Making friends in Dubai

Holly Sands wonders if it is possible to make friends as fast as you shed them

The Knowledge

It’s a fact of life that friends come and go, but, as anyone who’s lived as an expat in Dubai for longer than two years will be able to testify: they tend to go an awful lot faster in these parts. Initially, there’s anxiety, paranoia and, if I’m honest, indignation to wade through once the bombshell’s been dropped that another brunching buddy has decided to ship out, but over the last three and a half years, I’ve lost count of the number of farewell dos I’ve attended and leaving cards I’ve signed, from friends to colleagues to more vague connections (yes, we’re always coming and going, but we still move in large packs).

It’s a transient city, and so many relationships here, professional and personal, come with an expiry date. Just last week I received no less than three ‘moving on’ emails in a row. As a result, there’s often another characteristic to these friendships – the flakey nature of some of the people you meet. But before you start taking all the last-minute drinks cancellations and rain checks on lunch personally – I really ought to practice what I preach – consider the pace here. Everyone’s so sure they won’t be here for long, they’re determined to make the most of every minute, whether by going to the newest restaurants, the biggest party or the smartest bar. So if your plans aren’t fitting of a superlative, you’d better go back to the drawing board. Fail to do so, and it’ll probably be a table for one, please.

There’s something about this strange culture of doing everything in groups of a size that would make an American football team look small that makes it feel like you’re forever on a carousel. That said, my team resembles more of a five-a-side these days. At first, there were lengthy periods of sofa surfing and unrestrained consumption of Häagen Daaz, before I was finally coaxed out of the living room and the remote prized from fingers by one of two remaining good friends, who assured me there are still plenty of friendly fish in the Arabian Gulf. No sooner had I joined her on a night out, than I woke up to find a Facebook group summoning all and sundry to a leaving party on March 18. Hers. And so back to the drawing board I go. But every cloud has a silver lining, and in an email to my colleagues lamenting that I’m running fairly low on amigos, it took me by surprise when our Body & Mind editor replied with ‘We’re your friends!’. If nothing else, that’ll keep me off the ice cream for a while.

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