Life working in the UAE definitely has its perks – you get to live in a less stressful place like there’s no all-day, bumper-to-bumper traffic gridlock; you don’t have to queue in for what could be forever so you can have your morning metro commute. There’s less pollution, less crime, no chaos; instead more order and stability.
It’s quite interesting too, trying the cuisines and being exposed to the cultures – not to mention celebrating festivals – of the around 200 nationalities that have also called UAE their second home.
And have we mentioned the excitement of being on a global centerstage, where the future is evolving fast? Where development is happening at a whirlwind’s pace and state-of-the-art buildings sprouting like kabute?
But for what it’s worth, there also are downsides to living away from home, where family is a group of strangers having different values and idiosyncracies, for instance, and homesickness, a way of life.
What really are the things that Filipinos in the UAE wish their loved ones and friends back home knew about their lives working abroad? The Filipino Times polled and came up with these:
1. We don’t live in those buildings.
The UAE, especially Dubai, is often shown in pictures as a place of modern architecture and high-rise buildings. Truth is that only a handful of high-end Pinoys who could afford the rent live in them.
2. Money doesn’t grow on date palms.
“We don’t actually pluck money from date palms. Life abroad is as tough as life in Philippines,” said Richelle Wingco Fosberry of Dubai, a remark shared in unison by a lot of OFWs. “Hindi kami mayaman dito!”
3. Ladies Night lang yun.’
Several female OFWs sent this: “Yung nakikita nilang photos ng gimikan…usually free yun at Ladies Night kasi haha..so ‘wag sila mag assume na super-yaman ko…enebeyen!”
4. There’s more to the picture than the Facebook posts.
“Di porke nakakapag-post sa FB ng pasyal eh gumastos ng malaki,” said Karlo Dubros. “Madalas, eh tipid lang. Salamat sa promo ng mga pasyalan.” Added “Diwatang Lagalag:” “Ung pictures- kasi akala nila bongga at sosyal.. di nila alam napadaan lang at wala namang pang-entrance.”
5. There’s more to life than being married to ibang lahe. This from Thelma David (not her real name) who said, “The first thing na sumagi sa isip ko when asked this question is: that being married to a Western man in Dubai doesn’t mean I got the perfect life na.”
6. “Wow! Dubai ka? Pasok mo ko dyan!”
Not a few OFWs in Dubai have received remarks like this from friends in the Philippines. “If they only knew,” said Agustin Sandoval, a service crew, “ang hirap ng buhay visit visa dito.” Added Diwatang Lagalag, “Parang sabihin pa nila, ihanap sila ng magandang trabaho. At duon pa sa inyo gustong makitira! Di sila maniwala sa totoong eksena.”
7. ‘My metro card has more money than my wallet.’ A lot of OFWs could relate to these, having been living a life spending up to Dh400 a month for their metro rides to and from work.
8. ‘Kasal na ako.’ There are cases of OFWs getting married in the UAE without the knowledge of their relatives back home.
9. Burdened with debt.
Not one OFW interviewed said he or she would admit to their relatives back home that they are “baon sa utang.” They said their kith and kin would not believe it, anyway; worse, they said, the relatives would think they were just making it up.
10. ‘Garage sale galing yan.’
The UAE is home to high-end fashion consumer goods so much so that it always pays to check out weekend garage sales for a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo leather shoes or Girbaud jeans, Fendi bags, or LV sunglasses. “What your folks back home don’t know won’t hurt them,” said John Domingo.
11. ‘Sampu kami sa isang kwarto.’ A lot of OFWs said they wish their loved ones knew they go home after work to a room having up to four fully occupied double-bunk beds to save on rent and have the money sent home.
12. ‘Ukay-ukay po ‘yan.’
With folks back home consumed to have anything from Dubai, OFWs in the city go to the ukay-ukay (hand-me-down shops) to get something that would help fill up their balikbayan boxes.
13. ‘Recycled ang ulam ko.’ Pinoys, especially those living in the flats (read: old hotels converted into partitioned dwellings complete with alleyways), have developed the habit of preparing food that are good for at least a couple of days, and can be rehashed for yet again another hot meal. This to cope up with the fast-paced city life.
14. ‘We also have Ligo, Master and 555 sardines here.’ “Kumakain pa rin kami ng sardinas at mas pandalas pa,” said Ernesto Cabulang, a parking lot attendant, noting a can sells for around Dh3. “And we prepare it a la seafood vermicelli o ginisa sa misua,” he added.
15)Early bird for the shower. For some OFWs getting up at 5am even if work starts at 9am is a way of life. In a crowded sharing accommodation, either one gets up early to avoid the morning rush or end up waiting for his turn. In some accommodations, occupants actually have shower schedules running to a max of up to 10 minutes.