Working nine-to-five (well, six actually)

My husband’s prediction came true… whilst I couldn’t wait to be a trailing spouse and a lady of leisure for at least all of 2017, he gave me three months until I decided I was bored and started looking for a job, true to form my husband was right, exactly three months after arriving in Dubai I was offered (and accepted) a job.

Looking for work in Dubai is somewhat similar to the UK although anything goes on the job adverts; employers can ask for males aged 30+ / females aged 22-25 / unmarried women with no children, which feels really alien after spending most of my working life in England and with a stint working in HR and Resourcing where I audited job adverts for potentially maybe possibly appearing to veer toward implying the company wanted a male applicant or one of a certain age group, UAE adverts really are whatever the employer wants. Many adverts are also very informal for small local companies, so I realised quite early on that job boards were not going to get me what I wanted (Personal Assistant / Executive Assistant roles) so I changed my approach and took to LinkedIn.

I searched for UAE recruitment agencies and then scoured their advertised jobs section. Most UAE job adverts for professional jobs will ask for UAE experience and a degree as essential requirements. I’ve successfully been a PA for ten years without a degree so I know a degree is not required and presume companies use it as an instant filtering mechanism, so I knew I had to get my CV in front of some expats who now owned/worked for recruitment agencies.

I found and targeted a few agencies with British recruiters and it paid off – I received a call the next day inviting me to meet with one of the agencies – fantastic result! In between the meeting request and the actual meeting, the agency had been asked to recruit for an Executive Assistant maternity cover, 9am-6pm four days a week for five months at a trading company, I agreed to let the agency send my CV across and amazingly they wanted to interview me. The next day I squeezed into the one work dress I had brought with me (luckily after three months in loose fitting clothing and a weekly portion of caramel covered French toast I managed to wriggly around enough to get the zip fastened up all the way up!). I found my way to a tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers and much to my surprise my “interview” was actually more of a chat/get to know the top-dog and the EA I would be covering for, she was British and an expat too which I think worked in my favour…

Definitely worked in my favour as I was offered the role the next morning. After a quick talk through with my husband, and a little bit of excited dancing around the living room (we made a deal on arrival that if I worked out here we would hire a cleaner, possibly a lot of the dancing was freedom from housework!), and we agreed I should take the job!

A few hurdles in the UAE if you’re looking for work…

  • You will need to have your ID card / residency visa to start work
  • Ladies, you’ll need a no-objection letter from your sponsor (your husband or father) to allow you to work
  • It’s likely the bank will require a letter from your employer to confirm your salary
  • Something to bear in mind; the basic legal maternity allowance is just 3 months

Settling in to real life…

The three months since arriving at post has flown by and all of a sudden it really feels like we have lived here for years. For the past two years life has felt like an array of milestones, each one bringing something different and a new happiness, once X happens than everything will be good, for example;

…once we are married and can apply for a new passport we can book our flights to DXB

…once we get a confirmed moving date then we can start to look for somewhere to live

…once we’re at the airport

…once our ID cards arrive (goodness that was a whole other story, we had to wait over ten weeks!)

…once the ship arrives

Whilst some of these things have made a huge difference to our lives, other than living in a different country, none of them have changed our lives, we are still the same people, just with a tan (my husband) with more freckles (me), and ‘real life’ takes over >insert seamless segue< …one of the first steps on our new journey to start enjoying ‘real life’ in Dubai was to get out and explore our surroundings, and to do so we needed to get ourselves some new wheels.

Most people will tell you in order to have a really good life in Dubai you definitely need a car. The city is spread-out along the coast with one main metro line that runs along Sheikh Zayed Road, the Metro is the complete opposite of London’s tube, not only is it super clean but you can’t get anywhere and everywhere, and whilst the taxi’s are inexpensive nobody wants to get a taxi to the beach!

We had always planned to get a car and with our driving licences in for approval (you can very easily “transfer” your UK driving licence for a UAE one) we headed out to the dealerships to find a car. We opted for a new one rather than buying a used car, unlike the UK cars can be very difficult to sell on after 5+ years and my husband has never bought a brand-new car before, so free from housing costs I encouraged him to treat himself, within reason, of course. Originally we had thought a Pajero was the way to go, every other car seems to be a Pajero out here and they had everything we were looking for, after much research we were close to putting down a deposit when we found the Chevrolet showroom.

I’m not really into cars so followed my husband around the showroom quickly dismissing cars I didn’t like the look of, that was until I saw the TrailBlazer; a new modern shape 4×4, I immediately jumped into the driving seat and could see myself cruising around in it. Much to my delight my husband liked it too and even better news – it was in our price range, just! We met Jack, a fellow Brit car salesman, who talked us through the car and the buying process (pretty similar to the UK, with a few additional steps for Diplomats, of course) and then we headed to the nearest coffee shop to talk through the numbers …and colours and then headed home so I could fire up the spreadsheets and look at the finances whilst Dan scoured the internet for reviews.

Skip forward to a successful test drive, deciding on gunmetal grey with a 50% tint on the windows and a hefty sum of money transferred from the UK (with a very good rate using XE) we are the proud owners of a shiny new wagon …currently awaiting collection as soon as our number plates arrive (because of course we have a few extra hoops to jump through!).

This has definitely been a very exciting part of being a trailing spouse and moving to another country; before leaving the UK, we sold our old cars and after three months of public transport choosing a big new car in a new country felt wonderful. I’ve been warned we won’t have this luxury at many future postings, often you are lumbered with a hand-me-down banger from whoever you are taking over from, so we are holding onto our new-car-smugness for as long as possible.

Super cheesy and slightly car related lesson learned… enjoy the journey on route to all of the milestones, celebrate the good things when they happen BUT don’t just sit around waiting for the final destination, the journey is fun too.

Living without my “prize possessions”…

August

If you follow my Instagram you’ll know I’ve been excitedly tracking the ship MSC London using the VesselFinder website, and yesterday the ship arrived in Dubai after nearly a month of travelling, so our belongings are now sat in customs waiting sign off and delivery …amazing, right? Well…. I asked my husband this week what he was most looking forward to finally getting his grubby mitts on (his answers: the new fancy TV we purchased just before leaving the UK, his beloved coffee machine and our wedding and honeymoon pictures). He obviously wins some major husband points for the last answer (adorable!) but when he asked me the same question my response was the new indoor slipper-flip-flop things I thought I had packed in my suitcase as my feet are always cold (cheers air-con!) and the tapas bowls we were bought as a wedding gift. Hmm….

We took out insurance for everything leaving the country, either on the flight or in the shipping container, and it totalled over £30,000! We brought out 6 large suitcases with us and I probably could have just packed a carry-on, I squeezed in nearly 20 different bikinis and have worn the same 3 for the last ten weeks, the same with t-shirts and countless unopened bottles of various lotions that I absolutely could never survive without, ever (of course, most remain unopened).

By coincidence yesterday I also watched a show on Netflix about Minimalism; people taking a simpler approach and many living happily with less than 100 possessions, described as: Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom. www.theminimalists.com and I really started to think that maybe I didn’t need all of the “stuff” we were waiting for, that I couldn’t even remember half of the things we so eagerly awaited, and then sometimes life has a funny way of proving just how absolutely wrong you are…

Early September

After a long wait in customs our belongings were finally booked in for delivery, and then what felt like the Generation Game began live in my living room (yes, there was even a cuddly toy!)… the courier company were amazing; lugging in huge boxes and oddly bubble wrapped large items whilst shouting out “box 22” and me checking it off on the tick sheet and then thinking “what the heck is in there!?” What the heck was in there was 46 parcels of pure happiness (and 2 of my husband’s random collection of what I refer to as ‘complete crap’ but he assures me it’s all good stuff, and who doesn’t need a remote-control helicopter and ring binders of college work from a decade ago?) Anyway back to the 46 parcels of amazingness… our beautiful mirrors and photographs and the fancy curved TV were all in one piece, my wardrobe of work clothes were all in need of a good airing and pressing but they were finally here, our old dining table that we can now use as a breakfast bar was here, we had saved all of our wedding gifts so our kitchen was stacked high with our fancy Royal Doulton crockery and elegant champagne flutes and shiny new pots and pans, it was like one hundred Christmas’s all at once and I literally felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

Ha, minimalism; in the space of 90 minutes it all unravelled and I realised that was not for me, we have more crockery than a family of ten but I love every piece! The Minimalists are right; nobody NEEDS all this stuff, but to me everything we unpacked had a little story of why it was here, when it was purchased or received as a gift; cushions my mum knitted, a cut-glass fruit bowl from Dan’s granny, a frame with a mini-Lego Dan and Kimbers made just for us, all that “stuff” means something and the memories and the people make me happy. I text my mother-in-law in the week to tell her I love opening the dishwasher to see our new plates and bowls (a wedding gift from my grandma – my mother had written the gift tag “love from grandma, from beyond the grave” as she didn’t quite make it through to the wedding, she had a dark sense of humour!). Maybe I am actually anti-minimalist or perhaps just a little bit softer than I care to admit?

Late September

It’s been ten days since the Generation Game conveyor belt of gorgeousness happened and I’m still the happiest bunny! I admit defeat, I just love John Lewis too much to be a Minimalist.