August 29, 2011

Living in Dubai: Family vs. Money?

August 20, 2011
Everyone in Dubai who is not from Dubai, is here for money. In some shape or form it is about money. The Indian laborer doesn’t see his wife and kids for years but sends home money that they wouldn’t dream of in India. The Philipino maid who went home only to have her child and come back to Dubai is here to make money and send it home while her family raises her child. The professional Western expat is here for a few years, normally with the luxury of bringing their family and belongings with them, to work really hard, enjoy a tax-free environment, and hopefully return home after a few years.

This last 10 days my husband, 7 month old son, and I spent the entire time at my husband’s grandfather’s place in Eskesihir. We introduced our son to his grandmother, great grand parents, great aunt, great uncles, 2nd cousins, and more for the first time. Rex had been the first baby in the household for 9 or so years so it was complete fun to watch 50 and 80 year olds getting on all fours to crawl with him or getting really silly entertaining him. We slept a lot, we ate at restaurants and cafes, I worked a few hours a days, we talked, we toured around town and went to parks, and enjoyed the time at a slow pace with a focus on family. I enjoyed the cool weather, the open doors and cheap prices.

I noticed how calm and happy my husband was there and since we have returned. I told him that I don’t want to stay in Dubai a long time because I want to be around family. The best thing about living on this side of the world is that we are closer to his family and after a 4 and half hour flight and a long bus ride we are there.

In general, I think life is too short to spend too much time away from family.

When we decided to move to Dubai it was a combination of a few things. Burak wanted to discover consulting and see if it was a good match for him. So far, he really likes it. Also, we wanted to take advantage of the tax break from living abroad in a tax-free country. Mostly, we wanted to pay off our graduate school loans. When I realized how much we spent on interest alone last year, I realized we needed to start paying those suckers down aggressively. Another factor that let me feel free to go was that my mom had been suffering a long battle for her health and finally lost in December 2010. I finally felt like I could leave Texas for a little while since she was gone. So, there you have it, we are here in Dubai for money, to pay off our school loans, to pay off our Houston house, and for Burak’s career.

We aren’t the only ones sacrificing a few years of our child’s life away from family for money. Many others are doing the same. One Danish couple just had their first child and they plan to stay for 7-10 years. Another American couple plans for 3 years total and had their first baby a month or two after settling in. Their family is taking turns flying in to meet the new member.

Our maid has 3 college-age children and hasn’t seen them for 3 years. She doesn’t have email but uses her friend’s computer to Skype to her children. She is here to help put them through college. They don’t have computers and they have to go to an internet cafĂ© for internet and computer use for college. She sends almost anything she finds or is given to the Philippines including some hotel toiletries I gave her for her to use. She wants to return in March to see her son graduate college.

My maid’s friend has a 14 year old child. She has worked and raised expat children for 20 years. She had her child in the Philippines and then went back to working in Dubai. She probably only sees her child every few years but has raised a Scottish 9-year old living in Dubai since she was 6-months old.

Today at the mall I was looking for lipstick and pushing around an empty baby stroller because my husband had my son in a baby carrier in another store. The lady asked me how old my baby was. I told her 7 months. She said she had twin 8 month olds in the Philippines. She and her husband live in Dubai, she went home for a break between jobs and had her babies and left them with her mother, sister, and babysitter when they were 3-months old. She is going to go see them when they are 1 years old. I almost cried there but basically thought about all the little things like when a baby first laughs, how funny their cry can be when they are pouting, their first crawling experience, first tooth, all the things that happen the first year. She and her husband are missing most of it.

But what they are all doing is what we are doing, trying to make a better life for our children.

The positive side to living here, traveling around, and meeting new people is that it is an adventure. I am exposing my son to a new world. Just living in Mexico in the summers as a child made me want to travel more so I know living in a Dubai a little bit will make Rex want to see more of the world.

Plus, since almost no one has extended family here except the Emiratis, which is about 10-15% of the population, bonds of friendship become stronger here between neighbors, friends, and co-workers because we are each other’s family while we live here. I see this over and over.

When I told my dad I was moving to Dubai, he text me ‘money isn’t everything.’ Yes, money isn’t everything. Being in Dubai is for adventure, new ways of thinking, Burak’s career goals, maybe even my career goals, debt reduction, savings, and freedom. The savings allows us not to be slaves to our debt and be able to start saving for our children’s graduate school so they don’t have to do the same. It is also forcing me to create a viable semi-virtual law firm. Realizing that I can work from home whether in Dubai or on vacation in Turkey or wherever I am with good internet and my laptop, is a very empowering idea.

So, a year or two or three later, who knows, we will return to the US with more experience, more life stories and travels under our belt and hopefully most of our graduate loans and part of our Houston house paid off. For now, we have email, Skype, and Facebook to keep us in touch with friends and family around the world. In the end, I think we, unlike some of the other expat communities in Dubai, are getting the money without sacrificing too much of the family.



e.h.w. said...

GL Rubes, I hope it works out for you guys! I have two friends in China who also moved to save money to buy a house they otherwise could never afford. And they just had twins. Having an adventure abroad with a baby seems like it would be a lot of fun!

Maria said...
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