I am a seasoned expat.  Or, at least, I thought I was.  Earlier in the year, I moved from an apartment in the emirate of Abu Dhabi down Sheikh Zayed Road to a villa (our first!) in Dubai.  Even as this was my fourth move (Los Angeles – Dubai, Dubai – Doha, Doha – Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi – Dubai) in eight years, I’m not sure why I thought it was going to be any easier.  For a type A person such as myself, each move is a special form of torture.  And, even as ‘modern’ as things are now in the UAE, I can do everything right (schedule, call, follow up) and much of the move still all goes wrong, leaving me to wonder what the hell I am doing (or if this is all a lesson in learning patience, a quality I am sorely lacking).

In no particular order, here is a list of topics I was acquainted with:

  1. You can live without garbage pick up for more than 3 weeks.  You might have to secretly hijack the neighbor’s garbage can and throw your stuff away in theirs, but whatever. Understand that the process of arranging for obtaining the rights to municipal garbage waste disposal can and will involve calls to the community management center, your landlord, your landlord’s agent and the real estate agent.  Tangentially, perhaps, try and produce less waste.
  2. Always ensure there is wine somewhere that can be consumed.  When friends suggest there is a service that will deliver this precious beverage, take them up on their offer.  This is not the time to try and prove something.  (On this topic, celebrate the first night in your new villa with a bottle of champagne).
  3. It’s okay that the water main wasn’t ever hooked up to your villa — that’s something which can be arranged the night before you move in.  I promise.
  4. Dubai is much larger and complicated than it was in 2011.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes that’s a bad thing.  Sometimes Google maps will lead you on a merry chase.  Sometimes you will think Google maps is messing with you.  If you need to, take a deep breath, pull over and figure out a landmark you can get to (if in doubt, the Burj Khalifa does well).
  5. If something is to be delivered to your new place, the hours to wait will be between 9-6PM.  Yes, you will have other things to do.  Yes, they will not come until late afternoon.  Potentially, they will not show up at all.
  6. Saving money by living in a new development might seem like a good idea, however, approximately no one will know where you live or how to get there.  BTW, there are no landmarks or signage.
  7. It’s okay to hijack your neighbors internet for a week.  What they don’t know won’t hurt them.  And you would do the same for someone else.
  8. No less than four men a day will come to your villa and offer landscaping services.  Accept one, but be sure to haggle on the price.  At least say ‘best price?’  Or completely forget that’s how things are done and be convinced you were screwed over on the cost of bamboo.
  9. Inevitably, you will need to visit Al Wasl Road no less than three times a week.
  10. To balance things out a bit, your new neighbors will actually be awesome.  There is a hokey facebook group where people tell each other good morning and offer help on a variety of topics.  An immediate neighbor will bring you Swiss treats because they just welcomed a baby girl to the family.
  11. There is a hidden Modesh in one of the nearby yards.
  12. In moving from sleepy Abu Dhabi back to the big city, you can simultaneously do everything and nothing and feel bad about both. FOMO is a real thing, y’all.
  13. One can spend 4 hours at MOE and make friends with the employees of both Apple and Crate & Barrel, including establishing inside jokes.
  14. Remind yourself daily that you are healthy, your husband is healthy, and so is your 20-year-old cat.
  15. The first time someone cleans your apartment, you might want to weep with gratitude.
  16. You will always need to have a pen with you.  Do not forget your pen.


To my other long-term expats, or for those who have moved on a number of occasions — please feel free to add your own lessons!

Our cat relaxes in the new villa. Nothing seems to bother her.
Our cat relaxes in the new villa. Nothing seems to bother her.