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Terri Frost
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What is normal?

18 November 2010, 07:00  - Terri Frost
I have recently relocated to the sandy desert of Dubai due to better job opportunities. I miss SA terribly but this is where my life is at the moment and so I shall live it. There are so many pros and cons to living in a country and ultimately it is a personal opinion as to what you are willing to live with in order to make your life. It comes down to what you are willing to consider “normal”.

So what is normal in Dubai? Well, it is hot and I don’t mean slightly uncomfortable. From June to September it is impossible to go outside for longer than 20 minutes at a time (which is really tough when you have kids). You live your life indoors with air conditioner until winter finally rescues you from going barking mad.

Also there are so many nationalities here; there is often a huge language barrier, which can make life very difficult. Try explaining to a mechanic who barely speaks English, what is wrong with your car. The quality of service is shocking. It takes days for someone to come over and repair something and if they say they will be there at 09:00, you can expect them to arrive at 22:00 the next evening.

I never thought I would ever say this but honestly the driving here is even worse than taxis driving in Johannesburg. U-turns are a legal and necessary manoeuvre at intersections and it is not unheard of for a car to cross six lanes of a highway to take an offramp 20 metres ahead while travelling at 160km/h.

There is no courtesy or politeness and absolutely no regard for other people’s lives. The only good thing about the driving here is that drunk driving is at zero tolerance and so drunk drivers are usually the exception and not the norm. Taxis are easily accessible and cheap so you have no excuse to drive drunk.

Although Dubai is one of the more liberal emirates, there are still many restrictions here. You cannot buy alcohol without a licence. You cannot order a beer from a restaurant in a mall. The only restaurants you can buy a beer from are hotels and specially licenced places. You cannot go to a restaurant and order anything pork (unless they are specially licensed to do so). You may not really notice this as they do a good job of providing things like turkey bacon and beef ribs but it does take you by surprise initially. Things like affection in public and wearing revealing clothing (especially the women) are usually overlooked but you should always be weary as if someone complains about you, then you can get into a lot of trouble!

Now that the weather is cooling down, day to day living is great. We live in a compound with many other expats and our children run around, ride bicycles in the streets and play at each other’s houses. There is no fear of violence or being a victim of crime (although anyone who says there is no crime here would be lying. There are murders, robberies and rapes that happen but again this is the exception and not the norm.

The quality of life here is very similar to SA. If you have a well paying job you can afford a full-time maid, live off a single salary and afford most of life’s little luxuries. If you are in the majority of workers here, you live in squalid conditions with six people to a single room, barely surviving on what you earn and you cannot afford to school your child here. Schools here are wonderful if you can afford the tuition. As an expat you are restricted to private schools and fees are similar to the horrific fees paid in SA. Another thing about the UAE is that you never become a citizen here so once you lose your sponsorship visa you have to leave even if you have lived here for 35 years.

We play golf, go fishing, go on desert safaris, go to nightclubs, have braais, swim in the sea and there are no electric fences around our houses or high walls separating us from our neighbours and friends. It is dusty, dirty, hot and everything is very fake from the bling-style buildings to the lush green grass outside which needs more water a week than an Olympic swimming pool holds. It rains maybe five times a year here and when it does, you can be guaranteed flooded roads, leaking houses and mud everywhere. You cannot see the stars unless you are out in the middle of the desert.

So is the grass greener? Well for me it is but only because the choices we had was to leave or be unemployed and unable to look after our family. Blah blah blah about crime, racism, poverty, driving, education, service delivery etc. These exist everywhere is varying degrees of intensity. The fact of the matter is what you are willing and able to do. Some people cannot up and leave SA due to obligations and many simply do not want to.

If you are willing to live in a country, then you accept what that country has to offer and you take the good with the bad. Will I return to SA one day? Well it is tough to answer that question because no one knows where SA will be in 10 years time. It can take less than 10 years for a country to collapse and it can also take 10 years for a country to prosper. Yes SA can go either way but so can England! It all comes down to what YOU are willing to consider NORMAL in order to live the best life you can live.

- Are you a South African living abroad interested in sharing your views? What is it like for a South African living in a foreign country or how do you view South Africa from a distance? Send us your columns to and you might get published in our new Beyond Borders section.

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Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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