• The Expat Trap


    We recently read an article published by Gulf News, titled "Is expat egotism on the rise?" The feature discusses whether expat egotism is on the rise, and shares tell-tale signs that you yourself have become victim to the narcissism often found on the streets of Dubai.

    Of course, we were inspired - thanks Gulf News! So here's our own version.


    Woman with coffee in Dubai

    *Note, while names have been altered, each scenario is based on true experiences. We'd also like to point out this is purely satirical, and for light-hearted entertainment only.

    Janine*, a twenty-five year old expat has always lived a sheltered life in her home country. When she moved to Dubai, all she had was just her career in her mind but it was only a matter of several months when she became “Dubai-fied”.


    Dubai has a way to lure any expat to fall into its trap—the temptation of shiny shimmery things, brunches with flowing bubbles, branded everything from head-to-toe and having people to do things for you even if you have always done it yourself. The diva life is easily attainable when you live here. Life seems easy living in the UAE when your buying power has never been this strong and you can seem to afford anything and everything—a nice home, a brand new shiny car, a maid, frequent trips to the nail spa and salon… The list goes on! It is only a matter of time before a Dubai newbie will soon become “Dubaified”, and such is the story of Janine.

    How will you know you are Dubai-fied? After much contemplation, Janine became introspective so she looked at the changes within her as well as outside her—she began to observe her colleagues and friends in Dubai with a keen eye. Soon enough, she could not believe it. They have all been Dubai-fied as well and have fallen into the deep hole of what we like to call, "The Expat Trap."

    Exhibit A 
    Mary, over lunch with Janine, complained about how slow her part-time hired maid was at cleaning. “All I want is to enjoy my apartment, light some candles, and be lazy during the weekend but the maid had to take her time deep cleaning my entire apartment! I’m letting her go. I guess now I have to clean the apartment myself!”

    Exhibit B 
    Katie, a PR expat in Dubai, complained that she was very exhausted from the weekend. “Why are you so tired when we just came from the weekend?” asked her husband. “I had a salon appointment on Friday, entertained guests for a barbecue lunch on Saturday, and then had to go to a restaurant to write a review on Saturday night!” Her husband shook his head and jokingly said, “Anyone would like to have your problems!”.

    Exhibit C 
    Tina is an expat newbie in the city and is still in the process of getting her documents processed. “I can’t cash my cheques because I don’t have an Emirates ID. I’ve been carrying them around in my purse for months!”

    Exhibit D 
    Peter is an expat bloke but complains about Dubai’s “bad” restaurant service incessantly even if the ones he complains about is not that bad. It’s the diva-like demands that make service seem bad—the endless complaints that makes him a customer service’s worst nightmare. It’s either his water is not sparkling, there is not enough cheese in his lasagna or the dish he ordered is too soggy for his taste.

    What are the tell-tale signs that you have been Dubai-fied?

    1. When you find yourself incessantly complaining about the service industry in Dubai or your demands were not met.

    2. When you realize that your standards in dining, hotels, shopping, and practically everything else have shot up because Dubai has set the par for excellence in all these.

    3. When you travel to another place or to your home country, you realize that you compare what they have to what Dubai has and it does not even come close.

    4. When you plan a holiday and check accommodation rates and think that the rates are “cheap” because you compare them to Dubai’s hotel rates.

    5. When you find yourself getting weekly nail spa visits.

    6. When you book your hair appointment two months in advance at a salon and expect your hairdresser to call you in two months so you can have a trim and your roots done.

    7. When you realize that you can easily splurge a hefty amount of sum for vanity purposes—spa dates, cosmetic procedures, slimming procedures, etc.

    8. When your weekends revolve around where to brunch.

    9. When you find yourself not having time to tidy up your apartment because you simply have no time. You hire a part-time maid because service is “reasonable” anyway.

    10. When being stuck in a 10-minute traffic jam is already horrific for you and you complain about how bad traffic in the city is.

    11. When you consistently have plans for which trip to take next even if the next holiday is still far off.

    12. When you find yourself traipsing to the hottest nightclubs in town just for the sake of being seen there and taking photos of your night (because “pic or it didn’t happen!”).

    The list goes on! There are upsides and downsides to suffering from expat egotism. The upside is that who does not want to live a diva life? When all the world is in your hands while living in Dubai, it is easy to be stuck in The Expat Trap. Some might not even want to ever leave that hole. It’s nice and snug in there. However, there are also downsides to being Dubai-fied. One of which is strained relationships with friends and family, especially if you start showing the dark side of expat egotism such as treating people like you are higher above them; endlessly complaining and ruining everyone else’s experience in the process; going home and ranting about how fabulous your life is in Dubai (there’s a fine line between storytelling and bragging) and flaunting your “success” excessively on social media channels.

    Dubai is a fantastic place to set base camp when you want to enjoy life while you work hard. However, it should not only be about the glitzy things that it has to offer. A perfect balance between the right kinds of hedonism is great, as long as you won’t allow it to darken your soul. Always remember to still treat people of any kind of race and social stature nicely because in the end we are all here to make a living and find a better home, not to claw each other until we are all miserable in the end.

    Happy expat living! 



    Stay awesome, Gail Jr. @ ExpatWoman.com

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