My journey to gaining insight and depth of understanding started several years ago with the move to Dubai. To relocate away from everything you know to a place that can be so different, is a challenge that faces all expatriates the world over On arrival here, based on your employer and their values, you will feel either supported or extremely vulnerable. Much of your first exposure to the country is based on how you are initially treated, how your company processes your paperwork (which you take as how they value their employees) and so follows the spectrum of experiences and emotions you deal with in your first year or so.
There are very few countries, if any, that the UAE will refuse an entry visa for. Generally, if you can work, you can find employment here and obtain a residency, although there are more restrictions on residency visas and the law changes frequently according to the current political situation.
As with all strong characteristics, they tend to form the best and the worst traits. For the UAE, the sheer number of nationalities that reside and work here in freedom means that your own cultural values and ethics are challenged on arrival. It results in major feelings of insecurity and uncertainty, often doubt and resentment towards the move that can spread into your relationship. Unfortunately, many marriages and relationships don’t survive the first year, especially if each partner undergoes a very different experience to the other. Without a local support network, it extremely difficult to work through the confusion and emotions, and you always gratefully remember the friends and quite often the strangers that showed you selfless compassion and love when you needed it most.
After about a year in, you move from resistance to acceptance and things change quickly. Now, having explored and used change management curves in my career, this is a natural and necessary stage. Taking the Kübler-Ross change curve, I created a personal change curve for newbie expats below.
Now in my seventh year in Dubai, you can spot the hint of reverence that new expats give when you answer the question on how long you have lived in the UAE. My response is always that it really does get better as you build (or rebuild) your life, career and support network. It can also make you spiritually much richer as you reflect on the experiences and your reactions.