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5 Things Every Dubai Parent Must Accept

Here are 5 things only parents of children born or raised in the UAE will understand, straight from an EWmum herself

5 Things Every Dubai Parent Must Accept


5 Things Every Dubai Parent Must Accept


Here are a few things that only parents of children born and bred or growing up in the UAE will understand, as expat mum Emma Bennett explains...
 
We came to Dubai with open minds and open hearts. We wanted a new experience and we wanted our kids to have the opportunity to live in another country and experience what it’s like to be part of another culture. What no-one explained to me at the time was that there are some strange things you need to reconcile yourself with that you would have never considered prior to arriving here.

What every Dubai parent must accept

To save other parents the shock, I thought it essential to list the 6 things every parent of Dubai expat kids must accept... Please comment below if you can add to the list!

1. Your kids will have weird accents
There is a common phenomenon across international school students - the international accent. It's kind of British, kind of American, with the odd Aussie/South African/Canadian twang. Mix in a few Arabic words and you get the general idea.

We have found it quite amazing to listen to Miss Sparky's accent transform right before our own ears. She over-pronounces vowels like an American, she says 'about' like a Canadian and every now and then, I'm sure she says 'darlin' like a groovy Irishman. It's kind of cool though and it certainly makes her sound like she has a unique international flair.
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Given the broadness of the Australian accent, perhaps it’s a matter of natural selection - she had to pronounce words differently in order to survive in the international school community so she's chosen to swim rather than sink! Whatever the reason, know that wherever you are from, there’s a very good chance that when you leave here, your kids will no longer sound anything like you or where you come from – and that’s ok too.

2. They will be sweaty and dirty
We have done more laundry since we've been here in Dubai than we've done in our whole lives. Everywhere you go, especially at the beginning and end of summer when humidity is high, you sweat. And I don't just mean a little bit of beading on your brow. We are talking shirts that are wet through, pants with stains behind the knees and for me, clothes that stink before you even put them on.

Also, because it's a desert, everything seems to be covered in a film of reddish whitish sand. That means that anything you happen to touch, brush up against or lean on will leave a tell-tale smudge of dirt on your clothes. We've found smudges in places we never even knew had access to surfaces - it gets into everything.

It's not pleasant.

And for kids unfortunately, it's not much better. Little Chubs is a sweaty little guy. He will frequently walk out into the lounge or into his bedroom and his hair will actually be wet from sweating. Just this morning, I got him out of his cot after his morning nap and his shirt was completely saturated. This means he has a certain smell about him most of the time and let’s face it, most kids only smell nice for those 5 seconds in the evening after a bath. Embrace it though. 90% of the population (myself included) look and smell the same way - sweaty!

Don't even talk to me about walking through Karama on a hot summer afternoon. Or walking through the wind tunnels of Business Bay on a hot afternoon when you get hit by a whirly whirly of dirt and sand that almost shakes you down as it flows past, depositing copious amounts of dirt in every orifice.

But, that's why there's washing machines, showers and aromatherapy burners in every mall. It's part of life here and the sooner you accept this and embrace the immunity building qualities of dirt and humidity, the happier you will be.

3. They will think 5 star is normal
Dubai is a city of luxury and excess. There are also parts of it that are poor, dirty and very much 3rd world. Your kids won’t see that side of it though unless you make a conscious effort to expose them to the downsides of cheap labour in an oil economy.

What they will see is the types of places expat families hang out. This means five star resorts, beach clubs, restaurants and hotels. Especially in summer and during Ramadan when it’s too hot and too hard to do much else, you will find yourself spending many a weekend lazing by a beautifully landscaped pool in some ritzy resort, retiring inside every now and then to overindulge in endless buffets of delicious food.

We are very conscious of the types of people this type of lifestyle can produce however, and we know the warning signs when you walk into a hotel in any other country and Miss Sparky is immediately asking where the international buffet is and rating the whole experience based on the quality of this spread.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with any of this for kids, but it’s something to be aware of. We are especially conscious of the fact that when we do eventually move back to Australia, we will not have fancy cars, maids or weekends at five-star resorts as we won’t be able to afford it. So we want to make sure the kids stay as grounded as possible and make sure we try and visit the real world as often as we can.

Things parents in Dubai must accept
 

4. They will get used to being photographed
I’m sure every parent thinks their kids are pretty good looking. I know that Lovely Hubby likes to regularly take credit for the cuteness of little Chubs whenever some well meaning passer-by comments on how lovely he is.

When we first moved here, we got a bit of a shock at the amount of attention our kids commanded when we were in public. Chubs is like a little celebrity – high-fiving people wherever we go, fluttering eyelashes and blowing kisses. And everyone just eats it up! He is a little celebrity.

SEE ALSO: The pre-baby bucket list... 25 things to do before you get pregnant!

What I realised after a while though was that this is common for any Caucasian kids here. There is something about them that seems to be fascinating to people of other cultures. Whenever we get the metro, go for walks at the beach or even just wander through the streets around the souks, people are whipping their cameras out to take photos of our little ones.

We were a bit disturbed at first, recalling stories about kids being photographed out and about and next thing you know they’re on a billboard in Times Square and you haven’t ever given permission for their image to be public property.  But I don’t think it’s a sinister as that – these people genuinely just think the kids are beautiful and I guess the fact that most of the time, they would never see fair haired, light eyed children, it is something to photograph and share with family and friends back home as part of the travel experience for these people.

So, take it in your stride. Or at the very least just be aware so if you don’t want their photos taken you can be on the front foot with people – you have to be quick though. They often get the phone out, take the shot have a chuckle with their friends and move on before you even realise what happened. 

5. They will be scared of bugs and animals
Having grown up in Australia where there are the top 100 of every kind of deadly insect, reptile and other type of animal on the planet, we consider ourselves pretty tough. There’s not much that freaks an Aussie out from the animal kingdom.

However, one of the other side-effects of living here is that the same definitely cannot be said of our children.

Little Chubs saw a dog the other day that was probably about as big as his forearm, which being only 2, is not very big. And you should have seen the song and dance he put on, completely freaking out that this tiny little mouse of a dog was like the devil incarnate.

Likewise, Miss Sparky saw her first ants the other day – in her room, climbing the wall. They were so microscopic that I actually nearly borrowed lovely hubby’s glasses to be able to see them. She was so completely stressed about having anything remotely alive in the same vicinity of her that she demanded they all be killed before she would agree to go to sleep.

Sigh – a short memory this girl has. Our place in Australia that we lived in (which was not that long ago mind you) had so many ants in it that if you left a crust of bread on the counter for more than 20 minutes, you would come back to a black, moving pile as the ants would swarm to take the food back to their nests. She used to take all this in her stride.

So, all I can conclude is that the sterility of life here, the heat and subsequent lack of bugs and animals and the lack of outdoor lifestyle including pets means that our kids are going to grow up pretty well scared of all living creatures. We will do what we can to expose them to things but there’s just not the opportunity here to make this part of everyday life. Just another thing to accept and embrace– I can leave food out for days if I want and nothing touches it! A disturbing image I know but it’s important to state the positives I think!

***

So there you have it. A strange list of things that parents need to know when considering moving here. We consider it all part of a very special, once in a lifetime experience and enjoy the challenges as much as all the amazing things that Dubai brings to our world.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not in any way represent the views of ExpatWoman.com

Emma Bennett in DubaiAbout the Author

Emma Bennett loves a good story. Fortunately, she has plenty of inspiration living life as a Dubai expat and travelling the world with two young kids. She loves to tell the real stories about what can happen when you are completely out of your comfort zone and those funny, quirky moments that form long lasting memories. Check out her blog at listenlearnlaughlove.com. While you’re at it – why not also follow her on Twitter at @emsindubai.

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