Moving to a new place where you know only 2 other adults is hard work. You have to immediately put on your happy and interested face and, in simple terms, put yourself out there!
The first six weeks were quite stressful - in all honesty, we were too busy with sorting out the basics to really be in the right frame of mind to meet anyone. But I guess that when we moved into our house and the kids were in school, that's when things started to change. When the children started at school, they were both in classes that were slowly being filled up with children as they moved to the city. O for example, started out as the fourth member of his class - now they are full at 15. Ella's class was similar and for some reason, Ella's class seem to have the more chatty and sociable mums and that's where it all started! It wasn't long before I set up a monthly mum's dinner!
One thing that has struck me with living overseas is that most people have a very interesting past. I have met so many interesting people:
1 - a British lady who left for Australia on her own about 15 years ago to continue her career. Is now an Australian passport holder. She met and married an Irishman, had three children and now has moved to Dubai to live near her brother.
2 - an Iranian family, somehow related to the Iranian royal family (not sure of the connection), who left Persia pre the revolution and moved to London and now Dubai.
3 - a Korean lady, married to a British chap, who lived in London, before moving to Singapore for a few years to have her children and now Dubai.
4 - a British lady, married to a British man, who lived in Paris and then Jamaica for years before stopping off in Dubai for a couple of years while their Australian residency visas are processed and approved.
5 - a Lebanese family who would prefer to be living back in Lebanon, but chose to have their family living here - just in case. (They are going back to Lebanon for the summer but have back up plans in place, in case the airport shuts and there are bombs - at that point, they drive to Syria and fly back here from there.) It's another world from the one I'm used to.
Everyone has a story to tell.
Making new friends from scratch is a bit like dating. You will inevitably meet loads of people: some of whom you just don't like the look of (sounds brutal, but it's true); some you don't agree with on many levels; and then there will be a gem that is worth plucking out of the crowd and getting to know better. Tim I think has found this aspect quite hard, but as I can have quite a good time talking to a brick wall, it's been easier for me.
I have met other people through various introductions (like at the Polo we went to in February) and the friendship circle is now widening very well. We have friends from all over the globe - Australia, South Africa, Germany, France, Malaysia . . . Birmingham!! Socially, we have a cracking time. Most weekends we are out at somebody's house for dinner and a swim. We now have to put the kids back to bed at lunchtime for a couple of hours as most of the socialising (because of the heat) takes place in the early evening. Every now and then, we go out for Friday brunch with some other people which is a big deal here in Dubai and most of the big hotels vie for your money to get you to eat in their place. For a set price, you eat for hours with all kinds of food available - there are usually children's playrooms attached so that the adults can have a leisurely time while the kids are entertained. You then stagger home and don't eat for a week! There are also the inevitable round of children's parties, which is as much of an excuse for the adults to get together and chat, as it is for the celebration of the child's birthday!
Now that we have a housemaid and a built-in babysitter, we are also able to go out in the evenings. Sometimes it's the cinema which is big business here as it's a very popular past-time. Tickets are 30 Dhs each, which is about 4.50, but if you pay with an HSBC credit card, it is a welcome BOGOF (buy one, get one free) so it's a cheap thing to do in the evenings. We also go out for dinner with friends - if we want alcohol then we have no option but to go to one of the big (and expensive) hotels, but if we are willing to forego the booze, there are many, many delightful places.
Before I started work, I would also meet people for coffee or lunch during the week. Whoever said that housewives out here have a tough time out here are lying . . . . . last week alone was very busy - along with root canal treatment (ouch) I also had many lovely coffees, lunches and breakfasts with my friends. It's all very civilised, but can get expensive if you're not careful! I needed more money to be social so have a job. Now I have the job but less time - a vicious circle!!! However, I still have that one day a week to cram it all in!
It is fair to say that we are working - and playing - hard.
In the summer though, everything changes. The expat community start to move out in early July, to return in late August. Ourselves included - we are back to Blighty to meet up with family and our other set of, equally valuable, friends there.