A few weeks ago, an unfortunate incident occurred in Abu Dhabi that claimed the life of a fellow teacher. This horrific event left the entire expatriate community in the United Arab Emirates, especially Americans, anxious and speculative about their overall safety. For more information about this incident, click here.
Immediately following the news, I personally felt uncomfortable and wanted to be home around all things familiar. Then, I put things into perspective: Whether I am in the US, overseas or on planet Mars, the unexpected can happen ANYWHERE!
After my stark reality check, I concluded that I shouldn’t put my trust into everyone’s definition of safety and that I owe it to myself to be more cognizant of the world around me, including all of its nuances. I can openly admit that I have been very complacent as an expatriate here in comparison to living in the US because of the country’s reputation for being extremely secure. So to keep my mind at ease, I reflected on some ways I plan to proceed with caution and not in angst. Hopefully, you will do the same.
- Stay in touch with your home country’s embassy
The country you currently work in more than likely has your home country’s embassy housed there. Therefore, I encourage you to register with your home embassy as soon as you plan to travel or relocate so that they are aware of your whereabouts. Also, it’s advantageous for you to stay abreast of updates, security alerts and warnings. For instance, since I’m from the US, I registered with their Embassy. There is a huge American expatriate community here and they do a great job with sending updates via text and email.
Also, make sure to notify them once you leave for vacation or return to your home country permanently. If you’re from the US, make sure to visit the US Embassy’s webpage to register or to simply be informed.
- Social Media
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc are all great ways to stay connected to the world. Most information is conveyed via word of mouth on these platforms. Currently, I’m in a few teacher groups on Facebook, so I get some information about what is going on in the American expatriate community here in the UAE.
Stay connected with fellow expatriates in your international community because it’s pertinent to your safety and awareness!
- Watch/read the news!
No seriously! There are some people who don’t have a clue about what’s happening other than in their own lives. This is a selfish approach to life and not conducive to your safety and survival. Most of the time, I personally don’t like to read/watch the news because I find it quite depressing. Mainly, media sources portray such a negative perception of issues. For example, look at the social injustices taking place in the US with our young black men. It is unfortunate and disheartening to say the least about this situation, however, I get my information mostly from the media. My suggestion is to watch and/or read multiple media sources with caution, awareness and for the sole purpose of staying informed.
- In public
Watch your back. Don’t let your guard down. Believe me, people watch you and your patterns. They will find you extremely interesting as an expatriate, especially if you’re black and in a country that is known for lack of diversity. I also try to be as discrete as possible, not talking too much in public so that I can hide my accent. Besides, most locals and non-Emirates think I am African not African-American! Either way, you never know what peoples intentions are so it’s best to stay alert, mindful and in some situations….quiet! SHHHHH!!!
- Inform your friends
Make sure to keep your friends and even distant family members informed about your plans. I know we are grown and don’t feel the need to let everyone in on our business but it won’t hurt to let someone know a bit about what’s going on in case something does occur. You know who to trust and hopefully will have discernment on who has your best interest at heart.
Overall, I learned a lot from this situation. Although it was a sure wakeup call, I am now experiencing life abroad more vigilantly. I am more appreciative about my life and mindful of the circumstances taking place in the world. So moving forward, I remind myself daily to proceed with awareness and caution no matter the continent, country, city or place.
Stay blessed. Until next time,