Expat Tales: Life in Abu Dhabi is an ongoing adventure

Sarah Chant and her partner Nathanon a tour around the Palm in Dubai (with the Atlantis in the
Sarah Chant

Sarah Chant and her partner Nathanon a tour around the Palm in Dubai (with the Atlantis in the background).

Sarah Chant's teaching career in Abu Dhabi is an ongoing adventure.

What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?
After an amazing holiday in the US we decided to move overseas. Initially, I'd looked at teaching in the US but due to on oversupply of teachers, they stopped issuing visas. I'd heard a little about living and teaching in Abu Dhabi from friends and it sounded like the perfect combination - a real adventure, perfect travel base and an income that meant we could travel.

What do you do there?
I work in an international school as a teacher and Nathan works from home. Since moving, we've been blogging at exploringkiwis.com. There, we document our travels, provide tips and tricks and have a team sharing travel advice.

Ziplining in Al Ain.
Sarah Chant

Ziplining in Al Ain.

What are the greatest advantages to living there?
The UAE is an amazing base to travel from. Last year I visited 25 countries which far surpassed what I'd initially hoped for. We enjoy having Dubai an hour up the road and often visit for a taste of excitement before returning to our relatively quiet city.

Processes and procedures can be a bit of a challenge. In our experience, visas can take a long time to be issued and this left us with a raft of challenges such as an inability to get the internet connected, frozen bank cards and cancelled SIMs.

How expensive is it compared to New Zealand? How much is a beer?
Alcohol costs more here (as it's a Muslim country, it makes sense) as do things like imported chips, but milk is a similar price to what we're used to and meat is a fair bit cheaper. We use our Entertainer app a lot to get 'buy one, get one free' deals on our favourite restaurants and takeaways are really affordable, so eating out is cheaper.

Snowboarding at SkiDubai (the largest indoor skislope in the world and the only one built in a desert).
Sarah Chant

Snowboarding at SkiDubai (the largest indoor skislope in the world and the only one built in a desert).

What do you do in your spare time?
We often head up to Dubai and we've been trying to explore other parts of the Emirates. Last weekend we flew our drone out in the desert and the weekend before that we went snowboarding inside the biggest indoor ski-field in the world.

What's the local delicacy and would you recommend eating it?
The local speciality would have to be the shawarma and they make fantastic, reasonably priced snacks! They're like the kebabs that we get back home, only they come with garlic paste and chilli sauce.

Easiest way to get around?
Public transport here is relatively limited but taxis are cheap, reliable and plentiful. Rental cars are well-priced too - we pay under $450 each month and fuel is cheap as chips.

Quad biking in the Western region's desert.
Sarah Chant

Quad biking in the Western region's desert.

What's the shopping like?
Fantastic! We find Abu Dhabi to have a larger selection of brands (they have a lot of the American and British labels) and also a wider number of sizes on offer.

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Best after-dark activity?
If you enjoy heading out, bars run 'ladies nights' throughout the week where women drink for free - it's a great way to see Abu Dhabi's nightlife without it costing you a fortune. The malls really come to life late at night too so that's normally where we head.

Best time of year to visit?
Summer is unbearably hot and many of the UAE's residents head away to escape the heat. It starts to cool down again from October (though that's a relative term!) and stays at a nice temperature until the beginning of April.

What are the top three things you recommend for visitors?
Top of the list for any visitor to Abu Dhabi would have to be the Grand Mosque - not only is it a breathtakingly gorgeous structure but you can join a guided tour at no charge and gain a first-hand insight into this peaceful religion. We also highly recommend all visitors book themselves onto a desert safari where they'll take you out for dune bashing, camel rides, henna and a range of cultural experiences along with an Arabic barbecue. Although there's plenty to do in Abu Dhabi, you can't leave the UAE without seeing the glitz and glamour of Dubai. Cars are reasonably cheap to hire here and the roads are good, so pick one up and make the trip over - just be on high alert as the driving is quite different here (but entirely manageable).

Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?
Initially we missed being able to head out in the car and into the bush or on a tiki tour but as time's gone on, we've adjusted to having a destination in mind when we go for a drive, rather than the aimless wandering we'd so often do back home. Food-wise, I really miss pies!

How easy is it for you to get back to NZ?
It's a 14-hour flight to Australia and then another 4 hours from there. By the time you account for check-in and transit, it takes over 24 hours to get home.

For Kiwis looking to move there, which industries are seeking fresh talent?
Teachers are always in high demand throughout Abu Dhabi. Contracts in other industries aren't as easy to come by as they used to be but if you have time on your hands and experience, chances are you'll find something.

If you know an expat who wants to share inside knowledge of their home away from home, email escape@star-times.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

 - Stuff


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