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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.

The great sofa debacle of July 2017…

Posting to Dubai – tick

Furnished apartment – tick

Not furnished to our taste but liveable considering its all part of the package – tick

Nearly pack my suitcase and get on the first flight home due to an ugly sofa – tick

 

Before I re-tell this tale, I must remind you (and myself) there are a million things worse than this story and I am very aware of that, I have a good life, my current situation is taking some time to settle in to, but yes life could be much, much worse.

 

Arriving in our new apartment seven weeks ago was much like arriving at a hotel …you have a quick scan around for the necessaries; bed, wardrobe, TV, coffee machine, view from the balcony – great, all here (minus the coffee machine, currently on a ship that has just left the UK and has just passed Belgium) and usually the holiday is over just in time to not see the cracks in the walls, the skirting boards covered in paint and the blown light bulb …but this is not a holiday, its seven weeks later into fabulous posting life and I’ve swept the floor 49 times since arriving and it’s still dusty!

 

The apartment we left in the UK was my first home and I loved it, we paid £220 for a full ‘end of tenancy clean’ for every inch and all the carpets to be meticulously cleaned before handing the keys over. The landlords here in Dubai did not.

 

Cleanliness aside, we inherited two brown non-matching very uncomfortable sad-looking sofas most likely found next to the bin at the back of Ikea. The Embassy agreed they had seen better days and invited us to scour the store room for two new sofas …we went for two plain grey sofas to arrive in a weeks’ time. Two weeks later the wrong sofa’s arrived, they were flowery and horrid and I sent them back. Two weeks after that two more ugly 1980’s style grey sofas arrived at the front door covered in cobwebs and dirt and stains and with no backs to them, you know the soft cushion you lean against, none of those.

 

Call me over-dramatic, but that was it, I was done, I sat on the floor called my husband and cried. Whilst a few of the tears were definitely directed straight towards the filthy monstrosities of sofas now stuck in the apartment, most of them were for feeling so let down, so exhausted by this whole process.

 

Our posting start date was delayed 6 months and the communication was handled very badly, but with little alternative we waited it out and after two years of build-up, of excitement, of anticipation we were finally here! We left behind our friends and family, my job, our cars and our clean homely apartment for what… for an apartment we didn’t choose, littered with furniture I would never buy, for hot sweaty journeys on the Metro, for directing taxi drivers who have no idea where they are going, for lonely days at the gym waiting for my husband to come home from work. I had swapped being in control of my life to being at the mercy of an uncaring Embassy, I felt so let down, this isn’t what I thought I had signed up to.

 

When my lovely, calm, tolerant, logical husband returned from work I told him I was leaving on the next flight to the UK (…as if I was in a film and it would be that easy to flounce off to the airport), his response? “Yep agreed, terrible sofas, want to go to the mall and choose new ones?”

 

Genius! Why didn’t I think of that? Maybe it’s the whole ‘men are from mars women are absolutely crazy’ thing, but in ten words he had solved everything, saved the day and I agreed to remain in country! Writing this and reading it back I am completely aware I may have lost the plot …or let a few things build up and then take it all out on the sofas. I hadn’t realised how much of a HUGE life changing event this posting would be …so with two new gorgeous sofas ordered from West Elm (the saviour of the posting!) purchased and to be delivered this week we were ready to enjoy the weekend and then the cherry on the top of my sofa shaped cake …a friend from the UK arrived, she is here on business but spent the weekend with us, oh seeing her face in the apartment block lobby I could have cried (but I managed to hold it together, for once that week!) we hugged and the three of us set up camp on sun-loungers and chatted about life, travel, adventure and different cultures and then planned our evening of cocktails and dinner at Pier 7 and watching the fountains that have the Burj Khalifa as their backdrop, all whilst sitting in the pool with the sun beating down …and once again I was a happy little trailing spouse.

An open letter…

I wasn’t sure whether to post this or not; moving away, starting a new life as an expat, a trailing spouse, made me realise the last twenty-nine years of my life still exists. Everything that has happened, albeit in a different country, has still happened and it’s made me who I am today. Writing this letter feels like another step in the process of starting a new chapter, acknowledging the parts of the story already written. So I wrote a letter to my Dad.

 

Dear Dad…

Since moving overseas I’ve had to complete a few security forms for the British Embassy that detail everything from what I had for breakfast two weeks ago to my GCSE results from more than a decade ago. I’ve also had to provide information on my parents’ middle names, birth towns and addresses, easy enough – but as I was searching for the address of the care home you lived at, it hit me that four years have passed since the last time I saw you.

I didn’t know what was going to happen on Saturday 20th July 2013, but it changed my life forever.

You looked so unimaginably different, you looked small and sad and weak. I sat next to you afraid to hold your hand because you looked like a stranger to me, I didn’t want it to be real. Everyone always says last words are so important but you couldn’t speak in your final hours, and nor could I for being too too sad, so we sat side by side, silently, waiting.

You missed some pretty key milestones since 2013; I bought my first house, got engaged, got married, stood up in front of friends and family in church to speak at your father’s funeral (I did the same at yours, I chose a Queen song to play at the end), moved away to start a new chapter in the Middle East. I wish I could have called you and told you about all of these things, but it’s also been easier, maybe because I couldn’t call you or write to you or ignore you or feel sad on my wedding day knowing you were a few hundred miles away. Once you passed I was devastated but finally I didn’t have to make any more heart rendering decisions.

Long after your passing came acceptance, I didn’t have to feel guilty anymore, the choice had been taken away from me, now I can remember you with a smile on my face. There is a scene in one of my favourite TV shows where a character’s father dies and he calls out ‘but I’m not ready for this’ it breaks my heart whenever I see that scene, but I was ready, you had been ill for such a long time and endured a miserable last few years that I think you were ready too. Mum said she thinks you were just waiting for someone to go and see you, so you knew you were cared about, unforgotten, so you could finally slip away and rest.

I think about you every day, always have and probably always will. You were so far from perfect, you weren’t a good husband, a good son or a good father, but when I look at photographs I can see my face in yours; small pale eyes, freckled skin and wide chubby cheeks. All I hope is that you were proud of me and thought about me too. You let me down, but maybe I let you down too, we’ll never know, if you’d been a better father and I’d been a better daughter maybe we could have rebuilt a relationship.

Your carer Linda spoke at your funeral, her last words were “for a long time we’ll say ‘remember Andrew Naismith?’”. She was right.

Your daughter x

First brunch in Dubai…

Brunch in England for me is Eggs Benedict with a cappuccino and an orange juice …on Friday I discovered in Dubai it means something entirely different and I’m not sure I’m ready for it…!

A friend from the UK had invited us for brunch at Mina A Salam in Madinat Jumeriah – a beautiful part of town, it’s been built to look traditionally middle eastern with grand hotels, flawless white beaches and a view of the Burj al Arab. After a workout on Friday morning, we got dressed up and jumped in a taxi (this felt like a modern-day ritual of going to church perhaps; Friday best and meet at midday!). Watching the other brunch-goers arrive was fascinating, all ages from 8 to 88, all shapes and sizes, some dressed in casual attire, some dressed for a fancy wedding reception – curled hair and all. There was a mix of holiday-makers and expats, mainly British (brunch is notorious with Brits!). I had preconceived ideas that a typical brunch would be a blend of Weatherspoon’s on a Saturday night and a Toby carvery with a few extra zero’s on the receipt…

We were presented with a glass of champagne on arrival and led to our table with a view of the beach and Burj al Arab, our table was a mix of ex-colleagues, friends and family which was a great combination for such a social event. As I glanced around the room a medium size group seemed to be most popular, I’m not sure a Dubai brunch works for a couple, the husband and I can chomp down our eggs-Benny, coffees and juice, have the bill paid and coats on in under 30 minutes, this is a relaxed affair with many visits to the fancy food stations and margarita bar!

The food… I wish I hadn’t eaten for a week and took a doggy bag; sushi, seafood with gigantic king prawns and lobster, colourful salads, meat dishes (I could even get my eggs-Benny), a huge joint of roast beef (you can see the target audience), cheese platters, rich and creamy layered desserts, an ice cream bar with every topping imaginable were just some of the delights available to fill your plate with. The drinks flowed for the four hours; trays of fruit juice, champagne, prosecco were mixed among various stations; Mojito, Pimms, Jager and frozen margaritas.

Brunch was a fun, social and lively affair, guests are encouraged to continue the party with buy-one-get-one-free offers at the cocktail bar …I had a litre of water and swiftly jumped in a taxi to head home. That’s the bad thing about a boozy brunch for a small-time-drinker like myself – it took over the whole weekend. We arrived home at 7pm on Friday and slept until …9am the next morning, 14 hours of sleep were obviously required to digest the free-flowing bubbles and ten plates of food. Feeling slightly jaded and only wanting tea and plain toast, Saturday became a duvet and snacks day …not great for the waistline or my step count.

I think brunch is something we will do again …but definitely not every week or every month, for me the mix of food and drink is too much, I like to keep the two separate. A few glasses of fizz or cocktails of an evening OR lots of yummy food washed down with h2o and calories put to good use the next day with some exercise is my kind of weekend, rather than binge watching TV shows and eating dry plain savoury snacks!

 

21 days to change a habit…

Not too long ago …ooh about 21 days ago I stood up and confirmed, like I was at SA (Spending Anonymous), that I love spending money but I hoped this would change. If it takes 21 days to change a habit then I think I am officially fixed 😊

For a very long time I have tracked every penny incoming and outgoing from my bank account, I’m my bank’s most active customer logging in on a daily basis …sometimes twice, heck sometimes thrice! Since we’ve been in Dubai I have been keeping a spending tracker (I know, how exciting) but moving to a different country, my husband still getting paid in the UK, me not getting paid at all, a property rented out in the UK and a food shop costing three times as much as home means we are currently in a bit of a transition period.

Rewind to 21+ days ago and I could often be heard saying the following:

  1. I’ve wanted this for ages, and now it has 20% off, I must buy it …and one in every colour available (aka the Power-Buy, my husband taught me about this years ago!)
  2. I need this for …the house …the gym …my wardrobe …my sweet-tooth …my make-up bag …to make my whole entire life complete and fulfilled
  3. I deserve a treat because …I’ve had a hard week …its nearly my birthday …its nearly Christmas …its nearly Tuesday
  4. Next pay day is nearly upon us and I haven’t yet spent all of last months!!
  5. All of the above

I also loved online sale shopping, I must have countless online baskets overflowing with jeans and tops and shoes and well researched life-changing face creams with huge discounts and offers piled on top just waiting patiently* for me to return.

*not all so patiently, every time check my emails there is a new subject line “Kimberley, you forgot something” “Kimberley, come back and we’ll give you free delivery” marketing-geniuses!

Back to today, they say it takes 21 days to break a habit and today is our 22nd day in post so let’s take a look at the results:

Last 21 days in the UK vs First 21 days in Dubai

Take-out / sit-in coffee

UK: 2-3 visits per week, husband and I like a visit to a coffee shop, despite having a very fancy Nespresso machine at home. That said, it became a bit of a hobby …rather than going to the pub or a bar we would go for coffee. At £2.80 (ish) for a flat white or a cappuccino not the most expensive hobby but £5.60 for us a few times a week amounts to approx. £875 a year! £875 is the price of return flights DXB-LHR for a visit home for the weekend, certainly puts that flat white into perspective.

DXB: It’s too hot for coffee out here and 2-3 times MORE expensive than back home, which to me just isn’t worth it for a coffee. Iced coffee? Just as expensive if not more, I’ve seen some the equivalent of £7 …that’s £14 for the two of us. But we love iced coffee so make our own; 4 teaspoons of coffee, 4 sweeteners, 1 litre of hot water chilled overnight in the fridge, add milk and serve! Delicious and costs just pennies …or FILS.

Clothes / cosmetics

UK: Oh goodness I used “E) all of the above” for the last few weeks in the UK; flip flops, tan wedges to replace some old ones, Calvin Klein pyjamas that I had to have, Biba pyjamas that were discounted 30%, a denim dress full price at £75 but its denim and natural material so good for hot weather, a light pink t-shirt with a ‘happy days’ slogan on still full price at £35 but I wanted to treat myself as I’d had a good day, litres of Clinique 3-step toner, exfoliator, moisturiser in case it was more expensive in Dubai, Marc Jacobs Daisy Kiss (beautiful scent!) and some new Tom Ford for Dan as we were running low. Bikini’s bikini’s bikini’s.  

DXB: Zilch, zero, nada! I would feel very uncomfortable spending money on clothes and make up and perfume when a) my suitcases were bulging with the stuff and b) I’m not yet working and earning (although a lady I met at brunch thought I was mad and said she’d be at the Mall every day spending her husband’s money).

I never thought I’d say this but the Malls here are SO big, they are just TOO big, overwhelmingly gigantic. I’ve been the Dubai Mall once and I can’t face going back until I’m desperate for something, whatever happened to a few shops and restaurants under one roof (Centre MK I love ya!), over here the Malls are a family day out with cinemas and rollercoasters and aquariums, Mall of the Emirates even has a ski slope and penguins …just too much!

Things for the house

UK: We kept nearly all of our wedding gifts boxed up to come to Dubai with us but we just had to buy some additions to make our new house a home… luxurious 600 count Egyptian cotton bedsheets, hi-ball drinking tumblers, new champagne flutes …and red and white wine glasses to match of course, are all currently winging their way to us in our shipping container of goodies!

DXB: To date we’ve spent £90 in Ikea on some non-essentials; placemats, lampshades, candles to make our hotel-like apartment start to feel a little homelier. I think my husband would agree it was a small price to pay to dry my homesick tears.

Hobbies

UK: I bought Personal Trainer sessions in the run up to our move out here, which I loved and was worth every penny …but other than the gym my hobbies were limited.

DXB: Last weekend we went Stand-up Paddle-boarding which was SO much fun! Out on the calm warm water at Jumeriah beach paddling around catching the sun was definitely something I would do again, but once we are past the heat of summer, it was 10am and too hot to be outside!

Once we have a car (and the weather cools down) we would like to join a local running club and I’m desperate to do some horse-riding! Until then we have a fantastic FREE gym in the apartment complex …which is lucky as gyms out here are expensive, no £15.99 contract-less deals around in this town. Even the smaller more basic gyms are well over £100 a month …and that doesn’t actually buy you the “beach body”!

Dinners & Drinks

UK: The last 21 days in country may not be a fair reflection as our social calendars were buzzing, we were out for dinner 2-3 times per week seeing and saying goodbye/see you later to our friends and family. I like eating out and I like ordering in and whilst both compliment an evening with friends, food plated up or boxed up are good for neither the waist line or purse strings!

DXB: So far we’ve only been out for dinner during our first week before we had done a food shop, and whilst the food was good since then we have eaten at home, my husband is a pretty good cook and we have something pretty life changing in our new apartment A DISHWASHER! Wow, its changed our whole evenings, we use all the pots and pans and just chuck them into the magic cleaning box. Honestly, I hope to never live anywhere without a dishwasher ever again. We decided yesterday that we need to go out more, Groupon and the Entertainer are huge out here for discounts and 2for1 deals so we’ll sign up for both and see where we end up on date night.

 

Full disclosure: my circumstances changed massively whilst I attempted to change my spending habit, if I was still at home and earning this may never have happened but feels a good place to start once I do finally start working. Maybe my spending will be a little less than it was before, hopefully I’ve broken the habit.

And I can proudly say, that 42nd pair of jeans has definitely not been purchased or even added to my online basket.

What do you love spending money on?

What are your top tips for saving?

Any habits you would like to change?

Ah-ha! I think I am starting to get “it”…

Day 8 …what a weekend. It started on Friday. At the Apple store. Where an Apple-angel fixed my phone, my new UAE number flashed up and I was reconnected to the world! And what better way to celebrate than a trip to Ikea 😊 We took the metro for a long hot sticky ride to Festival City to take a wander round Ikea to get some ‘bits’ for the house to try to make it feel like home, at least until our things arrive in 8-10 weeks. We bought some candles, placemats, lampshades, soap dispensers and a fancy bowl for nibbles, amazing how £100 worth of inexpensive goodies can change a house! Feeling better but very hungry (we had been out for over 8 hours with no food or water due to Ramadan) we grabbed an Ikea frozen pizza and jumped in a taxi to stuff our famished faces and get ready for our Embassy welcome drinks.

It was dark by the time we arrived at the Embassy; dark, warm and dusty but was exactly as I had imagined, just like you would see in a film. We arrived at my husband’s boss’s house, inside was beautifully and expertly designed by his wife, their house is gorgeous and I’ll definitely be ‘stealing with pride’ some of their interior design ideas. We were welcomed in with open arms for cocktails and bubbles and a luxurious array of canapes …and yes, of course dessert was a tray of Ferrero Rocher! We were there until the early hours, finding out about everyone’s experiences and plans for their next postings and it felt good to be able to hear from other wives that the way I was feeling was similar to how they had on arrival, what a relief! A few reoccurring themes; this is our first posting but for everybody else they are on 5, 6, 7 some even more, they’ve done this again and again and they’ve all survived, on the plus side (for us anyway) nobody wants to leave Dubai for their next posting, they all seem to be very settled and enjoying it here.

Saturday rolled around, we headed to the gym and then got our swimmers on and went out to the pool to sunbathe and relax …and it suddenly dawned on me …this is it, this is why we are here! I spoke to my mum early in the morning and felt a pang oh homesickness then my husband asked a very obvious honest question of ‘what would you be doing if you were at home’ …truth is we would be just doing normal things, nothing too exciting, waiting to come to Dubai …well, we are here NOW. This is it. Yes, we will see our family and friends a little less but how fantastic when they come over to visit and we can bring them to the shimmering turquoise pool, already a daily occurrence for us.

For Saturday evening, we headed to the Marina for the first time since arriving to meet an old work friend of mine. We had cocktails at The Scene at Pier 7 followed by more cocktails at the Marriot, the views are simply breath-taking, but I think we are better living where we are – closer to the Embassy and away from too many tourists and high-rises! Sunday was another day of sunbathing, splashing about in the pool followed by a ‘duvet-day’ to watch the end of House of Cards (ooh Claire Underwood you make such an evil President, but I just love it). Today was when I started to get ‘it’. A posting (especially to somewhere like Dubai) is the weather of a summer holiday with a little bit of home sprinkled in, with your best friend! For the first time since we arrived my shoulders feel lower, my chest feels looser, my step a little sprightlier and smile a lot less forced.

For a creature of habit and routine like me, I’m not sure why I ever thought moving to a new country would be so easy; it’s not easy, it’s a rollercoaster, an adventure to embrace, there will be more tears along the way I’m sure, but for now I’m determined to embrace the changes …and definitely no more tears until I have found myself a new lash-lady!

When did you start to settle in?

Does a posting ever really feel like home?

Can anyone recommend a fantastic eyelash extension salon?

First tears…

Day 4 …I made it to Day 4 and then had a little cry ☹ Why? I’m in Dubai, it’s amazing; the pictures look beautiful, the view from the balcony stretches for miles and everyone says I will absolutely love it here, so why am I sat on the sofa with a few hot tears streaming down my face?

I hadn’t realised until today how reliant I am on technology …my phone doesn’t work out here (no idea why, my husband’s works but mine is still searching for a network, and yes I’ve tried turning it off and on again!) there is no WiFi in the apartment and we cannot connect until we have our Diplomatic ID which can take 6-8 weeks, much quicker for a “normal” expat but anything “Diplomatic” takes three times as long, apparently. So once a day I nip down to the bench outside the local coffee shop/restaurant to borrow some WiFi …we’ve bought dinner there twice and always leave a big tip so I don’t feel too bad.

I’ve always been one for routine… this evening we got the metro to Dubai Mall (huge, enormous, gigantic for a shopping centre, its bigger than an airport filled with gorgeous luxurious shops) we needed to do a food shop so headed to Waitrose for a bit of familiarity. We spent a long time converting dirhams back to pounds to see if the prices were fair – which really took any fun of food shopping away, filled our trolley, got a taxi home and then I burst into tears. I’ve never been homesick in my whole life and I certainly hadn’t planned to feel like this just a few days in; the last month at home was one of the best months I’ve ever had, all the anticipation and excitement of the big move; dinners / drinks / brunch with friends and family we had felt overwhelmed by peoples’ happiness for us, everything was fantastic ….and then we left. I left a job that I really liked – I used to wake up on a Monday morning and want to go to work, we left our friends and family, the familiarity of home and the excitement of leaving has now turned into the reality of stating over again.

Sensible me knows it will just take a little time, to stop feeling lost, to find some hobbies and interests; there are a thousand gyms / running clubs / cycle tracks / pools to be explored, brunches to enjoy, beach days to be had, hotels to discover, new friends to be made, maybe even a bit of culture to find and we’ve spent the last 4 days unpacking, food shopping, being exhausted, cleaning the dusty filthy balcony, and my husband out all day starting his new job. Naively I thought we would jump straight into our new life rather than have to start from scratch and build it from day one…

Day 5 …I’m starting to build. This morning I’m off to the gym to clear my head and release some endorphin’s, then heading back to the mall to get a pay-as-you-go SIM card (to use whilst we wait for our ID’s) to feel a little connection with the world, I can then add my new number to my CV and send that out (I really thought I would do well at not working, much tougher than it seems), when my husband is home from work we are going to explore Dubai Sports World …loads of sport courts, a 500m running track, a gym and classes all under one air-conditioned roof and just a few minutes from the apartment. We have plans for the weekend …welcome drinks at the embassy and then cocktails with an old friend from home on Saturday to hopefully make us feel a little more at home.

How do you get settled in?

What makes you happy whilst overseas?

How do you combat homesickness?

First day in country…

We are here! We have finally arrived …welcome to Dubai.

Our last day in country was the perfect last day in the UK, we saw our families and were fed homemade cake and prosecco, I had a last-minute dash to get my extra passport photos required for my residency visa, and then our huge SUV arrived to collect us and our 8 suitcases!

We flew from LHR terminal 3 so after checking in at the private upper class desks we headed straight to the Virgin lounge for dinner and a head massage and before I knew it we were walking to the plane; I was asleep within minutes of the seat belt sign clicking off and my bed folding out. Five hours later I was woken by the cabin crew with my breakfast on a tray …what a perfect way to spend my descent into country to start our new lives.

My husband’s colleague collected us from the airport …I was not ready for the warm wind that swept by as we waited for the car to be loaded, it was HOT at only 8:30am! First look at our apartment was great; we are just off Sheik Zayed Road, a short distance from the Embassy and the Airport and about 20mins taxi ride to the Palm. The apartment is high – floor 29, and spacious with two large bedrooms and four bathrooms …yes FOUR! Our balcony looks out over the Port and is fairly quiet. We spent Sunday unpacking and trying to get our heads around being in our new home …feels like we are on holiday staying in an AirBnB apartment! My husband’s work had given us a cool bag of essentials …all the ingredients for an omelette, some bread, milk and juice which was so thoughtful and hugely appreciated.

On Monday we found the gym and the pool on the eleventh floor …I put Dan through his paces with a workout then we jumped into the pool which is a little puddle of heaven in the heat, we sat for a while feeling quite smug, and very happy we had finally arrived …this will be good. We were invited to our first Embassy dinner at the Palm for an Iftar dinner to break the fast during Ramadan, which was at a beautiful hotel where they had laid on an amazing feast for the guests. Maybe this posting lifestyle will be just what we always wanted…!

Tuesday was Dan’s first day at work, he left at 7am to meet a colleague in reception… this was it, the day I read about so many times, where your spouse leaves for work and the ‘honeymoon’ period is over …it certainly felt that way whilst I drank coffee and ironed work shirts. We are still without internet and in the last week of Ramadan so I cant go to a coffee shop for a drink and to use WiFi… instead I went to the gym for a workout which felt good, but tough without having a bottle of water. After I updated our finances sheet to see where we are and made myself a turkey sandwich with the remainder of the cool box food parcel …and now I wait. Dan wants to go to the pool after work so until then I’m drinking more coffee and watching an old series of New Girl (feels like a very lazy Saturday …and like I should be doing something!)

How do you spend you first few days in a new country?