Keri: Baby Globetrotters
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Abu Dhabi, etc.
Hi I am Keri. Born to Brits who had immigrated to New Zealand, but mostly raised in Australia my expat life started over 10 years ago when I went to ‘do London’ as a newly qualified accountant for a year; 8 years on I found myself married with a couple of kids - then exchanging the hectic working mom life in London for the sandy deserts of the Middle East. I became the ‘trailing spouse’ in 2012 and now a mom to three in Abu Dhabi I have turned my hand to a career in writing, supporting other expats and joining countless committees in my ‘spare’ time.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I have long kept personal diaries for each of my children, to help remember all the funny little incidents from their childhoods that I’m sure we’ll forget. After a trip to Vietnam in 2013, one of many trips that year, I realized how well travelled our children were getting and many friends would ask us for advice on travelling with their children, too. The idea came together to help travelling families and those who live abroad cope with, and enjoy their nomadic lives so Baby Globetrotters was born.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I prefer writing about the humorous side of our family travel and how we make it work. A great article that sums up how to best travel long-haul is ‘5 savvy strategies for family flying success’.
The best received articles on my website are from the global parenting series which exams life raising a family abroad in interviews with expat parents. My favorite is my interview with Julie, a working mom who takes on postings in hardship countries.
It’s also good to laugh at the little things in your expat life; here is my experience with International Day at my son’s nursery.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Abu Dhabi differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
We have settled very well into our new life. In London we were cramped and confined; in Abu Dhabi we can afford to have a big family home, we can afford to have only one parent working full time and the kids have a very active outdoorsy lifestyle. I am continually shocked by parenting practices from the many different cultures that live in Abu Dhabi but you sometimes need to bite your tongue and accept people have been brought up differently – I will never understand not strapping your child in with a seat belt though.
The city is surprisingly modern and well-resourced with shops and brands you know. Although it is a Muslim country I really did not feel any great culture shock when I arrived, only the blast of heat! We are very free to go about our day to day lives as normal. Some bureaucracy feels ridiculous but you get used to saying ‘well this is Abu Dhabi’ and ‘Inshallah’.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Abu Dhabi? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
We had a very short time frame between taking the job and moving, we were already looking to upgrade our family home and move – we just didn’t expect overseas! Had we been able to plan better we would not have sold our London home so we would still have somewhere to return to, now we feel slightly nomadic without a home base to return to – but this also gives us flexibility for the future.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My daughter was very little when we left London but had already made a few close friends at her nursery. When the teachers were trying to explain to the other kids that Miss Z wouldn’t be there next term, they kept explaining “she’s going on a plane to Abu Dhabi” – for about a year after we left the kids in her class were still quoting these exact words to their parents! Goes to show even the tiniest kids can still forge connections, or they are just very good at rote learning.
(Afraid I haven’t had any personal epic fails so far to share with your readers but will be sure to update you when I put my foot in it!)
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Abu Dhabi?
- The summers are really hot; be prepared for this and what you plan to do. If you work in air-conditioned rooms all day this is fine, but for families be prepared that any non-working family member may want to head home or overseas over the very hot months, especially during Ramadan when a lot of shops and activities are closed during the day.
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward and attend new groups. There are loads of people in the same situation as you who would love to speak to a friendly face, too, and most existing expats are pretty welcoming, too!
- School spaces can be incredibly hard to get into at the most respected schools; the sooner you know you are moving the better and you can get on wait lists. Nursery registration starts from October/November the year before they are 3 so be prepared if you want to be assured a spot at your first choice school, it’s very competitive.
How is the expat community in Abu Dhabi? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
As a mom I have found it incredibly easy to make other mom friends here, but it’s taken a little longer to make really good, close friends. A lot of other women have come out here as ‘trailing spouses’ and are stay at home moms for the first time so we tend to have a lot in common, and through playgroups and school you get to meet a lot of like-minded people.
I also joined ‘Aussies Abroad’, the Australian social group when we first moved here. I have ended up on the committee now looking after treasury and membership for the club. It’s a fabulous role to be involved in, meeting and greeting new Australians as they arrive and we of course put on some fantastic social events during the year.
How would you summarize your expat life in Abu Dhabi in a single, catchy sentence?
Enjoy the family life you’ve always wanted to live!