Who are you?
I am Gail, a Social Media Marketing Specialist, living and working in Abu Dhabi. I am twenty seven years old and recently married to my high school sweetheart. We met here in Abu Dhabi more than ten years ago when we were studying at the same high school. I grew up in Yangon, Myanmar and lived there for eight years then two years in Manila and three years in Abu Dhabi. For college, I went back home to Manila where I finished BA Social Science at the University of the Philippines Manila.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
Until this year, I never would have thought I would decide to move abroad but after a life-changing event that happened to me, my father passed away more than a year ago, it changed me.All my life plans just did not seem to fit anymore and I just did not feel like staying in Manila. I wanted change and I felt that I would heal better if I moved away. Abu Dhabi came into mind because I spent high school years here and my friends, a lot of them, who were born here, came back after their University education so it was the closest thing to home and I would not be alone.
I moved to Abu Dhabi a year ago, in March 2012.
What challenges did you face during the move?
The biggest challenge was to find a job. Things just did not work out the first few months I was here and it took me a while to find a suitable job, which I am now enjoying because I love my work, my colleagues, and everything else about this company. Another big challenge was that I was still grieving and healing from my loss, it was a struggle to be okay away from home. I missed my mother, my sister, and my baby nieces and everything else about home.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are a lot of expats in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It’s like melting pot of people from different countries. In fact, they make up 50% of UAE’s population! I love living here because it’s like a microcosm of the world. It’s a walk friendly city too and I live very near the beach, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, and parks.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I am very friendly with everyone here. Even the chatty cabbies are nice (except for some). The people I work with are also expats and some are locals. They’re very courteous and very friendly.
What do you like about life where you are?
I love how everything is walking distance away and if not, they would be just about 10 minutes away from where I live, which is the heart of Abu Dhabi. The city is clean, it’s small, and the pace of life is slow. I love it this way compared to the hustle and bustle of Dubai. Best of all, UAE is tax-free!
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I don’t dislike anything about it at all other than the fact that I miss my family a lot. That’s about it!
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
I guess it would be the communication. Not everyone is fluent in English so the language barrier can be challenging.
How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?
Everything seems cheaper here because of tax-free. Shopping is glorious because they have everything!
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I’ve always loved spicy food and here in Abu Dhabi there’s a lot of that. And then there are a lot of fusion restaurants, which excites my palate very much. I also love it that the UAE has brought all the big restaurant names to the country and this makes dining out all the more exciting.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
To anyone who is planning a giant leap of faith to leaving the comforts of your home country behind for the Great Unknown, look at it as an adventure. Know that there are a lot of exciting things to look forward to and homesickness is just a small problem. I hope you have the same thirst for adventure as I have and I hope you meet the love of your life on your way as I did.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now I am planning for my church wedding in November. My husband and I are planning to go on a big trip for our honeymoon and then maybe we can think of having a baby right after that. I’m a young wife and young expat and this new adventure has helped my healing process a lot. I’m looking forward to living more years here and maybe raising my future child/children here as well.
Gail shares more experiences of life in Abu Dhabi through her blog Gail Monique Mallo and on Twitter @moniquemallo.