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  #2089619 13-Sep-2018 00:42
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It's Wednesday afternoon here and the last day of a short week. Tomorrow is a public holiday and then we are in to the weekend :)

 

I thought I'd post about schools today. My kids are coming to the end of their second week attending school and my wife is finishing her second week teaching.

 

The school days here are long! School starts at 7:30am and my 4 year old finishes at 1:30pm with my 6 year old finishing at 2:40pm. This means their days start around 5:30am so they can be out the door at 6:30am. Apparently school used to finish earlier but KHDA (education authorities) mandated extra Islamic (for muslims) and Arabic (everyone) classes so school runs longer. The kids are coping ok so far but it is a 3 term year here with the first term being 14 weeks compared to a typical NZ 10 week term. The one upside is that there is no homework. The schools position is that the days are more than long enough that tthe kids shouldn't need to do homework.

 

The kids are going to an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. Needless to say it is incredibly expensive. Approx NZD$22k per annum for a 4 year old is insane. Because my wife is teaching at the school we get significant relief so my education allowance isn't fully used by two kids so that is nice. The school is huge and will eventually run from 3 -18 years old. It is a spin off school of another school that has approx 3000 students. They are just starting so only have around 700 student but should end up around 4000 students in a few years.

 

They have great facilities and the kids are really enjoying it so far. It's a new school so it's easy to make friends and they have found it easier to start here than when we moved across Auckland last year. They start Arabic classes next week which will be interesting and I think it's brilliant that they are learning a second language so early in life.

 

My wife is also adjusting to teaching here. The days are longer but it looks like her workload will be significantly lower than at home. My wife is very experienced (17 years) teacher and is very good at what she does. At home she would be at work around 8, finish at 5 and then do another 2-3 hours at night. At the moment she is working pretty hard to learn a new curriculum and the school is new so doesn't have established processes yet. Despite this she is finishing around 4:30pm here and not bringing work home. She has significant non contact time every day, with some days being 50% non contact. There are specialist teachers for art, music, PE, Arabic and home country language (eg French, German etc) so she can do much of her paperwork during the day. Coupled with us having help at home this should give us a nice work/life balance.

 

They also don't test anywhere nearly as much in an IB school compared to NZ. National standards required a huge amount of testing, much of which my wife considered unnecessary. She is really enjoying spending more time teaching and less time doing assessment to justify what she knew about the kids. She is also enjoying the smaller class sizes. KHDA mandate a maximum class size of 24 at year 4 level (She is teaching IB grade 3, which is the same as NZ year 4). My 6 year old who struggles a bit academically has 18 in her class which helps her not to vanish. She finds knowledge retention challenging but she's not naughty or disruptive so tended to get ignored a bit in NZ as she'd just quietly do her own thing, which often wouldn't be learning the topic. It's harder for her to hide here.

 

We're finding things generally good now. We are getting into more routines and finding the shape of our weeks.

 

My mission this weekend is to start looking at cars. I will post more about that next time - but first it's off to Legoland with the kids tomorrow :)




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  #2107065 13-Oct-2018 03:07
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Wow, it’s been a month since I last posted. I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. I’ve also had a week in Europe for work which hasn’t helped.

I said I’d post about cars so I guess that’s a good place to start. Cars here are relatively inexpensive. I’ve bought a 2015 Pajero that has done 25000 kms for around NZD$20k. We’ve also bought a 2016 Ford Escape (same car as the Kuga in NZ) for Mrs Handle for around NZD$22k. The big difference from NZ (other than the price) is the spec if cars here is much lower. Most new cars in NZ have climate control, keyless start, reversing cameras and touch screen stereos. That’s not the case here, they often have manual AC (which doesn’t matter that much when it’s always on pretty high). The Pajero and Escape at least have climate control.

Gas is cheap. Approx $1.03 a litre, which is considered exorbitant here. As a result cars here are big and if you drive a smaller car you get bullied. Mrs Handle doesn’t like big cars and would have preferred a Mazda 3 but the combination of the big SUVs and ‘interesting’ driving here meant she really wanted an SUV. We also have about 10 speed bumps before we get to the main road so an SUV is a bit nicer.

Driving here is crazy. Mostly it’s ok but roundabouts are like playing Russian Roulette. They usually have 3 lanes and drivers go right from the left lane and vice versa. Most of the roads here would be called motorways in NZ. Thus means to go somewhere 2kms away you drive 10kms. I drive 33kms to work and it takes me about half an hour.

They have will have 3 or 4 flyovers close together and it’s pretty confusing. Last night google maps took me down a bus lane which got me the privilege of a 600 dirham fine (approx nzd$240). Within 15 minutes I got an SMS saying I had a fine to pay from the CCTV. In Dubai someone is always watching.

Overall we are really happy. We have a very pleasant lifestyle here and the kids are loving school. They’ve made friends and it’s a really easy place to enter. We were nervous about the move but to be honest it couldn’t have gone much better.

If there is something people would like me to post about let me know.


 
 
 
 


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  #2107066 13-Oct-2018 03:54
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don't drink wine or beer on the UAE flagship airline Emirates on the way over there

 

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/aug/11/woman-arrested-with-daughter-in-dubai-over-drinking-wine-is-released




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  #2107069 13-Oct-2018 06:02
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nathan:

don't drink wine or beer on the UAE flagship airline Emirates on the way over there


https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/aug/11/woman-arrested-with-daughter-in-dubai-over-drinking-wine-is-released



Cool story but it’d be nice if you had some context around it. It’s appears she got fairly obnoxious with immigration officials around a number of issues, including trying to reuse a visa and then tried to video them.

The UAE is not a democracy. It’s a monarchy with a ruling class. There are lots of laws that can be applied but are ignored unless you draw attention to yourself. If you come here you need to understand you are in someone else’s country and you play by their rules.






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  #2111472 20-Oct-2018 17:19
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One of the reasons we bought a Pajero was we were told that it's a good idea to have a proper 4WD for driving in the desert. We went out dune bashing yesterday and it was a ton of fun. We went with a big group of South Africans and did a bit of driving and a ton of brai and socialising.

 

When you go off road in the desert and onto soft sand you let your tyres down to give you more surface area. You are driving on soft sand and it's a bit like low speed aquaplaning. The car floats a fair bit and the key is to keep your momentum. You are have to be very aggressive with the throttle and keep moving.

 

We had one of the cars get a bit shy on a big dip and they got stuck. They got pulled out and it was all good and part of the fun. The kids loved it as well because you aren't travelling very fast but the car is floating all over the show. We parked up near a lake and the charcoal and beers came out and had a great evening. We're hooked and we'll be going again pretty regularly. 

 

Now we have to buy all the extra gear, which is part of the fun for a geek. We need to buy a compressor and tow rope. We'll probably also get tyre deflators to make it easier to deflate the tyres. Some of the guys have totally tricked out cars but you can get into it for pretty reasonable money.




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  #2148091 19-Dec-2018 21:14
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It's been a while since I last posted. We are now well into winter and I have to say Dubai is just wonderful to live in at this time of year. While summer is the sixth stage of hell this time of year the temperature ranges from about 15 - 25 degrees and everyday is sunny. The consistency of the weather is great and makes planning the weekends easy.

 

Last weekend we spent a(nother) day at Legoland and the kids had a blast as we could get around more comfortably. We have annual passes to 4 of the parks (Legoland, Legoland Waterpark, Motiongate and Bollywood) which works out around NZD$800 a year which is really decent value. Food there isn't excessively expensive so it becomes a nice day out for us as a family. It's our third time in 3 months so we will get our moneys worth out of the passes.

 

The kids (and Mrs Handle) finished school for the winter break last week. They have done really well and enjoyed their first term in a new country. My 4 year old now talks about singing the "real" national anthem, which to her is not the New Zealand anthem anymore. It's amazing how quickly kids adjust to a new place. 

 

The only thing we have noticed is how tired they are compared to NZ. Their days are long and because it is a 3 term system they have taken a few days to come right. We are heading on our first trip tomorrow night (flying to Prague and spending 2 weeks in eastern Germany and the Czech Republic). It's a huge part of why we came here so it'll be fun to spend time with the kids in Europe and hopefully have snow. I was in Munich last week for work and it was snowing and Christmas markets were all around. We should have a lot of fun in Europe and it will be really different to have a cold weather Christmas.

 

We had our first visitors, my Mum and her partner came and spent a couple of weeks with us at the end of November/beginning of December. They really had a ball here, they found there was much more to do than they thought and really enjoyed some of the "tourist" activities. None of them are inexpensive but generally they are reasonable value. For example we did a desert safari, which was about 6 hours. We were picked up from our house in a Landcruiser and went out to the desert where we went had a falcon show, did dune bashing, took photos at sunset, rode camels and then had a meal. For 4 adults and 2 children it cost about NZD$800, which included a 2 hour alcohol package with the meal. It was really fun for us and the kids we felt it was good value, especially as alcohol can be very pricey here.

 

We also did our first experience of "brunch" in Dubai while we had visitors. One a Friday most of the hotels do a brunch, which generally involves a buffet, entertainment and bottomless drinks for 3-4 hours. We went to the Marriot in Deira where the food package covers 3 of the restaurants. The Asian restaurant included sushi and sashimi, peking duck, Yum Cha style, Teppenyaki etc. Then there was a German restaurant and a seafood restaurant. In the middle of the 3 restaurants is an atrium where there was a bouncy castle and activities for the kids, as well as a kids buffet. We had a brilliant time and will definitely be back. Once again it's not cheap but not excessively expensive at around NZD120 each for the adults and $25 each for kids.

 

We are nearly 5 months in now and we are really happy with the move. We are clearing the last vestiges of the  relocation costs this month (we used the relocation allowance to buy a car) but we have been successful in sending home a little more money than we originally planned. It is working out financially which is great, our cost of living here is quite comparable to NZ, outside of rent and power. Rent is covered by a housing allowance and we budgeted for the power side. School fees make things a bit lumpy but we are planning for next year already and will have them all saved prior to needing to pay them. We are also loving having a live in maid. She has been in Dubai for 8 years and just gets stuff done, it really makes a huge difference for my wife to not have to worry about washing and cleaning. We don't get her to cook for us but she gets the kids food all prepared so if my wife is home late from work the kids are sorted.

 

If I was asked about moving here I would recommend it if it made sense financially. You need to be careful to make sure the housing costs and school costs are covered but if you can make the money work you can have a wonderful lifestyle here.


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  #2148196 20-Dec-2018 09:24
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Handle9:

 

...For example we did a desert safari, which was about 6 hours. We were picked up from our house in a Landcruiser and went out to the desert where we went had a falcon show, did dune bashing, took photos at sunset, rode camels and then had a meal. For 4 adults and 2 children it cost about NZD$800, which included a 2 hour alcohol package with the meal. It was really fun for us and the kids we felt it was good value, especially as alcohol can be very pricey here...

 

 

We did what sounds like the exact same Safari (it is run by a company owned by the Airline) - ending up at a large 'bazaar' in the desert for the meal.

 

We had flown in from NZ that morning, and I was sort of dreading it as I was quite tired, but found it really enjoyable and would recommend. I slept the whole journey back from the dinner to the hotel though.


 
 
 
 




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  #2148586 20-Dec-2018 22:21
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trig42:

 

Handle9:

 

...For example we did a desert safari, which was about 6 hours. We were picked up from our house in a Landcruiser and went out to the desert where we went had a falcon show, did dune bashing, took photos at sunset, rode camels and then had a meal. For 4 adults and 2 children it cost about NZD$800, which included a 2 hour alcohol package with the meal. It was really fun for us and the kids we felt it was good value, especially as alcohol can be very pricey here...

 

 

We did what sounds like the exact same Safari (it is run by a company owned by the Airline) - ending up at a large 'bazaar' in the desert for the meal.

 

We had flown in from NZ that morning, and I was sort of dreading it as I was quite tired, but found it really enjoyable and would recommend. I slept the whole journey back from the dinner to the hotel though.

 

 

 

 

Yip that's exactly the same one - Arabian Adventures is the largest company running safaris and while it's very touristy it is very well done.


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  #2148596 20-Dec-2018 23:04
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Thanks for all the update. I just found this thread and having just recently been to Abu Dhabi and Dubai earlier this month, I was intrigued to find out about how "well" people who went there to work lived. I half expected to see Ferraris or Bugattis at every corner but I must be at the wrong part of town as I didn't. Anyway, it does seem to be the have and have nots. The hospitality staff had the benefits (e.g accomodation, medical) as part of their package but not highly paid and do struggle a bit to save. On another end, there are the ex-pats which seems to do rather well. At a cursory glance, the pay is similar or a bit higher (after AED-NZD conversion, but say without tax). Is the difference enough? Perhaps ex-pats get a much high allowance and salary, in which case if you're disciplined enough, will save enough to bring back and have a great start back home. I also had to fortune to visit a very nice clinic/hospital due to my wife having an infected sore throat, so the emergency dept charged us NZ$500 for consultation, some tests and antibiotics. I'm not sure what the "locals" pay but it'll be $50-70 in NZ before claiming on Southern Cross. Is it normally that expensive?!




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  #2148629 20-Dec-2018 23:40
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We have good insurance through work so to go to the doctor costs a flat AED50 including prescriptions (around NZD$20). Medical insurance is compulsory (you don't get a visa without it) and is included in all reputable salary packages.

 

I am making a similar salary to back home (very slightly less actually but tax free so take home pay is around 24% higher) but on top of that I get my housing allowance. I have tenants in my house back home (we have to top up the mortgage by around $150 a week but they are still paying most of it) so financially we are significantly better off by being here. 

 

Groceries cost similar to Auckland, gas is much cheaper and you pay a fortune for electricity due to running AC all the time. We are not skimping at all but are still able to save a significant amount of money and have a great overseas experience. We came mostly for the experience and it is a very easy country to come to as an expat.

 

The big bonus is being able to get to Europe for around NZD$2000 for 4 of us. There are a lot of low cost carriers flying from Dubai and most of the world (outside the Americas and Oceania) is less that 8 hours flight.

 

YMMV but we ran into a big crew of Kiwi teachers and apparently they make very good money at the Australian school in Sharjah and have minimal living costs due to school accommodation.




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  #2178035 14-Feb-2019 07:38
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We recently ticked over 6 months in Dubai. We're in the depths of winter at the moment, with temperatures dropping as low as 16 degrees, with a high around 25.

We had a long weekend at a resort in Fujairah last weekend. The other Emirates (Fujairah, Sharjah, Ras Al Kaimah and Ajman) are totally different to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. They are much less developed. Fujairah is on the east coast of the UAE, on the gulf of Oman. We stayed at a resort which was neat. It had all the normal resort activities but it was 2 hours from our house. It was also very reasonable at around NZD$240 a night including breakfast for 4 of us.

It was comparable to a Pacific island resort but with generally better service. The kids spent about 4 hours a day in the pool and we were able to relax.

One thing that was very interesting was seeing the container ships and oil tankers parked up at night on the horizon, waiting to enter the Persian Gulf. There would have been 40 ships we could see from the resort. Apparently it's where they stop there as it's far enough from Yemen to be safe.

One of the things we have found in the UAE is that you can spend an insane amount of money but if you are a bit sensible and shop around you can get real value.




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  #2216741 14-Apr-2019 05:31
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It's the last evening of spring break. We spent the weekend in Abu Dhabi.

 

Abu Dhabi is very different to Dubai. Much slower and more relaxed but still some amazing stuff. It is much greener and more compact than Dubai. It isn't as clean though. We went to the beach and it was pretty filthy with cigarette butts and plastic.

 

Friday was pretty relaxed as a lot of stuff was shut (the equivalent of Sunday in NZ). We went to the Louvre at Abu Dhabi. They have a formal partnership with the Louvre in Paris. They had a Rembrant exhibition on which was cool, if not to my taste. The building is amazing. It's a geometric dome with the actual structures underneath. It was great and the kids had a ball.

 

Today we went to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. This is incredible. It has enough space for 41,000 worshipers, with 11,00 inside. I've been to some magnificent buildings in Europe and this is on par or better than anything. It is only 12 years old but if you are in this part of the world it is a must see. It is also incredibly well set up for tourists. The tour is free and while they insist on appropriate clothes for a mosque they lend clothing for ladies for free. For men you just need to be covered from shoulders to your knees so it's easier.

 

It is a truly beautiful place to visit and if you are in this part of the world you should go there.

 

 


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  #2221443 20-Apr-2019 12:55
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Congrats on the role. It'll be a little adventure - Dubai is very hot and not the easiest to explore in terms of the culture and tourism. But it's proximity to Europe and Africa, middle east means endless travel/holiday opportunities. If you're going to be there for a while, it's something you can take your time with, 




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  #2385257 5-Jan-2020 00:37
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It's been a wee while since I posted about the gulf.

It's been nearly 18 months since we moved. We have no regrets about the move and it's been one of the better experiences we have had.

The gulf isn't for everyone but for us it's been brilliant. Our oldest got diagnosed with dyslexia and the way the school has catered for her has been amazing. She gets an hour a day of teacher aide time and her teacher has really supported her. We have seen a massive change in her learning and self esteem since we've come back from summer holidays. Both kids are really flourishing.

Every day is between 29 and 18 at the moment. The climate in winter is awesome. We've got until the end of March to enjoy the good weather, before it gets back above 49.

We went to Salalah in Oman before Christmas. It's a totally different climate down there and we really enjoyed it. They grow coconuts, bananas and papayas and during the monsoon season have a microclimate that supports a lot of greenery.

On Christmas day we went to a hotel for brunch (lunch). For around NZD200 we had a really nice buffet, including drinks, face painting and bouncy castle for the small people as well as a visit from Santa. It made for a wonderful day.

My cousin arrived on boxing day with her family and we did the tourist stuff with them for a week. It made us miss our families but I can't say I miss New Zealand.

We went home for a couple of weeks in July and while it was great to spend time with family it also reinforced that this is the right place for us at the moment. As a rule New Zealanders are ignorant about much of the world, especially the Islamic world. The stupid comments got very tiresome after a while.

The UAE isn't perfect (by any means) but it's been a very easy place for us to settle and have great experiences. We just booked tickets to Jordan in the spring time, I'm really excited especially to visit Petra.

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  #2385266 5-Jan-2020 07:56
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Thanks for your updates! Somehow I missed your earlier posts but your experience resonates well with me. We lived in the Gulf in the mid-70s and again 1996-2001. Long time ago & I know Dubai has become increasingly surreal but we loved it. No significant downsides at all and we'd warmly recommend a stint there for almost everyone. Interested too to learn of your travels to neighbouring emirates and again we'd endorse your views. Yes, Salalah (indeed all Oman) fascinating. When I first went there there were still communist insurgency problems from the nearby Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen and lots of British "contract officers" (mercenaries) in the Sultan's army (etc etc - old history but it was only a few years after the Brit-orchestrated overthrow of the previous nutcase Sultan who kept the country in the Middle Ages). Anyway, re Oman I do suggest you also go up to the northern tip of the Musandam Peninsula and get a dhow trip around the fjords (yes, fjords!!). As barren, dry & hot as hell. The Brits in C19 laying the first telegraph cable from India to Iraq around the top of the peninsula gave us the term of "going around the bend" (or so they say). I'm sure you'd also still see there the daily flotilla of speedboats from Iran coming to load up with Western consumer goods (computers, TVs, cigarettes etc) and then at dusk roaring off together at top speed to rush the gauntlet of the Iranian Coastguard on their return home. What fun! Enjoy!


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