100 Days in Abu Dhabi

From Ramadan 2010

Yesterday we celebrated our first 100 days here in the UAE, so I thought this would be a good chance to recap. When I was back in the US for Liz and Chris’s wedding, the top question I got was, “What’s it like?” which is a tough question to answer since there’s so many facets, but here’s a run down of how our first 100 days have been…

  • Weather – This is the most obvious, but the most common question I get. Yes, when we first got here in the middle of the summer it was really hot – kind of like sticking your head in an oven every time you walk outside. But now in mid-October it’s actually really nice – in the 90s and sunny every day. Much like living in southern California I suspect.
  • People – I remind people that the country is 85% expats, so the majority of people I interact with are not Emiratis, but expats like us. We both get to work with a great group of people, and I’m enjoying working in such a diverse workplace. The few “locals” I’ve interacted with personally are extremely nice, helpful and interesting. There’s a definite social “pecking order” with Emiratis on top, but individually, the people I’ve met and worked with have been great people.
  • Living – It’s actually shockingly easy to live here. Most people speak English. The exchange rate is fixed to the US dollar. There’s grocery stores, tons of malls, movie theaters, Ikea, and everything you’d need to get set up. In our first 100 days, we were lucky to find a great apartment – right next to Annie’s office and pretty easy to get to most places in Abu Dhabi (about 15-20 minutes anywhere on the island). It’s brand new with a parking garage, a gym and a little bit of a view (and not a view of construction like our temporary apartment).
  • Speaking of which, our transition from US to temporary apartment to permanent home in Abu Dhabi was relatively smooth, though it did take close to 8 weeks for our furniture and boxes to reach us. However, it was a nice “touch of home” to see all of our “stuff” finally arrive.
  • The only downside of the living situation is regarding “customer service” broadly speaking. The Etisalat (cable + cell phone) situation is always a challenge, much like cable companies back home. The people who assist you at shops or banks or whatever are much more hit or miss than the US. Granted, customer service often stinks in the US so I’m probably looking at it through rose-colored glasses, but it seems more challenging here.
  • Language – Through work I’m taking “spoken Arabic” lessons, which I’m finding really interesting. However, it’s definitely not “necessary” as everyone pretty much speaks English. All signs are in both Arabic and English, so while I’d love to improve my minimal grasp of Arabic, it’s not a deal breaker.
  • Driving – I’ve already covered this in an earlier post, but suffice to say when I got in a NYC cab at JFK my first reaction was, “Why is this taxi driver so slow?” When NYC taxi drivers aren’t aggressive enough for you, then you’re clearly an Abu Dhabi resident.
  • We did recently buy a car, a used Honda Civic, which is cool since it’s newer than both of our cars back in the US. We bought the car from a nice couple in Al Ain (about an hour from Abu Dhabi) that we found online through Dubizzle, so we’ve been appreciating driving our own car, not the rental car we had for our first two months here. I’ll do a separate post on our new car later…
  • Food – There’s not a ton that’s “authentic Abu Dhabi” food, so on the whole we eat the same kinds of things we’d eat at home. We’ve been to some nice dinners, most notably a great dinner at Hakkasan Abu Dhabi for Annie’s birthday (disclaimer: Hakkasan Abu Dhabi is a client). We also got to enjoy a few Iftar buffets during Ramadan and a great Friday afternoon brunch (all you can eat, all you can drink), so the bottom line is we’re getting plenty of good food to eat.
  • Places – I wish I had a lot of exotic pictures to share, but really the main things I’ve seen are the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and some places in Dubai. However, we’re hoping to do lots of travel here to take advantage of our vacation days (we both get significantly more time off than is common in the US) so we’re currently eyeing trips to Egypt and China in the near future. I’ve also been fortunate enough to travel to London for work, so that was an interesting contrast with Abu Dhabi. I’d say the defining characteristic of Abu Dhabi is “construction.” There’s construction everywhere you look – buildings, roads, etc. But it is interesting to drive around – lots of palm trees, some beaches, and Mosques all around town.

Overall, it’s been a fantastic first 100 days and we’re enjoying being “settled in” here in Abu Dhabi. The work is good, our home is comfortable, and we’re finding everything has been as advertised. Now that we’re able to drive around without maps (for the most part) and are feeling more like “locals” every day, we hope to see some of you over here to visit!

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Pictures from Abu Dhabi

Picts from Abu Dhabi
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