Participation in activities within the community, being pro-active on issues of importance, staying abreast of events... these are keys to establishing a foothold in the society in which one lives.
Often in the UAE one hears the comment, "I'm here for the money." That blunt statement is supposed to represent one's raison d'être for being in the UAE. It is intended as an honest appraisal of why one is here. Is this not, however, an over-simplification of what are often a complex set of circumstances? We, expatriates, are in the UAE for a variety of reasons. Not only are the reasons different and many from person to person, but for each individual there are a variety of circumstances which has led to one's coming and, further, that contribute to one's remaining.
I came to the UAE for a job opportunity, for a higher salary, for the experience of living in another country, for a chance to travel within the wider geographical area, for a change in life in general... These are my reasons. I remain yet, for some of these and a variety of new reasons.
Such being the case, no one should short-change the experience of living in the UAE by limiting it to concerns about money. There is a lot more to life as an expatriate. There are ways to satisfy the requirements one may have to earn and save money, while at the same time experiencing life on a more holistic level.
Participation is one key to achieving a more successful and rewarding life as an expat. As stated in the opening, this may involve taking part in a variety of community activities, in becoming active in an issue of public or civic importance, and even by just keeping oneself informed of local news and events. The specific type of involvement and the amount of time spent will need to suit one's interests and availability. For the busy among us, why not spare 15-30 minutes a day skimming the local newspaper? For those with more time and resources, why not join a club that is active in some form within the community?
I sometimes drive or walk around Abu Dhabi where I live and come upon a building, a street, or neighborhood that I never saw or at least never noticed before. Or even worse, I pass a familiar landmark which I've seen for years but still have no idea what it is or what it is for. In such moments I feel rather alienated from the place I've made a home in over the past 6 years. That, I realize, is a reflection of my own failure to participate in the community or society within which I live.
As a future owner of freehold property in Dubai I have decided not to repeat that mistake. There is no reason not to become more active within society, whether by blogging, attending events, taking a stance on issues of social or political relevance, etc. The key to a successful and rewarding life for the expatriate in the UAE is to participate, to become involved.
If I may add, the points raised here are not only with regard to those expat residents who earn comfortable livings. I would argue that even the struggling laborer is here for more than money, though such is seldom heard. They have no lesser curiosity about the world and interest in seeing and experiencing new things than anyone else. Though their personal circumstances are often characterized by hardship and struggle, they too have multi-dimensional lives.
Some prefer to be in a place like the UAE, for example, for the greater freedom it gives them compared to their traditional village communities or the larger society from which they come with its many social, religious and other contstraints. Being abroad, even in a setting as difficult as what they may find in the UAE, is still a chance to experience something new and interesting.
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