How to feel @Home in Dubai

Shortly after I posted my series on expatriation and the Big Five personality traits back in April, I received a Direct Message on Twitter that read, “Hi Maria – I would love to quote your ‘5 Personality Traits’ list in a book I’m writing.”

Way to get my attention!

I immediately fired off a DM of my own, and the more I heard about the book, the more excited I became. And now I’m happy to tell you that @Home in Dubai, written by fellow Canuck Anne O’Connell and published by Summertime Publishing, officially launches today.

The idea of writing a settling-in guide to Dubai never crossed Anne’s mind when she first arrived in the emirate. She just did what many new expats do: emailed updates on her new life to family and friends back home. The stories she shared about trying to find her footing in such a radically different culture prompted cries of “you should write a book!” When she realized how little information was available on the subject, Anne began to seriously consider doing just that.

“Then came the ‘paying it forward’ part, which kind of comes naturally to anyone who has been an expat for a while,” Anne told me recently. “I’ve always been the type who lends a hand, and that, combined with my background as a writer and 20 years in PR, made writing a book the next logical step.” Hearing from Summertime Publishing’s Jo Parfitt that there was indeed a market for the book clinched it, and @Home in Dubai was born.

I’ll tell you this: Anne has certainly done her homework. I’ve never set foot in Dubai, but I’m pretty sure after reading this book that if I were to be parachuted in there tomorrow, I would totally ace it. It’s chock-full of concrete and sensible advice that would be invaluable to anyone considering — or having recently made — such a move.

My fellow scatter-brains will especially appreciate how well-organized @Home in Dubai is. Anne very kindly takes you by the hand and leads you, step by step, through the sometimes complicated process of setting up a new life in Dubai. Augmenting each chapter are helpful and concise mini-sections titled “The Practicalities,” “5-Step Recap,” “Tip,” “Case Studies” and “The Wrap-Up.” Also of note is the lengthy list of bloggers and tweeters who write about Dubai — a boon for anyone who has ever stared in dismay at Google’s proud declaration that their Internet search has produced 327,000,000 results. (Go ahead and google “Dubai” if you don’t believe me.)

In addition to all the practical information the book provides, Anne also points out several cultural norms, taboos, and illegalities that you should be prepared for before you arrive. “I wish I’d known that I couldn’t kiss my husband in public,” she confessed. “I’m a demonstrative person and I had to quickly curb what was a normal tendency for me!”

@Home in Dubai author Anne O’Connell

Anne and her husband recently moved to Thailand, where’s she’s putting the lessons she learned in Dubai to good use. “When we moved to Dubai I learned how important it is to recognize that things are done differently in other countries, and that patience is paramount,” she said. “Visa processes and rules and regulations vary dramatically from country to country, so doing your homework is critical. In Thailand, much like Dubai, there is a preference for doing business face-to-face. In our instant-gratification, online-driven world, that can sometimes be frustrating for Westerners, so that’s where the patience comes in.”

“I think the other important lesson I’m applying is that part of the enjoyment of the expat experience is to embrace the culture in your new country. I learned that a little late in my time in Dubai, as it’s easy to just gravitate to other expats (they are more than 80 percent of the population). I’m fortunate that I’ve made a very good friend who is Thai. Any time there’s a festival or traditional celebration, she’s calling me to ask if I want to go, and encourages me to write about it. Of course, I always say yes!”

@Home in Dubai is available from


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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4 Responses to How to feel @Home in Dubai

  1. Jo Parfitt says:

    It was a joy to commission Anne to write this book. At first glance you might think a list of how to do this and how to do that might be boring to write and read, but Anne has injected a huge amount of fun into this. You get her stories, tons of stories from her interviewees and a book that makes you smile while you read and learn. Terrific stuff.

  2. Wendy Mervis says:

    Anne always injects kindness,good sense and a sense of humor in all she does so naturally this is a great book

  3. Thanks Jo and Wendy! You’ve both been a great inspiration to me. Wendy, you were my first Dubai angel and were (and are) a big part of helping me keep my sense of humor. I’m glad it came through in the book! Maria, thank you for taking the time to interview me and write this over the busy holiday season. I really appreciate the support and encouragement… and the ongoing advice and funny stories you share in your blog. I look forward to more adventures in 2012.

    Happy New Year to all!
    Anne 🙂

    • Maria says:

      No need to thank me, Anne, it was a pleasure. My real-life copy of the book arrived just after Christmas and I’m thrilled with it. Thank YOU for being so thoughtful. It looks even better on my bookshelf than it did on my screen!

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