In which everyone wants to know how we’re settling in
It’s easy to forget we’ve just arrived in Abu Dhabi.
On the surface, so much of daily life here is looks, feels, and sounds like our old life in Qatar (I say ‘old’ – we only left last month).
True, the roads are significantly less Mad Max. It’s not too early to say that our daily ambitions might stretch beyond ‘getting back home from the school run alive’.
But the weather is still hot and humid; the working week still runs Sunday-Thursday; the school day still starts at 7-something.
Even our surroundings are familiar. There was a maple leaf flying outside the last place we stayed in Doha (a perk of Mrs LC’s grade: our final three nights’ accommodation in a hotel; we chose the Canadian-owned Four Seasons).
Fast forward to Abu Dhabi and the lower floors of the building we are being temporarily accommodated in are home to the Canadian Embassy).
The laws are variations on a theme, in terms of dressing respectfully, avoiding overt public displays of affection and always remembering you are a guest in the country.
Taxi on, taxi off
In fact, the biggest difference I’ve noticed so far is something I’ve never seen in any other city.
The taxis, of which there are tons (and they all have working meters; pay attention, Doha) display their availability back to front: light on if they’re carrying a passenger, light off if they’re for hire.
This goes against all received wisdom globally on taxi availability.
Needless to say this took me several days – and many embarrassing attempts to flag down already-taken cabs – to figure out for myself.
Overall, compared to first time around when everything was bafflingly new and confusing, this is a walk in the park.
(The truest indication of how seamlessly we’re integrating is this: Abu Dhabi is home to three, maybe four branches of Waitrose, Britain’s most- middle-class supermarket – and former sponsor of Berkshire’s most frustrating football team.
I honestly thought I’d go there straight from the airport to stock up on treats. But we haven’t paid any of them a visit yet, so happy are we with the aisles of pleasure to be found in the Abu Dhabi Co-Operative in the basement of our building. Its ludicrously low prices ram home just how royally Doha grocery shoppers are being screwed; sorry).
Tired and emotional
But of course it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. We have moved to a second new country in three years. The kids are…let’s be charitable and call them tired.
They’ve gone from a hectic few weeks dashing round Europe with us, to arriving here, checking in and having a quick nap, before being woken up in a zombified state only to be taken uniform shopping, before dropped the next morning at a brand new school.
We’re being temporarily put up in a two-bed apartment, which is all well and good, but doesn’t leave a lot of room for them to burn off energy. So even with all the similarities of their new life, it’s still a lot for them to take on board.
The goal for any parents is to get your kids into a groove where the least course correction is needed – they know what’s expected of them, and they just get on with it (whatever your parental definition of it is.)
But that’s a way off for us right now. We’re having to use much more carrot, and much more stick, just to try and keep things on an even keel.
This won’t last forever; we will move soon inshallah into a house we can call home. The kids can meet neighbours and swim and ride bikes and make friends and maybe occasionally remember to do their homework without being prompted.
But right now, they’re still settling.