3 things I wish I knew before we moved here…
Now that we’ve been here a while, I can safely say there’s a lot of things I wish someone told me upfront.
There’s lots of great things about living in Dubai. And there are some not so great things that come along with it. That’s true of anywhere you live in the world I think. And whilst nothing I know now would have stopped me moving, they are definitely things I wish I knew before we came so I could have been more prepared.
I figure it’s my duty as an expat, to share this information with fellow would-be Dubai expats. If for no other reason than I might be able to save someone else some time and money!
So I’m going to take you through my little wish list compilation of three things you will probably never see written about Dubai.
You may think they’re worth mentioning… you may not. I’d love to hear any thoughts, opinions, and of course additions to this list.
So here goes…
1. Get an air purifier immediately upon arrival
Dubai is on the edge of the desert. It is surrounded by desert. And all over the city, there are large blocks of sand that look like mini-deserts.
There’s also never a period of time in which there is not a significant amount of construction happening here. Look at any panorama from any period over the last 40 years and you will see a skyline littered with cranes.
And what does construction create? Well here, it creates fine white powder dust and, you guessed it, more sand.
So where does all this sand go you may well ask?
Well, it is my firm conclusion that it ends up on every available surface and within every orifice of every person who lives here.
Since we moved here, all of our orifices have suffered.
Gosh, I just re-read that sentence and that sounds really bad.
What I mean is, we have had every lung infection, eye problem, throat infection and sinus issue known to man.
Everywhere the sand can get to, you have a problem. This, I wish I new before arriving.
So, for those of you thinking of moving here (or visiting for that matter), take heed of this warning and complete the following steps:
- buy an air filter for every room of your house IMMEDIATELY. Stock up on refill filters too as they often run out of stock. You can order online direct from trusty ACE Hardware
- buy some wraparound sunglasses – this will help keep some of the ick out of your eyes
- get your landlord to check the seals on all your windows and doors before you pay them even one fil. And get them to replace them if they fail the leak test.
Trust me – and thank me later. Unless you want to spend the first year of your Dubai tenure sitting in a doctor’s office with hundreds of other coughing, wheezing, bleary eyed, stuffed up people, follow these steps as soon as you can.
2. The water is hard!
I’ll say it again. Dubai is a desert, surrounded by desert. And apart from sand, what is another obvious characteristic of deserts?
You got it! No water – right?
So here in Dubai, there’s no option to make the million+ residents get out there and divine water from beneath the ghaf trees. Nor can they rely on building dams and having them fill up in the annual rainfall of 2-3 days.
So the only obvious choice apparently is to use de-salination.
Whilst I’m sure the water is perfectly safe and has perfectly acceptable levels of every important mineral, it is very hard.
How do I know this?
Well, since we moved here my skin, hair and nails have all deteriorated to a point where I’ve almost given up on every having a good skin, hair or nail day ever again.
And it’s not just me.
Virtually every expat woman I know has the same tale of woe. Their hair falls out in handfuls. Colours fade quickly. Dermatitis is rife. Brittle nails that chip and break easily are run-of-the-mill.
It can’t just be co-incidence.
So my advice to the soon-to-be Dubai expat women of the world is:
- buy water filters for the showers/baths you use in your house IMMEDIATELY. You can get them from any hardware store for not too much money – this is actually one of the biggest things I wish someone had told me as it would have saved me a fortune at overpriced hairdressers!
- invest in a good sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner and only use that from the start – Essano Argan Oil Nourishing Shampoo is my absolute favourite
- invest in a good quality oil for your face and body – I use jojoba because it doesn’t irritate the skin and its easily absorbed
- wean yourself off any skin products with chemicals in them. You owe it to your skin when you live in these kinds of circumstances. I only use Twenty8 products now which are all chemical free and they’ve made a huge difference to my skin
3. Your immunity won’t stand up
Everyone says it takes a minimum of 6 months to adjust to living in a new place. What I didn’t realise was that this extends here to basically being sick for 6 months.
No matter how healthy you think you are, Dubai will challenge your immune system like it has never been challenged. At least initially.
I think of Dubai as the great meeting place for nasty bugs from around the world. They congregate here and hold infection conferences to develop new ways to evade medications and attack human immune systems.
The great cultural melting pot means exposure to bugs your body has never before seen on an everyday basis.
Around 70% of Emirates Airlines traffic is transit people stopping here and moving onto elsewhere. So as they transit through, or if they choose to stay, they are constantly introducing new bugs to us residents.
It’s kind of icky to think about really.
But it does mean that you have to take immediate steps from when you touchdown here as an expat. Actually, the smart people will start this process a few months before they come. Your immunity simply must be at it’s peak level.
Much of your immunity starts in your gut, therefore gut health is essential for Dubai residents. Likewise, all of the fresh fruit and vegetables available here are imported which means cold stores and depleted levels of vitamins and minerals you would expect.
So bearing all this in mind, my top recommendations here are:
- buy a good quality course of probiotics (see a qualified naturopath for a recommendation if you’re not sure) and probably get them before you arrive in Dubai. The selection here is not great
- get some decent vitamin supplements – the food here alone will not give you everything you need
- keep exercising! Its easy to opt out of exercise and blame the heat or the sand, but the key to health and coping with things like moving and illness is to stay as fit as you can.
Don’t wish – follow my advice!
So there you have it.
The main things I wish someone told me either before I came here, or at least shortly after arrival.
We have spent hours and hours in doctors offices, cuddling sick children, lying in bed feeling like we’re dying and battling illnesses. My hair has all but fallen out, I battle constant skin dryness and I don’t think my nails will ever be the same. All because we weren’t properly prepared to live here.
It’s getting better now because we’ve learned along the way.
Even then, just this week, lovely little Chubs has developed some completely weird and completely festy skin infection which has his legs looking like they’ve been rubbed all over with a poisonous toad. No-one seems to know what it is nor how to make it go away and it’s stressing everyone out.
We’re that family that you see out in public and try not to stare at, but you can’t help but stare at. It’s getting to the point where we almost feel like we need to create a sign to carry around saying “don’t worry… he’s not contagious!”
So, spare yourself the pain.
Prepare before you come here and hopefully, you will never have to really feel our pain.
Anyway, we’re off to yet another doctor appointment to see if we can cure our boy’s leprosy.
Love to hear any other tips or recommendations you may have. We need all the advice we can get.
Have a great week and most of all, stay healthy everyone.