I know from my own experience the conversations that you'll be having with your partner about whether it's a good idea to try expat life and if so, where do you want to go? The Middle East is very tempting as it has quite a few opportunities for work, is sufficiently far away to make it intriguing and has a whole different culture to northern Europe. But the question will arise about how you feel about living in a place where it is often 40C and higher for extended periods of time, especially if you have young children? Certainly the first thing a lot of people said to us when we told them we were moving here was 'how are you going to cope with the heat?!'.
Most teachers who come to work here tend to arrive at the end of August, a warm time of year. I can still remember leaving the airport having been in air-conditioned environments for all of that day (airport - aircraft - airport) and walking in to the sultry night air. It was hot and humid and we were tired, not quite an in at the deep end experience but certainly enough of a difference to make you think!
The next day we wanted to go to the supermarket, a tempting three hundred meters away. Not worth taking a taxi for that sort of trip, so as advised by the school we put on our hats & sun cream, took some water (overkill we thought - at the time) and off we went. It is a cliché but opening the doors from the lobby to the outside can only be described as opening the doors to a very hot (very..) oven. However instead of getting the heated draft on your arms you got it everywhere, and all at once. Putting our best foot forward we walked round the building to head off for the mall. So now someone had switched the fan on in the oven.. There was a wind which made the heat even more intense, no wind chill factor here, just a wind heat effect. Suddenly the three hundred meters looked like three miles. I had images of the three of us crawling up a sand dune in a Beau Geste moment to be confronted with a mirage depicting an oasis, or at least the refrigerated section of the supermarket.
|At last, the shopping mall, but will they have Marmite...?|
So you learn from your mistakes. People have been living in this environment since time immemorial so clearly you can adapt, but if you've been bought up in a colder climate it takes a bit longer. Suffice to say whoever invented air conditioning becomes your favourite inventor of all time, for me replacing the man/woman who invented the Bounty bar, now that was genius. You become an a/c expert overnight, likewise you seek shade wherever you can, especially when parking the car. Once you leave the vehicle you move like an enthusiastic frog, leaping from shady area to shady area until you can find the next artificially cooled environment.
There is an urban myth at work that someone once left some sunglasses in the specially designed cubby hole in her car, which unfortunately was above the interior mirror. Upon returning after a day of graft, she found they had melted. True or false no-one knows, but you'd easily believe it could happen. You wouldn't believe how quickly cars get incredibly hot once the air conditioning is turned off, hence the habit of leaving the engine running while the vehicle is getting fueled up. It's a bit unnerving the first time you see it happening but you get used to it and besides, the driver is on the phone so he could easily hang up and call the fire brigade if necessary..
'So how did they survive before electricity?' I hear you ask? Well a visit to the Ras al Khaimah museum gives you all the answers you need (AED5 entry, open every day except Friday, I love museums..)
You do get used to the temperature and it does have it's benefits. You don't have to worry about planning a trip to the beach next weekend and then see your plans ruined by inclement weather. We've been here for nine months and I've only once worn a jumper or any other form of second layer, and that instance was in an evening on the golf course. And there is virtually no danger of getting rickets.
So I think it's fair to say that the weather is not as big an issue as we maybe feared and the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. Having written my blog for the week, we are now off to the pool, as if to prove the point..