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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

UAE sees an increase in expatriate families staying in the country during summer

the great summer exodus seems to left many parents and youngsters behind this year.

There's now a lot more activities for youngsters during the hot summer months, including Parkour DXB. Antonie Robertson / The National
There's now a lot more activities for youngsters during the hot summer months, including Parkour DXB. Antonie Robertson / The National

It is the annual tradition that sees families lock up the house, pack the kids in the car and head for the airport as the heat hits.

But the great summer exodus seems to left many parents and youngsters behind this year.

High airline prices and a reluctance to live out of a suitcase with relatives is a concern for many, and for others, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE has become home.

Evidence of the trend is seen in Facebook communities such as Surviving Summer DXB 2017 - which has almost 2,000 members - and Surviving Summer AD 2017, with close to 1,000. Members are even bonding with fellow summer dwellers, together organising community events.

For Dubai resident, Elaine Sebastian is a mother of three “the UK is our home but we sold our house before we left and have to stay with family when we go back”.

“My father has downsized the house so five staying in one bedroom isn’t that enticing. We usually stay at in laws where the kids can share a room but we still have a baby with us and I’m very aware of the amount of stuff we have as a family.

“I like my in laws - but find staying with them is hard especially because my husband would only stay for a short time of the summer”.

Staying in the UAE during the summer maybe tough for many expatriate families, however, Mrs Sebastian said “as long as your organised and plans things you can still have a great time here”.

“I plan play centres, malls then arts and crafts and baking and have a few staycations. It may be hot but I have help which is something I don’t have in the UK”.

A recent spike in the cost of flights has led to many families thinking twice about returning home. Flying between Dubai and London Heathrow with Emirates in the week that school finished for the summer cost almost Dh5,000, for those booking last minute.

Sandi McGuinn, a mother of two and member of the Facebook group, said the “costs of airfares are very high for a family of four, when travelling we can only afford to go for two weeks and stay in Abu Dhabi the rest of the summer”.

Abu Dhabi resident and mother of two, Naomi Cook, prefers to stay as she finds being separated from her working husband difficult.

“We don’t think we can do a full summer away as I don't think it's fair to separate the kids from their father for an extended period unnecessarily," she said.

“For me personally it’s the stress of having two kids and staying in family members' homes," said Kelly Mason, a teacher in Abu Dhabi.

"We try to fit 'real' holidays for the kids too at some point during the year, but usually not the summer as my husband is working”.

Mrs Cook, a lawyer, has been living in the UAE for six and half years advises that “I have taken a few years out to raise my children and found that there is far more to do indoors than there used to be so it is easier in that sense”.

Dubai is now home to the world’s largest indoor theme park, IMG Worlds of Adventure, a billion-dollar theme park that opened last August.

Dubai Parks and Resorts, comprised of Legoland Dubai, Motiongate, and Bollywood Parks, opened earlier this year and looks to entertain many of the summer survivors.

For Angela Reyiers, an American expatriate living in Abu Dhabi, her home state in the United States is one of the few places as hot as Abu Dhabi - if not hotter.

Arizona made global headlines when a heatwave last month saw residents burn their hands on steering wheels and door knobs, with firefighters battled wildfires.

“We are new to the expatriate game and leaving my life for three months is crazy”,"she said.

"And we came from a hot and humid climate so although we find summers hot, it isn’t unbearable."