I've outgrown New Zealand
Home sweet expat home
I was in Cheltenham, UK and married an Englishman.
We returned to New Zealand in 2003 to buy a house and start our lives together. Initially we renovated a colonial cottage in Paekakariki, and then sold to build a new home in Pukerua Bay.
By 2008 our marriage was falling apart, the Global Economic Crisis meant we had over-extended on our mortgage, and we were faced with the absurd situation that we needed to finish the build if we were to get any remuneration should we wish to sell and go our separate ways.
I made the decision to leave my job mid 2009, due to the erratic nature of my employer. I honestly thought I would find new employment quickly and keep on track.
However, it wasn't to be, and I was five months out of work when I chance-texted a former UK employer on New Year's Eve, who was working in Dubai in a luxury resort. I jokingly enquired if there were any positions there, and within three weeks I was booked business class to United Arab Emirates (UAE), for an interview.
The company offered me a job on the spot and I flew back to New Zealand to tidy up my affairs and complete medicals.
On March 10, 2010, I started working for Emirates Hotels and Resorts at Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa. As a worker from New Zealand, I was the only tall white woman in a staff of about 230, with 22 different cultures on site. I was thrust in to a seven-day week, working over 12 hours per day, with eather heading towards 45 degrees, in the middle of the desert.
As an Emirates employee, one often works seven days per week, accruing days off, to fly home at ridiculously cheap employee rates, every six weeks or so.
I survived. It is not for the faint hearted, and it takes a great deal of fortitude to survive as a single woman in such an isolated environment.
I always say that it was not a learning curve, but a complete learning spike. I cried every night in the shower.
I was encouraged to not socialise with upper or lower grade staff, and they didn't understand me or my English anyway.
I was continually reprimanded for my familiarity with associates, and as a Kiwi, it was difficult to adapt to a life of social class system.
In the end, I refused to become an 'expat wanker', and to this day, I (mostly) treat anyone and everyone as I would hope to be treated.
With this being the case, after four years, I have created strong, loyal and unfailingly devoted teams of staff from many nationalities, in three different employment situations. The world loves Kiwis.
I called time on my marriage within three months of living in Dubai, and my ex-husband put the house on the market, and started divorce proceedings. Getting divorced in different countries was a bonus, with little need for lawyers, no screaming, no custody battles.
I did well at Al Maha, and assisted the resort through a transition from Emirates to Starwood Management 10 months in to my employment, but my flight benefits were suddenly gone!.
In 2011, I decided the lifestyle of the desert had lost its appeal, and I found an excellent position with the Sheraton Abu Dhabi, in a higher level position.
Abu Dhabi has a strong and established expat community, many Brits have had children born and raised in the capital, the money is good and the lifestyle is not demanding.
Credit is available and encouraged from banks, but advice on repayments and on clearing debt upon repatriation is minimal. I have fallen in to this trap myself. The income earners who have been here many years, cannot repatriate, as putting family members through studies in their country of origin is so expensive; most choose to stay in the UAE for years, and many older men I have spoken with regard themselves as cash cows, waiting out until retirement before returning to their home country.
In terms of personal career, I have soared. I attained a high level of role in the hotel industry, which I would never have achieved within three to four years at home.
Will I return to New Zealand long term? I doubt it. I have become fiercely Kiwi since leaving, but in truth, there is nothing to draw me home.
The weather plays a big factor, I love the heat, even in temperatures in early 50s; I prefer it to the driving wind and rain of Wellington. Going out in a singlet, skirt and jandals at any time, all year round, with cash in the back pocket, has its appeal.
I now find returning home for vacation taxing; talking with family on world matters just doesn't seem relevant to them. The newspapers are so provincial, and I get frustrated at the isolated mindset of my peers. I feel I have out-grown my home country.
I will not permanently stay here in UAE. Now in a strong relationship with another expat (Welsh), we toy with the idea of opening a bar in Tanzania or Mozambique in 10 years time.
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