Ever since we flew back to the UK for summer, I have been asked the same questions. Do you really want to go back? Do you actually like it? How do you cope with the heat? So I thought I’d answer all those questions in a blog post.
I don’t want to turn this into a post comparing bringing up children in the UK to bringing up children in Dubai. I don’t want to slag off the UK as it’s my real home – and the truth is that I don’t know what it’s like bringing up children in the UK, as I’ve never done it. Both of my boys were born in Dubai (in 2012 and 2014), so I can’t compare the two. I do however know exactly why I like being a Mummy in the UAE, so that is what I will tell you about. I hope this post is helpful for those considering a move to the Middle East (or even a holiday) – and interesting to those who are just a bit curious about what it’s like to be an expat mum.
Children rule the world
The UAE is insanely child-friendly – and I love the way that my children are acknowledged in every shop, café, and restaurant. In fact, they are usually acknowledged before me with big, silly, over-the-top greetings that immediately make them smile. It’s not uncommon for the baby to be snatched away while we enjoy coffee, passed between staff members as they coo and tickle until he dissolves into giggles. Eyes turn to our children whenever we go – it’s like we became famous the minute we popped a baby out. Who knew it was that easy.
Friends that have moved to the UAE with existing families have told me that it takes a while to get used to just how much attention their children get – but it’s all I’ve ever known and I lap it up. I love the way that Stanley expects to be welcomed so warmly – I can see his eyes search for a staff member and smile in anticipation. I see him wave and smile at passers by, especially at pick-up and drop-off time at nursery, when he thinks every parent is equally happy to see him. That’s got to be such a lovely way to live, always expecting the best in people and knowing you are welcome wherever you go. It must do wonders for a child’s self-esteem.
Now we’re back in the UK over summer, Stanley is saying hello to everyone in shops, ordering his own drinks in cafes, and smiling at random passers by. I don’t think he’s noticed that the greeting isn’t always reciprocated!
It might sound barmy to say that I love the weather in Dubai, as everyone knows we have crazily hot weather in the summer – but the truth is that we are lucky enough to be enjoy outdoor life for 8 months of the year. The other 4 are a little toasty admittedly, but Dubai caters for this with air-conditioning literally everywhere you turn and a plethora of indoor activities and play areas to keep us busy. So we aren’t hot, we’re just a bit cabin-fevered from always being stuck indoors.
For those 8 months of the year when we can head outside, our weekends are spent playing on the beach, eating breakfast alfresco as we watch yachts glide past our table, strolling along the marina near to our apartment with scooters and pushchairs, and enjoying picnics in the park.
I love the weekends in Dubai. We don’t tend to plan until Thursday evening, sending off a score of messages to friends to suggest breakfast or beach meet-ups. My husband does his fair share of childcare at the weekend too, allowing me time to meet my friends for lunch or head to a spa for some relaxation. Whist I miss family and friends from the UK so much, it is nice to have our time entirely to ourselves to focus on our family. And when we come back to the UK, those times feel even more special.
Every colour of the rainbow
A lot has to be said for the multicultural world we are bringing our children up in. Stanley goes to a British nursery, but is one of only a handful of British children on the register, with his classmates hailing from all over the world. A lot of his friends (and my friends too) don’t speak English as a first language – but that means nothing to him, as this is normality.
We go to the mall regularly at the weekend and most of our fellow shoppers are wearing Khaleeji dresses, burkas, headscarves, and saris. Some of these outfits are quite extreme to Western eyes, but Stanley doesn’t even see them, these outfits are as normal as if we were in the UK and shopping amongst a crowd of summer dresses and shorts/T-shirts. We hear the call of prayer four times a day wherever we are – in the mall, in the car, at home. We hear it so much that we don’t even hear it.
At nursery, he learns French and Arabic – and whilst at the age of two, this involves colouring in national flags and singing nursery rhymes, I love the fact these languages will continue as he grows up. I love that his classmates, teachers, and teaching assistants will be from all over the world.
Our safety bubble
There is very little crime in the UAE and I love this safe little bubble to bring up my children. I’m a Londoner at heart and can’t completely switch off being street wise, but I have got used to parking the buggy in an aisle in the supermarket and popping off to gather bits up as the baby studies a row of colourful tins. Children play outside in groups, racing up and down on their bikes without adult supervision, just like I used to do in the 1980’s. We don’t make a habit of leaving the car and front door unlocked – but we have done plenty of times without any worry. A friend recently expressed surprise that I ever locked the car at all, as her’s remains permanently open.
I know that one day we will return to the UK and I will have to teach my children to be a little more street wise – but having very little children in a safe place is very reassuring.
So that’s why I love bringing up my children in the UAE – and if you are considering the move, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to try it.
So am I actually looking forward to heading back? Well yes actually, I really am.