10 Things I Learned Working As A Black Woman in Abu Dhabi

10 Things I Learned Working As A Black Woman in Abu Dhabi


Making a discovery that changes your life in a permanent way is a rarity, and yet that’s exactly what happened when I made the choice to work in Abu Dhabi.

I was not only launched into an adventure but introduced to an entirely new existence. As a professional black woman, Abu Dhabi became a revelation of empowerment; becoming the ‘New Black’ for me and other black women above Atlanta, Charlotte, or other hot spots. Let me share just 10 of the things I learned from my personal experience:

1. African-Americans are treated better.

Abu Dhabi is about 80% people of color. This revelation changes the way that you look at yourself as well as your country. I enjoyed feeling and watching, as many of those subtleties that exist in the U.S. are removed. Everyone has their own experience, but I found consensus on this among my peers.

2. People from Great Britain and other European countries are No. 1 on the list; not Americans.

Not really a “shock,” but one that can burst the bubble that U.S. citizens live in. This is probably one of the best lessons because it shakes you into a closer sense of balance in the world.

3. Teaching in a room filled with 30 Arab men changed my perspective.

They can be incredibly charming. They are respectful, funny, eager to learn, and use words like “habibi,” a term of endearment for a friend that loosely translates to ‘my darling.’

4. The American idea of the ‘lunch hour’ is thrown away.

Every Friday, friends or even strangers would get together for a three-hour brunch to talk, network, and share. These became some of the most important moments for all of us and something that we looked forward to each week.

5. There is always someone available to grab a cup of coffee.

Everyone is looking to connect and “relate.” There is a refreshing attitude that shows that you are all important in each other’s lives–especially if you’ve picked your friends wisely. Unlike home, no appointment is necessary, because everyone is there in the moment.

6. Personal phone calls are not common.

Communication is all done via text, even with the government. This was an oddity for me in 2013, when I rarely used text messaging at all. I had to make a complete change in the way I sent and received information, and establish intimacy with others.

7. You learn to live without a physical address as a reference.

Everything, including mail delivery, is referenced using landmarks. Beyond just a change in expectations, there is a kind of liberation from being tied down to an address. Adapting becomes easy as you build new skills in planning and navigating your environment.

8. I found more true friends than I ever thought possible and we all shared in that desire for the next adventure.

So many people that live in Abu Dhabi have made the leap of faith to alter their lives in the same way that I have. You quickly recognize that you all share the same sense of new excitement and it is exhilarating.

9. Luxury is about perception.

Even buying a $5 cupcake looks “wealthy.” You do have to be conscious of the realities of the economy. The financial barrier to luxury is low and for some, it is too easy to think of a “luxury” purchase as a simple buy, inviting debt to take over fast.

10. I developed a sense of self-confidence and courage weathered by life’s ups and downs. Abu Dhabi was my refresher course. It scared me. It made me up again. It tested me, letting me tear down my personal walls and build greater intimacy with myself.

Honorable mention:

Trusting others. It had to happen with as many taxis that I took. I put my life in the hands of strangers on a daily basis. Sometimes, I’d think “What if my driver takes the Saudi Arabia exit where my life could be changed forever or leaves me stranded on Sheikh Zayed Road?” It’s funny what the mind does to keep us separate from others.

To say that living and working in Abu Dhabi is an experience of a lifetime is an understatement, as it transcends all expectations and gives you an opportunity to pursue your purpose in life in surroundings that let you bloom.



Maryann Reid is the digital managing editor of BlackEnterprise.com and the author of several books published by St. Martin’s Press. For more, please follow her @RealAlphanista.