The ABCs of Abu Dhabi Education
Right now finding a school for your child in Abu Dhabi will be a little tricky due to lack of supply and high demand. Aside from availability, here’s additional things to consider during your search and after you’ve arrived.
1. Do not compare education in Abu Dhabi to your home country because (especially for Americans) it is a totally different experience. The international experience they will receive, in most circumstances, will outweigh the differences for most kids. Please remember that living in the UAE is a lot like living in New York — it is very multicultural.
2. The first three months of school will have numerous days off. Due to Muslim holidays and other events, your child will be out of school frequently between September and December.
You need to remember two things: First, you are probably accustom to living in a Christian society with Christian holidays off. When you move here Muslim holidays are off and you will personally opt to take your own traditional holidays. Therefore, it will feel like there’s a lot of days off. You have to prepare for this shift in mindset. Second, school is in session here from the beginning of September through the end of June. Summer break is two months instead of three. Many parents become upset when they first move here because it will feel as though your child is never in school!
3. Please remember that your child’s classroom may resemble The United Nations. There will be children from many different countries and cultures. Therefore, there might be a broad range of learning levels within one classroom due to differing educational backgrounds. This probably makes learning different than what your used to experiencing.
3. Without getting into the specifics of the curriculums offered, I will let the individual schools fill you in, there are other differences between the schools. Some schools have a more international feel. While others are almost like being back in the States. Some schools have stronger Arts programs that have better relations within the Art community and frequently perform during local festivals. Other schools have more established high schools. And some schools have stronger sports programs. A few schools are run by corporations, and others are more of a non-profit model. There’s also a leap of faith because a few schools are currently under construction so there isn’t anything to tour. And some schools welcome parents into the learning process, whereas others want you to drop your child at the gate and then they show you the door. In the end, you have to decide what is best for you and your children.
4. When touring the schools specifically ask about the curriculum and how easy it will be to transfer back to the United States (or wherever else you might be going) if that is what you have in mind. Obviously, things become trickier with older children because of the popularity of the IB diploma in this part of the world. If you are not familiar with the IB and PYP programs please study up before touring.
5. You will find many parents who are very devoted to their school and cannot stop talking about the wonderful experience. Finding a school with a healthy community is a terrific bonus when making an overseas relocation because it provides an immediate sense of family that is necessary for us to have successful expat experience.
Happy school shopping 🙂
Most Common Questions About the UAE Dress Code
1. Do I need to cover up in public?
Respectful clothing is required at the mall. Definition of respectful clothing would be anything that covers most of your shoulders, most of your thighs (ideally your knees), and obviously, your cleavage (although this seems optional to many ladies out and about).
2. What about the beach?
You will see ladies in thongs, abayas, and everything in between. Is a thong appropriate? No, it is not; but you will see it here. People typically shake their heads and go about their business. I would say anything you wear at home, you can wear here too.
3. What about at the mosque?
The mosque is obviously a sacred place and dress code is strictly adhered when visiting. There are plenty of signs on the premise and information online to guide you on appropriate behavior.
4. Anything else should I know?
It’s always a good idea to carry a pashmina. It can be used to cover when necessary, keep you warm in the crazy cold A/C when running from the inside out. Contrary to common belief, expat women do not need to wear abayas in the UAE. Many confuse the UAE with Saudi Arabia.
1. Abu Dhabi Q&A: Extremely helpful when you have a random question. Just ask it and someone will answer. Questions range from where to get the best pancakes to where to find knitting yarn.
2. The Entertainer: Makes living the fabulous lifestyle in Abu Dhabi — even more fabulous! Although you have to purchase the book discounts are usually available through the Facebook page.
3. UAE Housemaids: Welcome to the ever confusing world of sponsoring a housemaid. Trust me, we are all still confused about what to do and when to do it because the rules change frequently. Find answers to your questions, find a maid, find the necessary templates for sponsorship. It’s all there. Housemaids — can’t live with them, can’t live without them 🙂 (Disclosure, I am the founder and administrator for the site).
4. Abu Dhabi Market Place: Anything and everything can be found on Abu Dhabi Market Place. Need a used vacuum? It’s there. A kid’s carseat? Yep, lots of them. Used Manolo Blahnik heels. No problem. Furniture, linens, drapery, kid’s toys etc. Expats come and go and so does their stuff. You will find there’s lots of good stuff on Abu Dhabi Market Place. Don’t know where to find someone to move it (here we call it shifting), no problem. You will find that information as well. Happy shopping!
5. Odd Jobs: Trust me —you will need Odd Jobs. Hanging anything in an Abu Dhabi villa requires some serious know how and power tools. It’s not as easy as busting out the hammer and nail and hanging your family pic on the wall. It is a major headache because the walls are 1 feet of solid concrete. It is much easier to call Odd Jobs.
Bonus: Abu Dhabi Animal Action: Okay, so this one might not help you so much but you can help someone else by adopting or fostering a pet. If you haven’t heard; it is literally raining cats in Abu Dhabi! Cats are everywhere and there is not enough homes for them. Please consider adopting or fostering a pet.
List of Top 10 Things Not to Ship:
1. Small appliances, video gaming systems, and other electrical items including hairdryers and razors — Think twice because the voltage is different and your stuff could be fried. Although, I did bring my son’s Yamaha keyboard which we purchased a new cord for and it works just fine. Rule of thumb I believe is if the cord detaches and you can buy another here then it is probably okay to bring it EXCEPT for TVs and gaming systems.
2. TVs — TVs from the States do not work properly here and new TVs in the UAE are sometimes more advanced and can be purchased inexpensively.
3. Large appliances — Same as above.
4. All inexpensive household stuff — Can be purchased at Ikea or many other local shopping centers. Unless it is special, unique and you cannot live without it; don’t bring it.
5. Prescription drugs — They take this seriously. Follow the guidelines!
6. Inexpensive furniture & household things — Ikea is the expat mecca for all things inexpensively purchased. We also have a Homes R Us, Home Center etc. There’s plenty of places to find nick-nacky stuff.
7. Winter clothes — Unless you go skiing in Switzerland, you most likely will not need winter clothes. Closet space here is limited and you will need every inch you can find. Leave the bulky stuff behind. (Winter clothes can be purchased here if necessary)
8. Pots, pans and dishware — All can be purchased here inexpensively.
9. Glassware — Is risky. Don’t pack things of sentimental value.
10. All things on the list of UAE government unapproved list.
Here’s a List of Things to Think About:
1. Can you learn to say whatever? This isn’t America and some things will not make sense to you so you really need to be able to shrug your shoulders and say….whatever. Go ahead. Try it. Whatever. You’re going to be saying it a lot.
2. Can you live without Cheetos, Doritos, American beef, good pepperoni and McDonald’s? Yes, there are many McDonald’s here, but, imho, they are less recognizable than McDonald’s pink foam we discovered circulating on Facebook a few years ago. There’s also Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut but I don’t eat there because it just isn’t the same. Can you live with that?
3. As a woman, you are tethered to your husband here. Your visa will say housewife unless of course you get a job too. And unless you request otherwise, every time you spend money a receipt will ping your husband’s phone. There are many very well-educated professional ladies in this town and here’s their schedule: A. Drop off kids at school. B. Go to gym. C. Have lunch with friends. D. Have coffee with friends. E. Pick up kids from school — and the next day you repeat the process. Does that mean that there is nothing to do here? No, there’s lots to do but you have to make the effort.
4. Do you make friends easily? It is very easy to make friends here. Everyone is super nice and will embrace you but you have to put yourself out there.
5. YOUR KIDS WILL LOOVE IT HERE! I haven’t met a kid yet who does not love living here. And they will love it here from day one. They will step foot into their new school and fit right in. There’s absolutely nothing for you to worry about. (Please do not send me hate mail if your child just simply likes it here vs. actually loving it here)
4. Everything you need is here. You are not moving to the barren desert. Bring the things from home you cannot live without and the rest can be purchased here. Really. Do not worry about it. Some people move here with only a toothbrush and that was probably given to them on the airplane.
5. Cultural sensitivity is a must here. In one office you may have ten coworkers from ten different countries; like straight off the boat. Not like in the USA where someone will say my grandma is from Germany. I’m talking United Nations. I’m saying you may have difficulty understanding people if you are not creative, tolerant and understanding in your communications.
6. One more time…say whatever.