even though it feels like a city - it's in the middle of a desert
  • There are 500 channels but they cater to 500 different cultures so there isn't much in the way of American TV
  • Most people speak basic English
  • Everyone wants to tell you yes to be polite so you have to make sure they can really do what you ask
  • You called "muh-dahm" all the time
  • Things are referred to in the British-English way often....trolley = shopping cart, buggy = stroller
  • You may need to talk to 1/2 dozen people before someone will understand you
  • Just because someone speaks English, it doesn't mean it's my kind of English.  It takes me a bit to understand someone from Australia/New Zealand/Great Britain with all the slang and the accents.
  • People think Americans & Canadians sound the same

  • Friendly waves to people without them thinking I want to buy something or I'm coming onto them
  • Freedom to wear what I want without worrying if someone will stare at me
  • Public Libraries
  • Grocery Stores that are consistent and friendly
  • Kids Club from the gym where Cameron got social interaction with kids his age
  • A big yard for the kids
  • Cold water from the taps or the shower or for the washing machine
  • Organic Milk
  • Knowing my way around
  • Drive-Thrus
  • Comfort Junk food that I really don't need anyway but still wish I had
  • Cameron's Playgroup
  • My friends
  • My mom

  • Gas is cheap
  • Dry Cleaning is cheap
  • Huge array of ethnic foods
  • It's always sunny
  • There are tons of things to do
  • My kids are being exposed to a wide-range of cultures
  • It should be easy to travel to places on this side of the world
  • I have access to a DPO box so I can get anything shipped here for the same cost of having it shipped to my home in the US
  • I can shop online
  • I can talk via skype and see family/friends
  • I don't have 100 commitments yet so I have a lot of free time
  • I can have someone clean my whole house once a week for $27
  • I'll never have to iron anything here because it's so cheap to send it out
  • I'll eat better because there are no drive-thrus
  • My kids have learned more arabic in two weeks of school than I will learn in my whole life
  • The money comes in pretty colors
  • If I take Cameron to the fruit market at the port every week, I'll never have to buy bananas again because every vendor will give him one for free
  • The malls are gigantic
This is temporary.  It is an adventure.  There will be ups and there will be downs.  We will make the best of it all.


Anonymous said...

What a month! You have learned so much. The next month will be even better. Thanks for sharing it with us! It's fun to make this journey with you.


Anonymous said...

Don't worry - weekend up here in Dubai and you'll find lots of Drive Through's to increase your waist size... and have you found Brunches yet. That helps put the weight on!!

vidhya said...

grt.. u made a huge list of the pluses and the minuses..I missed my family the most when i came here from india some 12 yrs ago..Iam sure u wud get used to this kinda lifestyle sooon.

Brenda said...

I loved your post! I got wind of your blog through the article in The National today. This post hits the nail on the head. I am an Arab American, and have been living here for about 7 months now. Life gets easier as you learn to cope with the various stresses here, but it has worked out for the best for us. I look forward to more of your posts!