First Impressions

In which I listen to the voices in my head…

As parents, one of the most important life lessons you can teach your kids is also one of the hardest: to trust your instincts.

Grass is greener
Yes, the grass is greener in Abu Dhabi than Doha

This person isn’t what they seem; this situation doesn’t feel right; that email from my new-found long-lost uncle, who also happens to be a Nigerian prince sounds too good to be true…

It’s hard because, in order for that to be effective, you need a lot of data – in this case, life experience – and the quickest and best way to build that up is to make a lot of mistakes.

It’s like every time Amnesiac mentions The Force Awakens (roughly six times daily, still with three months to go) I just want to say: “Yeah? Well they said that about The Phantom Menace, too – and look how that turned out.”

Pros and cons

The need to listen to the voices in your head goes double for expats. There’s nothing like a relocation to generate an endless stream of decisions. From the huge – do we take this job? Do we move to city X at all? – to the, er, equally huge: where do we live, which schools should our kids go to?

For hire
Cool buggies and karts available for your hiring pleasure along AD’s Corniche

You can spend forever drawing up lists of pros and cons and debating long into the night, but so often the need to make a decision means it comes down to instinct. Without it, we’d never do anything. (For the purposes of balance, research suggests I might want to reassess that view.)

Take shipping our stuff, for example.

Of the companies who actually bothered to turn up for their appointment to give us a quote, they all ended up proposing a similar-ish service for a similar-ish cost. So how did we pick one? By instinct, of course: This guy seems like someone I can trust with all our worldly goods.

Short cuts

You’d never do anything if you didn’t draw on your accumulated experience to try and find some decision-making short cuts, which is why first impressions are so crucial.

Kylo Ren in action
My eight-year-old- son will gladly share with you his theories about the hilt on Kylo Ren’s lightsaber. At 6am

And that doesn’t just apply to candidates getting bespoke suits made ahead of their final round of interviews; first impressions count just as much for cities.

Before I made my first visit to Abu Dhabi (AD), it existed in my mind as a city midway between the party central life in Dubai and Doha’s conservatism.

A cousin of somewhere like Canberra or Ottawa – perfectly decent cities in their own right, I imagine; but fairly quiet, administrative capitals happy to be overshadowed by flashier neighbours.

Instinct + perspective = decision

I got my first impression of AD in April, when I came over for stage four of an eventual six-stage recruitment process (I make no apologies for using that word; I’ve seen too many episodes of The Apprentice to call it anything else) and we got off to a flying start.

An underpass running beneath AD's Corniche
Today’s new words for readers in Qatar: ‘pedestrian’ and ‘underpass’

Forget the tourist hotspots of Sheikh Zayed Mosque or the Emirates Palace; instead, I was busy sending Mrs LC pictures of anything we didn’t have too much of in Qatar, like quiet, wide roads; actual trees; pedestrian underpasses.

(For the benefit of readers in Doha: these are tunnels under roads to allow pedestrians to cross in safety. I know, I know, they’ll never catch on…)

Add in perspective, and you’ve got yourself a decision. During my interview, one of the recruitment team told me about a candidate over from the States who had arrived and complained about how dusty the city was.

Meanwhile, I was staring boggle-eyed with joy at exactly the same scenery and wondering how quickly we could move here…

To date, I’ve trusted my instincts, and things have mostly turned out just fine. Any expats out there fallen foul of theirs?

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16 thoughts on “First Impressions

  1. Tommyk September 12, 2015 / 6:11 am

    Great little piece, hope it goes well. I’ve heard of underpasses but never had the joy of using one; however i think i’d rather play doge the Land Cruiser, spices up my day.

    • littlecity September 12, 2015 / 6:37 am

      There’s someone who knows how to live 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, it’s appreciated.

  2. Simon hadlington September 12, 2015 / 6:45 am

    Show us photos of green so those of us in Doha can be envious! Nice 5-1 win against Ipswich last night too

    • littlecity September 12, 2015 / 7:05 am

      Will do; swap you for some of the rain you’ve been having…

      And yes, great news to wake up to 🙂 Hope these first impressions of post-transfer window competence don’t turn out to be wrong!

  3. Matt Grainger September 12, 2015 / 8:54 am

    Underpasses are all very well, but what’s the deal with Kylo’s lightsaber?

    • littlecity September 12, 2015 / 11:35 am

      Something to do with adapting it to protect his hand so he doesn’t end up armless like Luke… There’s loads more; I’ll happily arrange a Skype chat if you’ve a spare couple of hours 🙂

  4. Roy B September 12, 2015 / 10:52 am

    Instincts … We came to Australia on a whim , the decision came from my wife saying ” shall we lay laminate flooring in the hallway” to wit my response was ” or we could move to Australia ” – 5 months later we were in Bondi – instinct totally right.

    Oh – Canberra , my daughter has just had winter school camp there – loved it ! And also close to the snow fields at Perisher – Yes it snows here !

    • littlecity September 12, 2015 / 12:15 pm

      Love it, Roy! That is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about – just trusting your gut and knowing that if it all goes wrong, it’s not an irreversible move.

      Sounds like it’s worked out really well for you and your family – congratulations!

      • Roy B September 13, 2015 / 12:19 am

        Follow On
        Classic English Father Quote

        As we were at the airport waiting to go through customs , I turned to my Dad to give him a hug , he promptly stepped back and offered a handshake , I thanked him for coming to the airport to say goodbye, he responded ” say goodbye? I’m here to make sure you go!”

      • littlecity September 13, 2015 / 4:11 am

        What a legend!

  5. Gypsy September 12, 2015 / 3:51 pm

    Not so sure about all this instinct stuff Nate. Wouldn’t pedestrian underpasses get boring after a while? No traffic to dodge, no Land Cruisers whizzing by you, no sweltering heat, no blazing sun, no dust or fumes …? I’m gonna think about this for a bit.
    Ok, thought about it. Gut instinct rocks!
    Hope you’re settling in well!

    • littlecity September 13, 2015 / 4:14 am

      Thanks, Gypsy. My instinct says…we are, mostly 🙂

  6. Keri from Baby Globetrotters September 18, 2015 / 6:07 pm

    Hey welcome to the Big Smoke! Didn’t realise you’d made the move to AD. If you do need any advice on schools, where to live etc beyond just instincts happy to help!

    • littlecity September 23, 2015 / 4:26 am

      That’s really kind of you, Keri. We’re looking forward to exploring the city and finding out what’s what, so thanks very much for the offer 🙂

  7. Colin October 1, 2015 / 9:34 am

    Love our blog. I’ve been in Doha for four months (with my wife working) and just got back form a fifth stage interview and assessment in Dubai. Keeping busy and taking stock that others have travelled this path before me. Good Luck in Abu Dhabi!

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