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Lynda Martinez, Dubai

Who are you?

I am a daughter (4th of 5), sister, wife, mom of 3, aunt of 9, photography enthusiast, and former high school teacher from Texas living in Dubai.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We moved to the UAE in late 2010 because my husband’s company transferred him to Dubai.

What challenges did you face during the move?

Opening a bank account where I could be added to my husband’s account proved surprisingly complicated.Apparently giving married women equal control of the family finances is not something that is granted easily here. Other than that, we faced normal challenges such as finding the right nursery for our children and learning how to navigate around the city.

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How did you find somewhere to live? (e.g. how did you locate a suitable property? what was the buying/renting process like?)

I can’t provide much insight into the issue of housing because we were lucky to have this arranged by my husband’s company.

Are there many other expats in your area?

In Dubai, most areas will have plenty of expats since more than 80% of the population is made up expatriates. In my neighborhood there is a nice mix of both locals and expats.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Unfortunately I don’t have any Emirati friends, nor does anyone I know. My interaction with locals is only superficial (at stores, playgrounds, etc.). From my limited experience in these types of situations, it seems difficult to break into their social circles. However, I hear that once you get to know them, they are very friendly and loyal. I attended an Emirati wedding with a friend and the sisters of the bride were incredibly hospitable and welcoming.

What do you like about life where you are?

The travel opportunities are amazing. Places like India, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Jordan are all within a four hour flight away, less time than it would take to fly from Houston to Seattle.

I’ve really enjoyed learning more about the Middle East and local culture. I am still fascinated by cultural differences and similarities which makes daily life interesting. I also really appreciate living close to the beautiful beach and magnificent desert.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Being far away from family is difficult, and I miss celebrating holidays the way we do at home since Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas are just normal working days here. These issues are becoming more of a concern as my children get older. The long flight home and accompanying jet lag are no fun either!

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Not a day goes by in Dubai when you are not reminded of the extreme disparity in wealth that exists in this city. Of course very poor people and the ultra rich exist in the US as well, but here the divide is even greater. In the US, climbing the socioeconomic ladder might be very difficult, but it is possible. My parents are proof of that. Here, on the other hand, even if a laborer works with amazing fortitude under exceedingly harsh circumstances, there is no possibility of advancement. I never truly appreciated how important the “American Dream” and resulting optimism were until moving here. I find it deeply unsettling that it is unavailable to so many.

How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?

Luckily, you can find pretty much everything from home in Dubai, but it might take a few trips to find it. The main difference is the price, as things here are much more expensive. Shop and Ship with Aramex is a great option for buying items from home that are not too heavy to send.

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

Cuisines from all over the world are available, so it’s easy to find something to satisfy most cravings. I do miss decent Mexican food though (although there are a couple of newer places I haven’t tried yet), and I wish Emirati food was more accessible.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Seek out local culture and make the most of travel opportunities. Have patience and keep an open mind.

What are your plans for the future?

That’s a fabulous question, and one I get regularly from friends and family. Our initial plan was to stay for 2-3 years, which we have now exceeded. Our future depends on where my husband’s job takes us, and at the moment, that’s uncertain.

Linda shares more information about expat life in UAE through her popular blog, Longhorns and Camels.

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