Monday, January 31, 2011

The Expat Community

The term 'expat' refers to anyone living outside their home country of origin and your expat status doesn't change no matter how long you live in the new country either. Felicia, our real estate agent, has lived in UAE off and on since she was 13 years old and she's still considered an expat and always will be.

It's estimated that 60-80% of Abu Dhabi's population is made up of expats. When I first considered this figure, I thought I'd be running into US citizens at every turn, but we are really few and far between. Most prominent are other Arab countries and I'm not observant enough yet to tell them apart - Pakistanis, Lebanese, Saudis, etc. There's also a HUGE Indian population and then lots of Brits, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans. So I hear a lot of English, but rarely stumble across an American accent.

There also aren't 'communities' in the sense that all the Americans live together in one place, all the Indians ... People come and go so frequently and housing is a bit scarce in Abu Dhabi so it's pretty difficult to be grouped together like that. Some specific businesses do it because of how they set up their housing situations. For example, the Accenture folks working on the hospital project all live in the same building of serviced apartments, but their group isn't in the middle of any American expat grouping or anything. Epic was hoping to group the team together to an extent, but unless some of the new buildings get their permits in the next month, we don't think that's going to be a feasible option, which isn't a bad thing from my perspective. I think living together and working together could get stressful for the team, and it certainly makes meeting new people a lot more challenging.

The biggest expat 'community' I've seen is online. There are a few forums and discussion groups specific to Abu Dhabi, which have already proved helpful. For example, I'm looking for a dry cleaner and this is harder than you might think as word is that many of them ruin your clothes or have unclean working environments. I checked out the forums yesterday and got recommendations for 3 places expats take their clothes and have had good luck with. I've also found info on hairdressers, tailors and the bus that runs from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. The internet is a wonderful thing! :)

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