39 Signs You’ve Been Living In Abu Dhabi for Too Long

I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi now for 2 years. That’s just enough time to realize all the things you love to hate and hate to love about a place. I feel blessed to call this place my home for the time being. And when I go back to the U.S. now to visit family, I’m shocked to realized how much I’ve changed. Here are “a few” things I’ve learned about living here that I wanted to share with you all. But, keep in mind, this is mostly my perspective as an American, a wife, and a female. Enjoy 🙂

39 (originally 25) Signs You’ve Been Living in Abu Dhabi for Too Long

  1. You know that stop signs are purely for suggestion, turn signals are completely optional, speed bumps are more like hills, and you want to flip someone the bird at least once a week but can’t because it’s illegal.
  2. You’ve gotten sunburned before…in December.
  3. Because of this, you wear sunscreen year round.
  4. You’re friends are jealous because you post beach pictures all year long.
    "Fauv Mini Camel by Amira Rahim at www.amirarahim.com
    “Fauv Camel Mini”  by Amira Rahim
  5. You’ve looked up at least once because you thought someone was spitting on you, and then realized it was just the sky trying to rain.
  6. You can’t get anything done between 1-4:30 because businesses close down for afternoon break.
  7. You know that finding a parking space in most places is a gift from God and you wiggle in your seat when you find one. Or…you just do what the locals do and create your own.
  8. You or someone you know drives a Land Cruiser or Nissan Patrol.
  9. You no longer double take when you see a Corvette, Masserati, or Bently. But you will stop for Ferraris, Maclarens, Lambourginis, or a beautiful vintage piece.
  10. You’ve gotten used to the creepy guys that stare at you like you’re from out of space.
  11. You have an umbrella that serves no other purpose other than sun protection.
  12. You’ve cancelled plans just because it was too hot outside and didn’t feel like being slapped in the face by the humidity.
  13. You’ve ordered ridiculous things like toilet paper, a case of water, ice cream and more to be delivered to your doorstep and you’re not ashamed, even if the store is in your building.
  14. You brunch, lunch, and coffee morning with the best of them, and always looking for the next restaurant to spend a leisure afternoon.
  15. You know there’s no such thing as customer service here, and that no matter how many times someone says “Yes, Madammmmm,” in a sing-song tone, you still struggle to place an order, remedy a mishap, or file a complaint.
  16. You’ve switched 5-6 lanes in moving traffic and didn’t feel like a complete douche.
  17. You swear your family back home has never tasted a proper shawarma, falafel, baklava, or hummus.
  18. You’ve gained at least 15-20 lbs (see the above) and have no idea how to drop it.
  19. You’re constantly planning your next getaway, vacation, or exotic trip.
  20. You know that hiring help is perfectly necessary, and wouldn’t dare live without your nanny, housekeeper, or live-in maid.
  21. You say things like “Khalas” and “Inshallah” because no other phrase seems to express what you’re feeling.
  22. You know that most things are negotiable. Nothing happens on time. And “official” rules and regulations change regularly.
  23. You give friends directions to your house by citing the nearest mall, landmark, or GPS coordinates because there are no real addresses here.
  24. You’ve had so much things shipped to your home that you’re starting to feel like a cartel.
  25. You go to Dubai for shopping, good food, and fun on a regular basis.
  26. You’ve drank 14karat gold at Emirates Palace.
  27. You know how to order in broken English when necessary (i.e. “same same”, “special full”, “big big one”, etc.)
  28. You have friends from places you’ve never heard of until several years ago.
  29. You look forward to cloudy days.
  30. You own at least one expensive pair of shades and don’t sweat it because you wear them all year long.
  31. You know that if you search hard enough, anything can be delivered to your door. Even Pinkberry.
  32. You’ve ridden a camel, smoked shisha, got a henna tattoo, and attempted to belly dance at least once.
  33. You expect everything to be open until midnight. And know that during Ramadan the city never sleeps.
  34. You’ve had ongoing construction in every single neighborhood you’ve ever lived in. 
  35. You’ve seen a sandstorm and said several prayers because you were sure this would be your last day on earth.
  36. You live in a high rise apartment over-looking the city and you’re not rich.
  37. You’ve pulled up to a store or establishment in your car, placed the order, and then waited for the guy to bring it to your car door, like a boss!
  38. You know to buy perfumes to take back home to your family and keep some for yourself.
  39. You’ve made some of the best friends in your life and can’t imagine ever leaving!

What else would you add to this list?

Blog of artist Amira Rahim

31 thoughts on “39 Signs You’ve Been Living In Abu Dhabi for Too Long

  1. 40. Luxury cars you find out on the road ratio to normal cars is 1 to 2
    41. Taxi drivers stop for you no matter in what speed they going or number of cars behind them
    42. If you dont tip in a restaurant its fine no one will notice ; )
    43. Surprisingly some normal brands from outside improved their image here to turb into a cool brand
    44. Regular car wash is a must
    45. Locking your parked car is optional, its safe no worries


  2. brilliant. Made me Lol! What about undertaking and overtaking because how else will you get past the guy doing 30km under the speed limit, not bothering with signaling because what’s the point, using more petrol than you have ever done before but you don’t care as it’s as cheap as water. And finally you arrive late for everything and yet still are the first to arrive.


  3. 46. Its perfectly OK to make a sandwhich out of mayo and crisps

    47. Specific model of the cars have their own Arab name like VTEC in Nissan Patrol and BUSHANAB is LandCruiser Truck

    48. Ratio of 4X4s to Sedans is 4:1

    49. The worth of number plate on the most expensive car on road can be MORE than the car itself.

    50. You can go for a walk at 3 am in the night…alone!!

    51. You can find Sheikh Muhammad (the prime minister of UAE and ruler of Dubai) simply driving around in his car at any time of the day without a protocol.


  4. This is a great list!
    52. “Soon” as in “opening soon” doesn’t mean the same thing as in other places
    53. You no longer are fascinated by the intricate interior decorations in the trucks
    54. Sea water *can* be too warm
    55. You know that dust on tiled sidewalks can be slippery
    56. You don’t think twice when you ask your kids “how are you getting home?” and the answer is “my friend’s driver will bring me”
    57. Even though you don’t particularly like IKEA furniture, you have some in your apartment

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 58. You spend a fortune on exercise and exercise clothes. You sometimes exercise, but you then overindulge at every meal. Credit / debit.
    59. Whilst the weather is so beautiful most of the year that you could simply run / walk / swim.
    60. If you’re a “lady” you can basically drink for free if you go out during the week.
    61. If you’re a man – well you can’t. And no restaurant staff will ever expect you to “go dutch” on the bill, so if you’re on a date, you’re paying.
    62. And it is fair because us “ladies” also spend spend spend on beauty treatments – manis, pedis, waxing are now basic maintenance.
    63. You are so used to living in a peaceful place that raised voices in public places in your home country shock you.
    64. You can never fully explain what it’s really like to live here to people who don’t / haven’t / won’t.
    65. But you will have changed for the better if you ever decide to repatriate.

    I LOVE your blog Amira! http://www.mrsladymuck.wordpress.com x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was reading this post with lot of curiosity and pleasure 😉 love to find out new curiosities about people and places! I’ve never lived in Abu Dhabi, but I’ve been couple of times to Dubai. I really loved it! And I was even thinking about moving there before I moved to Barcelona 🙂 now I feel like moving there again!


  7. No expat can own a house in UAE.
    You know what ‘fi’ and ‘mafi’ means.
    Proper english grammar are optional. Haha.

    I enjoyed reading your blog, Amira. 😉


  8. Everyone in your home town thinks you own a oil field just by being in oil rich country
    67.you NEVER have enough karak
    68.A petrol station “cornich” can become luxurious cars show room
    69.guys can get (hair cut+beard shave+face scrub+neck massage= 25 dhs= 7 US$)
    70.you always say AbuDhabi is better than Dubai … AD IS BETTER


  9. Funny list, but you could avoid the “creepy Indian people.” Believe it or not, but for them to see western people driving expensive SUVs and “going to dubai to shop on a regular basis” is probably much worse than for you ladies to be stared at from your golden towers. (by the way, they do the same with men…)

    I’ve been living in AD for about 12 years now, and you learn to respect other cultures and habits, mostly when you are the privileged one. If a 20 year old kid can do it, you can too.

    Thank you


  10. LOL …

    1) You have a gardener and you’re not even rich.
    2) You let the water sprinkler on for hours …
    3) You’re not surprised to see friends wearing a lot of bling-bling and feel underdressed because you wear minimal jewellery.
    4) You rarely eat breakfast … mostly brunch.
    5) Your children’s friends have their own (and the latest) iPhones, iPads, etc …


  11. You’ve forgotten how to fill up your own car with petrol.
    You’ve forgotten how to pack your own shopping at the supermarket.
    You’ve forgotten the cold, the wind and the rain (esp if you’re from the UK)
    You know at least one person who’s been in a car accident here.
    Driving for hours to get to work doesn’t seem such a big deal now.
    You can’t help but admire how everyone in a kindora and abaya looks the same yet looks so elegant, sophisticated and classy. And it doesn’t even look uniformy.
    You scowl at foreigners (like you) who stand out and draw attention to themselves.


  12. Gr8 blog except for ur remark on creepy Indian guys…FYI..thyre usually from the neighbouring country of te creepy indian guys..nonetheless not a nice way to put it down.
    76. Ppl go dressed up to te gym
    77. You can get watermelons throughout the year
    78.every 2nd car is a G63
    79.luxury cars parked suspiciously in the suburbs


  13. water on the faucet is hot during summer (u can even make a coffee or tea)
    & water cold during winter (time to switch on the water heater)


  14. I think my expat friends and I who have been here 25 years + need to draw up a list of old Abu Dhabi and new Abu Dhabi. Some things remain the same and so, so many things have changed over the years. Great list Amira. Talk about being in Abu Dhabi too long….


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