5 September 2016

Marina Bruce - Expat in UAE

Marina Bruce - Expat in UAE

We’ve had the chance to talk to Marina Bruce, 51, a Scottish expat who has moved to UAE with her family. Mrs. Bruce, who has been living there for five and a half years, now works as a freelance writer and blogger.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A:  Aberdeen, Scotland.


Q: What made you move out of Aberdeen?

A:  My husband got a job in the UAE.


Q: Where are you living now?



Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A:  Husband’s job.


Q: How long have you been living in UAE?  

A: Five and a half years.


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in UAE? 

A: Trying to find meaningful, part-time, paid employment.


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance were particularly difficult in UAE? What was your experience with these? 

A: We found it easy – my husband’s work took care of all formalities.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: These days with my husband only, but originally our teenage son came out and stayed for two years after finishing school


Q: How are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle? 

A: He loved the life here, but there were no job opportunities for unqualified young people, no vocational further education openings for non-nationals, so, in the end, he returned home to firstly live with his Gran, and now he lives on his own.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialize with other expats in UAE? How did you manage to find a social circle in UAE?

A: I found it extremely easy to make friends – Al Ain is a very friendly place, and my social circle includes people from many different nationalities. I have met many like-minded people through my hobby of off-roading and camping; a campfire is a great friendship facilitator!


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Outdoor pursuits whether it be camping, cycling, climbing or golfing are extremely popular, and Al Ain has many tourist activities which are either free or cheap and give the chance to relax.


Q: How does the cost of living in UAE compared to your home?

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: About the same

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Much cheaper

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: No idea

  • How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine slightly more expensive but cigarettes are a fraction of the UK price.


Q: What do you think about the locals? 

A: Locals are in the minority in the UAE – some figures suggest only 10% of the population. It’s a segregated society so it can be difficult to engage with local families, but if you make the effort and succeed then you will find them to be very kind with an unparalleled tradition of hospitality.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in UAE?

A: Positives – weather, I am an outdoor person and enjoy the weather all year round (even when it’s 50C in the summer). We can afford to run two 4x4 vehicles. A very safe country, low crime rate. Low cost of living. Chance to live/work/mix with people from so many different countries and cultures. Easy to travel to neighbouring Oman which offers fabulous travel/activities.

Negatives – nothing really.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?  

A: Home – no.  Family – a lot.


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Head out to the desert in the sunshine!


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future? 

A: We will have to sometimes, residency in the UAE is dependent on a work visa so we cannot retire here. 


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: Being away from our close family – before the internet and Skype life must have been very tough for expats! 

I also find that every summer there is a huge exodus of friends who have finished their contracts and moving on – you get very good at saying goodbye to people if you are a long-term stayer!


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: Do your research. Arrive with an open mind – things are done differently here, and you have to be patient. Enjoy the bizarre – when you live in a different culture every day you will see something weird and unusual.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about UAE?

A: When I first came here I regularly logged onto expat forums such as British Expat which were a great help to an expat newbie.  E-commerce is less advanced in the UAE than at home, and the internet has a long way to go here to reach its full potential; therefore local information is a bit patchy. That being said I log on to The National every day to read local news and regularly Google for specific information on locations/activities. I tend to use Google Earth a lot.  I’m also trying to plug the gap with my own blog The Desert Diva, uploading information to help others. My blogs on “Life in Al Ain” are very popular as are the ones on Oman and desert driving/off-road travel.