Expats moving to Abu Dhabi with kids will find themselves one of the many foreign families that have come to settle in this former desert outpost.
Whereas Dubai has the reputation of being a tourist magnet, teeming with single young visitors who love shopping and clubbing, Abu Dhabi is where those youngsters are likely to move to when they finally settle down.
Child-friendly activities in Abu Dhabi
Friday brunch is an eminently popular pastime among expat families, and numerous five-star hotels serve up sumptuous fare while providing on-site entertainment for the little ones.
Evening picnics are a great way to enjoy the outdoors without the sunburn, and offer a good opportunity to meet the locals who favour these areas during dusk.
In the summer, the extreme heat limits entertainment options to indoor play areas in shopping malls, St Andrews Playgroup and television. Yas Waterworld is another great option to beat the heat and offers something for the whole family with water slides, static surfing waves, shops and restaurants. Most expats go home for the months of July and August.
Parent networks in Abu Dhabi
The main lifeline for parents in the emirate is Abu Dhabi Mums, a Facebook parents network that offers information on playgroups, membership discounts and opportunities to partake in pool swim meets, join in horseback riding and to borrow toys and books from library collections. They also organise social events for parents to enjoy a night out.
Other playgroups are held at St Andrews Church on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For a small fee, children can enjoy the toys, and snack and drink while parents mingle.
Expat parents should keep in mind that most of these groups are run by volunteers, so chipping in with bits of one's own time and money is greatly appreciated.
Challenges for parents in Abu Dhabi
Playgrounds are a regular point of frustration and seem unlikely to have been designed by parents; there are often no toddler swings, and rarely shade or benches for parents to rest on.
Some parts of the city, especially on the outskirts, resemble building sites more than communities, and steering a stroller or pram over cracked, uneven and steep pavements can make any mother's blood boil. Furthermore, driving in Abu Dhabi can be hazardous.
Expat parents may also find it especially strange that random passers-by are interested in photographing their kids. There is no need to be concerned by the request, but how one responds is a personal choice.
Domestic help in Abu Dhabi
For expat families in Abu Dhabi, employing domestic help such as nannies and au pairs is a common practice. The process involves understanding local regulations, such as visa sponsorship, which requires the employer to be responsible for the legal and administrative aspects of employing a foreign national.
When selecting a nanny or au pair, it's crucial to evaluate their qualifications and experience critically. While formal childcare training may not be prevalent, many candidates bring valuable practical experience. Establishing clear expectations regarding duties and responsibilities from the outset is also essential to ensure a harmonious working relationship.
Parents may also explore alternative childcare options like part-time babysitters for more flexible needs. Local agencies can be invaluable resources in finding suitable domestic help.
How do expat kids adjust to life in Abu Dhabi?
"Our children adapted fairly quickly. We got them involved in sports as fast as we could to give them some normalcy." Read more of US expat Eddie's interview.
►International Schools in Abu Dhabi gives an overview of all the best schools in the capital
►Expats with little ones should take a look at Nurseries and Kindergartens in Abu Dhabi
Photo credits: Abu Dhabi Eye at Marina Mall by Mostafa Metwally on Unsplash
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