We have put together for you here a collection of our favourite articles on our expatriate life here in Abu Dhabi, and the UAE. For visitors to the UAE, or travel and tourism ideas with kids, don’t miss our on our destinations page “Discover the UAE” which is packed full of advice and reviews for exploring this fascinating – and perhaps surprisingly very family friendly corner of the world.
Abu Dhabi is the capital city and largest Emirate of the 7 Emirates that make up the “United Arab Emirates” – the country is still very young, established in 1971. The city has grown vastly over the past five decades and is now estimated to be home to nearly 2 million with over 150 nationalities – in fact the native Emirati population is estimated to be only 11.5% with the vast majority of the residents expats – most from places like India, Pakistan, the Phillipines as well as other GCC countries. The US/European expat population is estimated to be a similar size to the Emirati population, most with white collar jobs and living tax free – one of the huge draw cards to expatriate living in the desert.
The climate is subtropical and arid, meaning pretty much year round sunshine. The winters from November to April are wonderful and mild with a real focus on outdoor lifestyle, but the summers can be hot and unpleasant for some, day time temperatures can reach 50c and life pretty much moves indoors. Expatriates are free to dress to the weather (women do not need to be covered) but do exercise some respect and save your beach wear for the beach only. (Note air conditioning inside in the summer can be freezing, still pack your cardigan!)
The Cost of Living verses your home country can be really variable depending on where you are coming from! Generally speaking petrol is cheap, utilities reasonable, eating out on the pricey side and rents are extraordinarily expensive! Head over to our EXPAT MONEY MATTERS page for more cost of living articles and things to look out for, particularly when eyeing up a Family Expat Package. Remember while tax-free residency can be a huge draw card, you need to take good care of your finances at home to avoid double taxation or being lumped with a tax bill on your return. The luxurious lifestyle that is possible can also lead some into over spending; plan wisely if you want to come out of your Abu Dhabi experience with some cash!
Where to Live; Facing on to the Arabian Gulf, the city is essentially broken into two parts; “on island” and “off island”. There is no real city centre with many office buildings and government departments now well spread over Abu Dhabi so our best suggestion is to live somewhere convenient for both work and schooling. For families, generally speaking off island housing is newer and larger and becoming increasingly popular with supermarkets and other facilities. There are still plenty of family friendly options on island that will suit too, mixed between villas (stand alone houses) townhouse and apartment living. Remember everything when choosing a house is a compromise between budget, location and facilities.
Culture & customs; Islam is the national religion with the vast majority of the population Muslim; all Muslim public hilidays are marked. But they are accepting of all other religions and there are many churches . You will become accustomed to the sounds of the call to prayer 6 times a day!
You can read more on customs, culture and what to expect as a family in our guide “15 Important facts to know before visiting the UAE with kids”
Abu Dhabi Family Resources
The great thing about moving to a new city like Abu Dhabi is that its full of families. Children can be the cornerstone of breaking into a new conversation, making new friends and learning the ins and outs of a new city as an expatriate.
The first think I would do is grab yourself a copy of Yalla magazine – available in shopping malls as well as all leading schools and nurseries in the capital – (or if you’re still looking from overseas check them out on line – yallauae.ae). They have a really detailed directory from tots through to teens on clubs and events that happen around town for families.
We will shortly be adding a load more resources on here – particularly play groups and places where new mums to Abu Dhabi can look to meet other parents – face to face and online.
Want to know more about schooling in Abu Dhabi? We wrote this really handy guide for new parents moving to the UAE for AngloInfo
To get yourself prepared for a move to Abu Dhabi, get yourself a moving guide! The Abu Dhabi Residents Guide by Explorer was like our bible when we first moved to Abu Dhabi – full of information from where to buy things to health, education and work practices. Do note that anything claiming to be a current city map can become outdated very quickly! New roads are continuously being built, old ones closed, one way systems put in place. Don’t rely on GPS though – that can be just as outdated!!
Here are a collection of posts from our every day life here in the UAE