We have been in Dubai for 2 weeks and I have just gotten over the homesick blues. The first week was worst; I kept questioning our decision to leave Malaysia. I miss the familiarity, people, freedom of driving anywhere I want, and the confidence of knowing things at the back of my hands.
My mom left a week ago. I felt even more lost after that, having to handle both kids on my own, on top of cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, homeschooling etc. Being an expatriate is so overrated eh? Day in day out, the highlight of our day is when the apartment door opens and Hubby pops in. Yeah, the kids and I look forward to that a LOT. It means boredom has come to an end. It means we can explore a little. To console myself, I kept telling myself home is where the family is; that things will get better.
In fact, they do. I’m feeling a lot more settled this week. Ready to venture out and conquer the world! Prepared to make the most out of my life here. No friends? Well, I’ll go and make some! No car? Well, I’ll be a taxi driver’s buddy! Thus far, I have brought the kids out for grocery shopping, medical check-up, nursery hunting all on my own.
Gladly to say, I like it here in Dubai so far. Most things exceeded my expectations:
► Our new home is spacious and comfortable. It’s strategically located in the city and only takes 30 minutes drive to the airport. There’s a Carrefour downstairs with the metro station 10 minutes’ walk away. Mall of the Emirates is only 10 minutes drive away. It’s very convenient. For now, we travel around by taxis which are very reliable.
► In a nutshell, Dubai is very cosmopolitan. I feel like I’m living in a place called the “world”. It’s indeed a huge melting pot with various nationalities residing here. The roads, public toilets and facilities are clean and very well-maintained. The malls are huge, the infrastructure is impressive. I’ve never been to New York but I can understand why Dubai is called the New York of Asia. To me, it’s almost like Singapore. It is so multicultural that my mom asked me, “Why do I see more ang mo lang here than their locals?”
► It’s very safe here. People don’t watch their kids like a hawk. Now I understand why the Arab tourists who visit Malaysia let their kids run freely in the malls (but hang on tight to their spouses’ hands). Children play freely while moms chat with a peace of mind. It’s not unusual to see women leaving their handbags on the shopping trolley unattended while they go to another supermarket aisle to fetch something else. Or men leaving their handphone, car keys and wallet on the table while they wash their hands in a restaurant. Trains are regularly patrolled by policemen. I can take a taxi here with my kids and not worry about being cheated, kidnapped or robbed. No haggling required too – just get on the cab, say your destination and vrooom.
► People are generally nice and friendly. The local Emiratis are helpful. It’s common to have strangers smiling or striking up a conversation with you – more so if you have kids or dogs (thinking to bring Odee over!). The foreigners here, largely British and Europeans, are easy-going too.
► People here drive fast, especially the taxi drivers. On days when we’re unlucky enough to get crazy cab drivers, I would be hanging on tightly to my kids while chanting “please let us live, please let us live!” It’s as if driving at an average speed is illegal. Six lanes on a highway, all driving fast. I sweat (and swear!) just thinking about driving here – bet I’ll be honked like nobody’s business!
► Oh did I mention that babywearing seems quite uncommon here? I often get stared and ooohed & aahed at whenever I put Xan in a carrier. Breastfeeding in the public with a nursing poncho has so far been A-okay too.
► It’s a very family-oriented place with MANY activities for children. You just need to know where to look. I can’t wait to explore these places once we have a car. Hubby is due to take his driving test soon. Once he gets a license, it’s my turn to take up lessons. Yayy!
► No, I don’t have to wear the black robe or cover myself from top to toe. I just wear what I usually do in Malaysia.
► Yes, we still do get pork here – rather easily. It’s usually sold in stand-alone supermarkets like Spinneys, Choitram and Park & Shop. No problemo!
► As for grocery shopping, it’s more expensive. The standard of living here is sky high. Carrying Dirham notes (AED) of 100s, 200s and 500s is more practical here as 50s, 10s and smaller notes don’t get you far. Let’s not even talk about coins (which I’m still trying to figure out what is what as everything is in Arabic). On a positive note, my favourite dark chocolate Tim Tam and Haagen Daaz tubs are cheaper here, hehe! Oreo is a commodity here though, at almost 45dhs (RM42) per pack! Cloth diapers are not something common, let alone cloth diaper-friendly detergents. And I miss Mamypoko and Pet Pet…the disposable diapers here are so thin! I haven’t come across Yakult but a friend said that it’s yet another precious commodity here.
► Eating out is very, very costly. At least for Malaysians. My mum and I ate at one of Dubai Mall’s food courts recently. A plate of fried rice and fried noodles came up to almost 120dhs. That’s around RM100. Without drinks. Definitely no treasure hidden in the food, I have checked thrice! Perhaps it’s just this particular mall (after all, it’s the world’s largest mall by retail space). A quick check on Chili’s menu pricing here shows a RM10 to RM20 difference vis-à-vis the same food item in Malaysia. We eat in most of the time.
Overall, it isn’t too hard to adapt to the culture here as it’s very much international. Everything’s pretty much accessible.
However, the transition wasn’t easy for the kids, especially E. He misses his teachers and friends back home. He kept singing the songs he learned at Chiltern House. Mentioned what Teacher Nurun or Pang Lao Shi said. Or showed us the photo of Josh and him and said “I love Josh!” It broke our hearts when he suddenly told us one night “Let’s go home”. Home meaning our house in Malaysia 😦
That’s why I’m focused on reinstating his daily routine and getting him up and going again now. He’s not used to doing nothing and staying home with me all day long. We are currently looking for a school/nursery for him. That’s my goal for now.
I’ll put up pictures of our new home soon. Until then…
P/S: I update my Instagram rather regularly. Add me at “joeyllhow” if you Instagram too!