As expats living in Dubai, one of the prices most of us pay for our wonderful expat lifestyle is being far away from our family. It can be tough not to have family around for all the special occasions and milestones and even the day-to-day support. That’s one of the reasons friends become so important in an expat community. Friends step into the breach and can become a surrogate family that we can rely on, making the business of raising a family far away from your own family and home country that little bit easier.
We are lucky to have made some such friends-like-family during our time here in Dubai. In a happy twist of fate we have even ended up living literally next door to our oldest and best friends in Dubai.
In our early years hanging out together in Dubai we all lived downtown, us in a ground floor Old Town apartment and them in a South Ridge apartment overlooking our garden. Back then we used to joke about how we could probably zipline down into our garden from their balcony. We thought we lived close then but I don’t think either of us imagined that in the not-so-distant future we would have only a wall dividing us. Funny how things work out sometimes isn’t it! About 6 months after our friends bought their villa we were on our way to sign the papers and pay a deposit for a villa in the same development as them, just a few streets away. It wasn’t exactly what we wanted but near enough. However, while on the way, Mr got a call from the agent saying he had found what we were looking for but it needed to be signed up that night (that’s just the crazy way business is sometimes done in Dubai when the market is hot!). The villa number he gave us sounded very familiar, but it was only when we turned up for the viewing that we realised it was exactly next door to our friends. We did wonder for a moment whether it would be a good move for our friendship to be so close all the time before quickly deciding it would be great, especially for our kids who are a similar age. Thankfully our friends agreed, we bought the villa and the rest, as they say, is history.
So far it’s worked out really well for all of us and I’m confident it will continue to do so. I love having friends as neighbours and neighbours as friends. We are lucky enough to have a few other good friends living in the neighbourhood as well and I’ve also met some lovely mums through our community Mums and Bubs Facebook group that holds weekly play dates.
In case you need any encouragement to get out there and make friends with your neighbours, or indeed encourage your friends to move closer and become your neighbours, here are my 5 favourite things about having friends as neighbours:
1. Borrowing anything at any time. In just over a year of living next door to each other we have borrowed quite a variety of things from each other, and not always at sociable hours of the day! From the standard milk, sugar, salt, eggs, to vacuum cleaners, gold spray paint, photo props, cake decorating tools, air pump, ladders, luggage, a camera, money for the icecream van and a whole lot more…… Having a friendly face next door (with hopefully a well stocked pantry!) can come to your rescue in an emergency like when you’ve run out of ingredients half way through a recipe or save you from buying a bunch of things you will only use once.
2. Play date buddies for the kids. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to pack the kids, and all the paraphernalia that comes with them, into the car, battling traffic and tantrums, to join a play date that you’ll just have to leave early to make sure you have time to get home to make a dinner that they will probably be too overtired to eat properly. Sometimes your kid just wants to play outside for 15 minutes after dinner (or before leaving for nursery on those early rising mornings!) Having friends next door (or in the neighbourhood) with kids makes it so easy to have play buddies at hand for your little ones. I love having friends from the neighbourhood come to play at ours with their kids or going over to theirs. I love that we can see each other so regularly and the kids feel so comfortable in each other’s homes. So comfortable in fact that one of my friend’s kids has started to refer to our house as “his other house” I love that!
3. Safety and security. While Dubai is safer than many of our home countries, that is no consolation when you hear a strange noise late at night and your hubby is away on a business trip. Or when your water pipe bursts on a Friday morning (again while hubby is away!) and you have no idea how to turn the water off and can’t even hope to lift up the heavy manhole cover to the pump room to look! It is reassuring to know you have people nearby who you can call on for help and who are looking out for you and your property, especially when you are away on vacation.
4. Car pool. On those rare kid free nights out when you don’t have to worry about car seats and strollers, it is great to be able to share a ride with a friend. It makes the journey itself part of the night out as you gossip and catch up on the way to your destination and then debrief and discuss the nights happenings on your way home!
5. Home away from home. Living in Dubai there are occasionally times when you (or your kids) need to be out of the house for an extended period. Whether it’s maintenance works on your property during your kids nap time or pest control treatment that requires the kids to be away for hours, hiding out next door (or in the neighbourhood) is so much easier with kids than wandering around a mall or hanging out at a hotel.
So next time you bump into a neighbour on the street or in the corridor, say hi, invite them round for a coffee. Chat to the mums you see in the community playground, exchange numbers. Arrange a play date for the kids in your neighbourhood. You never know where it might lead. Maybe you’ll become great friends and, if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll become like family.
Do you live close to friends? What are your favourite things about it? Is there anything you don’t like? Leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!