I love this country. I have lived in it for many years now. I am an expat, and I consider myself a citizen regardless whether the government recognizes me or not. Recently, it seems things are getting harder than ever before. I have started to struggle and I am unable to keep up with the difficulties that keep coming. It is really hard for me to think or consider leaving my home, but at the same time, it is getting really hard living in it, and it is time to decide whether I should make a move or not.
I keep telling myself it is just a phase. I thought things will get better. But it didn’t, and it doesn’t seem like it ever will. Is it time?
The UAE has long been famous for being a country with excellent political relations internationally, and being a haven for its residents in terms of politics and war. The Gulf countries had a bond that no one ever thought would ever be broken. However, the recent conflict with Qatar, led to the eviction of all Qatari residents back to their home countries. Qataris were one of the highest levels of expats, treated almost the same as Emiratis. Where does that leave us expats from countries with unstable ties? The divorce also resulted in tensions escalating in the region to a critical point, with countries rallying to take sides. Keeping all this in mind, sorry to be pessimistic but, I am getting a feeling that the countries in the region I am living in are about to blow each other to smithereens (and me along with them).
If that doesn’t seem like an immediate threat, I know what does. It’s the fact that I cannot smoke a cigarette with a Red Bull without breaking the bank. Or the fact that I am about to be bombarded with tax payments. Yes, it’s only a 5% vat, but who are we kidding here, I know very well it is only a soft launch of something bigger. I can’t live in my own flat anymore, I have to share my living space with people I hardly know or trust. Transportation is getting expensive. The oil prices have become quiet high considering I live in one of the world’s biggest exporters of oil. Ok, I understand the country is having economic difficulties for whatever reasons. However, how is that my problem as an expat with no rights or recognition? Why should I pay to support the government? What do I get in return? I don’t even have permanent residence!
I mean, I barely have enough money to eat any more after paying all my bills (rent, phone bill, transportation, fines etc.). I came here to save money and I know I cannot stay here forever. However, the amount I used to save monthly is no longer possible. Everything is getting more expensive, and my salary every year is staying the same (and in some cases, it has been reduced). I am now going into debt while trying to save money. And the bigger my debt gets while I “wait for things to get better” the more I enslave myself and make it harder to leave. Yes, if I go back to my home country, I can only dream of getting the salary I am currently getting, but what’s the use of this money if I cannot save it at all? At least in my home country I do not have to live in a shared room and cook noodles to scrape by. I’ll also never feel that my life is at the verge of imploding the same way I feel here.
What’s worse is that while I tolerate all of this, I am not even satisfied with my social life. I am constantly exposed to passive aggressive racism. The friendships I make here are far from real, and I bet a right and a left arm that all my current friendships will end as soon as I step foot in the airport. This is mostly due to the fact that being expats, people come and go, and we do not have that strong community feel or the ability to invest in long term relationships. An example would be a friend of mine – who recently got fired. The first thing his co-workers asked was “How much would you like to sell your car and furniture for?”. Instead of feeling remorse for him, his “friends” or “colleagues” were quick to jump and capitalize on the situation. Then the bank calls…and trust me, you don’t want the bank to call!
I’ve noticed that many of my friends and acquaintances that have been fired or resigned in recent years have happily settled in new countries and are enjoying their life much more than when they were here, and they themselves never really expected that level of a positive result. That’s one of the main reason that gives me the confidence to push away the fear of making a change, and leaving a country that I consider home.