Married Life in Abu Dhabi - One Doctor's Story

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a Canadian family physician. I have worked in Canada, Saudi Arabia, and now in the United Arab Emirates. I am married and have two children.

When did you first come to Abu Dhabi, and why?

I came to Abu Dhabi in February 2002, to work at a military hospital. A friend had told me about this job.

You are married, and you had two young children when you first came to Abu Dhabi. Can you tell me how your family fared in Abu Dhabi?

When we came in 2002, my children were 11 and 10. They entered the British school system at the The British School Al Khubairat Abu Dhabi (BSAK). They finished primary school and up to A levels at BSAK. We found it was a very good education at this school, and they did very well and made many friends.

They both got into their university of choice in Canada, and their friends from BSAK also got into the schools of their choice in their home countries.

The cost of schooling was pricey. At the time my children attended, BSAK was the second-most-expensive school (behind the American Community School of Abu Dhabi (ACS)). The desirable schools are still very expensive.

The job I had paid for part of the school fees. In the early primary years, the allowance I was paid for the children's schooling covered most of the cost; as they were in the secondary grades, the allowance didn't cover half the costs.

But as I said, the education they had was very good.  

How would you describe your life in Abu Dhabi? The pluses? The minuses?

The minuses are simple: We miss our family and friends. (And the summers are very hot — that's why we're back in Canada for vacation now!) But with the advent of Skype, keeping in touch is much easier. Now that our kids are away from home at university, we can still talk to them every day with Skype.

The pluses are the lifestyle: It's very uncomplicated and very relaxed, and I find there is a lot to do in Abu Dhabi itself, and it's a great hub for travel in all directions.

Regarding your social life: How do you meet people? Where are your friends from? Do you do different things than you would do in Toronto?

Originally, I met a lot of people by getting involved in the hockey leagues and little league baseball leagues my kids played in. I was a coach for both. (Regarding baseball, the league has folded, and the hockey league has changed, with parents no longer doing the coaching — it's now run by professional coaches.) Otherwise, I met most people through work. Most of my friends are from Canada, the UK, and Germany.

In the sense of going out to restaurants, it's the same in North America as in the UAE. With the kids, we would spend the weekends at water parks (which you can do in large cities back home) or we went for a picnic in the desert.

Cottaging is popular back home in Canada, but this isn't done here. Other than desert camping, most people use a weekend (two to five days) to fly somewhere else for a quick vacation.

People ask about cultural and entertainment events — what is available?

Concerts and that sort of thing are not resident, but they come through Abu Dhabi on a traveling schedule, so it's not like back home where you can pick up a newspaper and have something to do every day.

Pop concerts come through regularly. We've just seen Madonna. We've seen Bon Jovi, Elton John, Cold Play, Andrea Bocelli, etc.

Classical musical shows come in on rotation for about a month at a time, through organizations like Abu Dhabi Classics.

I remember The Club putting on plays. Again, there are visiting events.

Dubai is home to the UAE Philharmonic Orchestra, and you can easily drive there and back from Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai both have film festivals.

There are movie theatres, but they typically only show Hollywood blockbusters. If you want smaller release or indie films, they really aren't available in theatres here.

Is it easy to play sports, i.e., are there sports facilities for amateurs?

Interestingly, hockey is becoming increasingly popular — the locals have fallen in love with it. There is a rink, and two more are planned. There are tennis courts, rugby pitches, soccer pitches, basketball courts, golf courses, pools, and indoor gyms. Abu Dhabi also has nice beaches, with beach soccer and beach volleyball.

What is the best part about living/working in Abu Dhabi?

For me, I think it was the opportunity to do things I would never normally be able to do as a family doctor: I helped start up hospitals, I helped institute family medicine models of healthcare delivery, and I helped design family medicine residency programs. The work opportunities can be remarkable. And the fact that it's salaried, means the fee-for-service pressures that I had when I worked back home in Canada are not there.  (Though I understand some areas back home are going to a salaried model.)

Otherwise, the weather is fantastic (except in the summer); the gravel is great; the uncomplicated lifestyle is great; and the kids' education was great, as were their recreational opportunities.

Would you recommend this experience?

Yes. I would recommend it to anyone who isn't really, really attached to where they are. Those who are attached to where they are now aren't happy when they relocate. Also, those who can't adapt aren't happy. And when I say "relaxed" environment, people must keep in mind that it can be slow and confusing at times, which can frustrate some people.

Most Popular