x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A new land of opportunity

This much I know Gill O'Brien, 37, is a property sales consultant for Aljar Properties.

Gill O'Brien. Lauren Lancaster / The National
Gill O'Brien. Lauren Lancaster / The National

Gill O'Brien, 37, is a property sales consultant for Aljar Properties. I was born in Forest Gate in East London. I arrived in Abu Dhabi in January; I had been working as a medical sales representative for eight years and before that I was in the police. I retired from the police in 1999 after I was injured on duty. Every day here is different. One day I can be fuming mad and then the next day can be really exciting. I work in both rental and sales. I'm not really an office person. I'm better with people than computers. Sometimes it's upsetting telling people what the prices are. I deal with everyone, from people who have a couple of million dirhams to spend to people who have 90,000. These people are being shown a garage with a window which has been converted into a flat. A British woman I showed that to cried on my shoulder and said she was going home. It upsets me, too, because that is an awful lot of money, but over here it's nothing. It's soul destroying for people. I don't think I made as many people cry when I was a police officer.

My partner Steve is a quantity surveyor on Saadiyat Island. Before that he was working for the London Underground. I have been with Steve for three-and-a-half years. We met at a friend's house for dinner. He is the most important person in my life. I get up at 7am and have muesli with fruit. I get to the office between eight and nine. I tend to miss lunch because that's when clients want to meet me. When I have time I like to go to the Mugg & Bean cafe in Abu Dhabi Mall with friends. Then it's back to work, seeing more clients or doing paperwork and reading over contracts. I leave work at 5pm. We mostly cook at home but will go out to eat with friends two or three nights a week. We usually just want to eat a normal meal and not stuff our faces on buffets. I think I manage to keep the weight off because I don't get five minutes to sit down.

All my family are in England, but I love Abu Dhabi. I love the way it feels like anything could happen. America used to be the land of opportunity but now it feels like it's here. I love the fact that you can meet everybody and anybody just by saying hello. The city is bite-sized and you can get around it easily. It's pretty on the outside and built-up on the inside. I can't imagine leaving. Variety in my working life makes me happy. I have had lots of different jobs. I was a bus driver in central London and an aerobics teacher in New York before I joined the police at 21. My grandfather and great-grandfather were both police officers.

I went to Brampton Manor School in East London. I loved it. I had a great time at school and have no bad memories. I'm lucky because the people I work with became my friends and we go out together. At the moment my cat makes me smile. We found her in a bin. She was so pregnant she couldn't get out. My aim is to carry on smiling. There has not been a day when I wanted to go home. I cried the last time I left England because all my family, who aren't usually very demonstrative, saw me off, telling me that they loved me and that they were proud of me.

My hero is my dad. If I could change anything it would be to become less impatient. It's very annoying, especially over here, that I waste so much time and energy getting frustrated over red tape when I should just chill out. Music-wise I'm a rock and indie chick. I miss my mum's shepherd's pie. My life would be even better if I had all my family and friends living here. One of the things I like about being over here is the feeling of being isolated from world events. In my previous job as a police officer everything was very politicised.

I am very talkative and always try to be the one keeping people laughing. I really want to go to the Seychelles. When I get there I will just sleep.