I want to thank the InterNations team* for picking Witsandnuts as one of the top expat blogs in Abu Dhabi (hence, the new badge on the sidebar). I also appreciate their interest to feature the blog and the person behind it on the Recommended Expat Blogs in Abu Dhabi page.
The request for the feature was first communicated to me by its founder in March of 2012, however, I was able to address the request only recently. Those who frequent this blog can probably tell that I have been caught by ultra busyhood. Again, I thank the team for the patience and gentle reminders.
*InterNations is the first international online community for people who live and work abroad and is represented by over 300 local communities worldwide.
In a way, responding to the questions for the feature pulled me and encouraged me to fight my unintentional hiatus. Especially when I was asked when and why did I decide to start blogging about my experiences. I cannot believe that I have been away for too long from one of things that I have always enjoyed doing.
Below are the details of the online feature which mostly tackled my life in Abu Dhabi as an expat. The photo that came with the feature was originally from a teaser post of my first Desert Safari experience.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Abu Dhabi, etc.
I wear several hats – a family woman, a consultant, photo hobbyist, writes on the side and blogs semi-anonymously, traveler and currently takes piano lessons at home with my family (together with our cats). I am from Manila, Philippines and decided to give one of the job offers a try by moving to Abu Dhabi in a (luckily) cold month of January 2008.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
It randomly started in 2007 when I took interest in taking photos of the food that I ate either with a group or alone. With no particular readers in mind, I created a blog, uploaded random food photos and chronicled the reason(s) behind those snapshots. Then I started writing about other topics, no particular niche, on the assumption that maybe the information/ experience might help a reader. When I moved to Abu Dhabi, my blog has taken few steps forward in terms of objectives, e.g. to keep track of what has been since I moved here. It is interesting to collectively recall things from the archive. In addition, it is one of the means to keep in touch with people I personally know (though I blog under the pen name “witsandnuts”) and blog pals I have not met yet face to face. In general, blogging became a nurturing diversion from the several things that I do and it satisfies a certain passion.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Everything is a favorite especially those which are travel-related since it is like taking the reader into the experience and at the process of writing the post itself is like re-living every second of the experience. On the other hand, I would like to note that my favorite Abu Dhabi-centric posts are about the photo caveats in the UAE, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and Desert Safari.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Abu Dhabi differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I did not have a culture shock because it helps to be a wild grass by nature. Being culturally shocked is a state of mind and depends on one’s flexibility, one decides if he or she would actually be “shocked” or not. But I must attribute it also to the strong support from friends and colleagues I got as a newbie. I had my share of adjustments, e.g. I shall not drink with or receive anything using my left hand because it is considered unclean in Islam, having Friday (Church day) and Saturday as weekends, the relativity of “modest” dressing, that I cannot easily photograph anyone or any non-living thing (e.g. landmarks, etc.), the pork dishes not being readily available in the menu, etc. There are plenty of differences in “way of living”, but in the end it’s the same “way of life”.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Abu Dhabi? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Looking back, I had very little preparation. But I armed myself by not expecting much. That if we are not going to like it here, we can go back to the Philippines because it is not the end of everything anyway. That mind pre-set worked and personally that constituted a reasonable preparation. Abu Dhabi is a very nice place and has been generous to me amidst the (normal) challenges. But perhaps I could have modified my preparation by adding more of old favorite nibbles in my luggage and learned basic Arabic phrases over the net before taking that flight.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Plenty of that. But I cannot forget our experience with a taxi driver (before the old taxis were phased out) in our first week in Abu Dhabi. By mistake, we handed him a Philippine peso coin instead of UAE’s dirham because it was mixed in the purse. He shouted and cursed us like he was ready to kills us. I found that funny (yes, I am strange) because (1) I was amazed at how one can waste 80% of his energy and time for the petty and honest mistake; and (2) because it is double waste of time and energy because we cannot understand any word he said. When we finally realized, we laughed it off and apologized and he finally got the right currency. That incident marked on me and since that week it has always kept me guarded – about patience, the necessity to learn another language not only for my own advantage but to make the life of the other person easier, and to avoid honest mistakes in any dealing.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Abu Dhabi?
- List down your goals/ objectives (professional, personal, financial, etc.) while in Abu Dhabi, plan on how to attain it, due date and make you sure review it periodically and update it with actual results and amend it, if necessary. It is so easy to get lost or overwhelmed by success and/ or failure. Abu Dhabi expats or any expat should enjoy life and plan at the same time.
- Learn the basic Arabic and get a glimpse of culture in Abu Dhabi by reading related blogs (I found it more credible because it has first hand information most of the time) and/or from people you know personally.
- For the single expats (especially the women), wear a wedding band on certain days to have a more peaceful life away from the strangers/ intruders, if you know what I mean.
How is the expat community in Abu Dhabi? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is, generally, a strong expat community in Abu Dhabi. There is diversification and several activities are available for everyone. It is not difficult to thrive in this Emirate.
How would you summarize your expat life in Abu Dhabi in a single, catchy sentence?
“All I need is a Choc Nut (a Filipino chocolate bar) and Shish taouk (my favorite delicious Arabic sandwich) to survive Abu Dhabi’s adventures.”
Note: That means that you must not forget who you really are and a piece of willingness to adjust, and everything shall be fine.