The curse of being born as a UAE expat

No one gets to choose where they get born. Don’t get me wrong, UAE is a great country, and I’m sure there are worse places and circumstances to be born in. However, being born in the UAE as an expat is so destructive to a person in so many ways that it almost feels as if it’s a curse.

Whenever a UAE expat complains, he is quickly fired upon with the same answer: “if you don’t like it then leave”. If you’re a UAE born expat, I’m sure you have gotten used to hearing this phrase. It’s hard to explain to the regular expats how that is not an entirely valid solution.

From the day you are born until you reach 18, you have practically no option to make any sort of critical life decision. It’s true that you grow up and reach puberty, but the more you grow up the more you feel tied up to the status-quo.

By the time you reach 18, you would become so infused into the life you are in that you are only faced with one decision: find a college in the UAE, which is the natural progression for every 18 year old UAE expat. Unless your parents decide to save the rest of your life and send you to a college outside the country, it would be an extremely difficult task for you to either convince yourself to leave or even convince your parents to let you leave.

Growing up in the UAE, you start to be exposed to racism, descrimination and favoritsm at an early age. If you’re an Indian, I apologize on behalf of all the other Expat races for the overwhelming sadness and self esteem attacks that you probably had to go through. Getting titled as a ‘Hindi’ and being made to feel racially inferior has become something so normal that the Indian community has started to separate their kids from others and place them in “Indian Schools” that are officially everywhere in the UAE.

The Emirati kids eat most of the pie. Their position as the most superior human-child-being is unanimously agreed upon by the school, the teacher, the class mates, the janitor, the law and the government. Even your own parents will teach you that you must not get in any trouble with the Emirati kids.

While the other Arab kids do have their strong standing, they’re all automatically categorized into the inferior ‘Zalama’ that may only get an upgraded social standing by having a second foreign passport such as American, Canadian or British/Australian.

At school you are regularly made to recite the national anthem. You didn’t know any better. So you proudly sang it and even stomped your feet for what you considered “your country”. You were also made to write poems to be sent to “your king, the Sheikh”. You had a lot of love for Sheikh Zayed (may he rest in peace), but you never really knew why. Your parents told you he was great, and so did everyone. But did he personally benefit you as a UAE born expat? Not really. He left and left us and all our poems with us. His son took over with the mission of raising his real people, and he is raising them climbing on our backs.

As soon as you finish school, you are slapped with the reality that you must find a college or else you must leave the country. Your daddy can’t sponsor you any more, and the Sheikh doesn’t give a damn about you – regardless of how many love poems you sent his late father. Leave the country? And go where? Where can you go when Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the only two places you know after having lived 18 years in the ‘UAE bubble’? Are you “crazy” to leave this “heaven”?

Usually at the age of 21, life begins, but it seems that in the UAE, that’s when life ends. That’s the point that you realize that all your life you have been slowly built to become nothing more than an expendable robot who’s mission is to serve the Emiratis.

Getting a job exposes you to a life that is no different from how things were in school. You’re still inferior, and it is clearly shown on your paycheck. Racial inferiority has become so official in the UAE that it has become quantifiable. Your value becomes nothing but a number on your salary certificate.

The starting salary for a fresh non-Emirati graduate is about 3000 – 5000 dirhams. It’s not too long before you find out that all the money you paid for school and college, about hundreds of thousands, results in you probably working a job outside your field, and getting a pay check that isn’t enough to get back your education investment even if you work for 10 years. How exactly can you make your parents proud if you did have a connection or a 4.0 GPA? On the other hand, the Emiratis and kids who did college abroad and got foreign citizenships are rolling in money and experiencing the true feeling of being in an advanced rich metropolitan city.

That’s when you start getting forced into the loan culture. Forced to be socially accepted by having a car and wearing branded clothes and accesories. Taking that first car loan is so easy that they are willing to come to your room for your signature, and come back after a few days with the car delivered right to your door. Next step is getting that iPhone X, that fancy phone, so when your friends or acquaintances sit with you, you can flaunt it on the table. There are monthly payment packages from Etisalat or Du that only needs your ID, signature and a 30 minutes waiting time.

A loan here and there and you are finally settled with a car, phone, place to stay and absolutely no future other than working like a donkey watching Emiratis get promoted, while you stay in the same position for years until you finally wake up and decide to make a change. Can you leave? You can, but who’s going to pay the hundreds thousands of loans you accumulated?

And in case you ever forget. You will never be a citizen or get recognized in any way, not even a residence permit. Obey your boss, because if you get fired, you’re back into the forest hunt. A 2 month grace period to find another job so you can continue living in the country you were born in and not get jailed for unpaid debt. That’s when you get some dinner, go to sleep, go to work, obey, do what you have been programmed to do, and teach yourself not to think outside the box, and simply wait for a time that this curse gets lifted.


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