- What is your name?
- What country were you born in?
- What job did you have in your home country?
I was a dentist back home.
- How long have you been living in your new country for?
We have been living here for about 6 years now.
- Did you immigrate alone or with your family and kids?
My husband got a job opportunity here in Dubai and we moved with him. It was an expat move and not an immigration per se.
- If you had immigrated with your kids, what were their ages when you immigrated and how did they adjust to the new environment?
My son had just turned 4 when we moved to the UAE. Initially he had a bit of trouble adjusting as we have a huge family back home and he missed everybody but in 6 months, it seemed like he had always lived here in Dubai. My sister was already living here so having a cousin and family helped. Plus, we found lots of friends and that made all the difference.
- How are the schools in the new country?
Dubai has a lot of schools to offer according to all budgets. They have a strong education authority that keeps a check and balance and gives ratings accordingly so that helps the process of choosing the right one for your kids.
Also, since there are a huge number of expats living in Dubai, people are very friendly and accepting of different cultures. The 3 schools we shortlisted were all welcoming and had a great environment. We are super grateful to our school and the teachers who have been instrumental in helping my son fit right in.
- What is your job in your new country?
I am a contributing editor for Women’s Own magazine, Pakistan which gives me the flexibility of working from anywhere in the world. I also currently microblog on Instagram and Facebook by the name of The Sarah Effect. Apart from Pakistan, I have only lived in Dubai and it is now definitely a home 💗
- What do you enjoy about your new country?
I love the safety it provides to all residents. I can easily walk out alone at any time of the day or night without having a fear of any sort of criminal activity. The laws are strict, and they are implemented properly which provides for a safe environment for all residents.
It is squeaky clean! This has been a huge advantage in the current pandemic, the way UAE handled lockdowns and ensured PPE protocols everywhere gave us such peace of mind.
Thirdly, being in a Muslim country, the best thing is that the food is halal and quality is top notch. UAE is a great place for families with young children as it provides many means of entertainment. My children love it here.
The blend of the charming old Dubai and the new modern Dubai has been incredible to witness. The shopping is great too!
The convenience and the amount of services/facilities that Dubai provides is brilliant.
Lastly, it is only a 2-hour flight away from Pakistan and ages ago when it was not 2020, it was easier to hop on a plane and go visit my parents.
- What do you miss the most about your home country?
Being away from my parents and our extended family which means we miss a lot of milestones and moments that really matter. I miss the fact my kids don’t have grandparents around while growing up, the smell of jasmine, tuberoses and motia, bhutta on the sea sides (spicy ear of corn cooked over coal), delicious locally grown produce, speaking my own language freely and the rich greenery of Northern Pakistan.
- What advice would you give someone that is contemplating to immigrate to the country you have immigrated to?
I do not think immigration to UAE is possible, people come here through way of expat jobs and secondments. So, I am not sure I can advise on immigration. But if you are coming here for work, I would say UAE is generally an extremely easy place to live.
I would just advise everyone to come here with an open mind. Use common sense, find out about the local culture and laws beforehand and respect them.
- What challenges, if any, would you advise them to anticipate based on your experiences when you first moved to your new country?
It is a Muslim majority country with strict laws in place. The safe environment provided works because the laws are implemented correctly. There are fines in place for everything imaginable so be careful about those. Understand the culture, the laws and the system, and Insha’Allah you’ll find it easy.
The summer months are brutal so use lots of sun block and cover up well. Eventually you get used to it.
- What advice would you give them to overcome those challenges based on how you overcame them?
It is quite expensive to live here, do not get blinded by all the glitz and glamour, manage your finances and expectations well so you are able to live comfortably.
You will find people from all walks of life, keep an open mind and respect everyone and you will make great friends in no time. I think we barely had any challenges as people were so welcoming when we first moved. They opened their homes and hearts to us and for that we shall be forever grateful. We have made lifelong friendships
There is so much to do here that you cannot get bored. Many activities are free, go out and explore, do not be deterred by the harsh landscape, it has its own beauty.
The beaches are beautiful, and the winters are lovely. The government has a great vision, they have worked hard at making this place enjoyable for everyone. Despite the brutal summer months, there are enough indoor activities for us to keep us occupied.
- How was the visa process for immigrating to your new country?
My husband’s company handled all of it for us, so I am not sure exactly how that works. It was quite straightforward once we had the offer letter secured.
Initially my son and I came on a visit visa which the company converted to a residency visa, so we didn’t have to do long distance while we were waiting for our visa.
- How is the cost of living in the new country compared to your home country?
UAE is much more expensive as compared to Pakistan in terms of Housing rents, school fees and groceries, more so after VAT implementation.
- Anything else you would like to add, or any advice you would like to give to anyone that is contemplating moving to your new country?
You will find many friends here from all cultures and backgrounds, but it is important to remember that Dubai is also a transient place. People come and go so prepare yourself for a few heartbreaks as no one lives here permanently and you will lose some friends every year to repatriation.