Emiratis' view of their country is changed by the process of living overseas, says Khalid Al Ameri. Photo: Jaime Puebla / The National
Emiratis' view of their country is changed by the process of living overseas, says Khalid Al Ameri. Photo: Jaime Puebla / The National

Living abroad broadens the mind and helps the UAE

During a recent gathering of family and friends the topic of our different experiences while living abroad came up. To be more specific, our experiences while studying in the US, the UK, Australia and Europe.

Those experiences for the most part were filled with laughter, adventures and plenty of awkward moments.

I can summarise my own recent adventure in the US with these words: “I loved it, hope to go back sometime soon.”

“Sure, it’s always great to go and pay a visit,” my friend responded promptly.

Then I dropped what felt like a verbal bomb into the conversation: “Well, actually I wouldn’t mind being based there for a while.”

“You mean to live?” my friend responded in disbelief.

“Sure, why not?”

An awkward silence fell over the majlis and my friends just stared at me. When they did stop looking at me, the rest of the night was centred on how crazy I was, how I didn’t realise all that I had in the UAE and all the opportunities I would miss out on here if I moved away.

They made some good points, specifically about my duty to give back to my country that has given me so much, which is an obvious reason why I am here today. But one thing they omitted from their entire argument was me. None of them really asked what I wanted or why I wanted to live abroad in the first place.

To them it was such a strange concept that an Emirati would want to live anywhere but the UAE. Many of them believed that I would never reach my potential anywhere else but here. You would think that living in a country where around 90 per cent of the population are expats would make us a little more open to the idea of living abroad.

I have met very few Emiratis who have actually lived abroad and embedded themselves into a culture that is different to their own. But those who have, end up with a very different view of the world.

The one common theme that I have seen among fellow Emiratis who have lived abroad is that they talk less about nationalities and more about people, ideas and development.

They also have a sense of confidence that I can’t really explain. To them the entire world holds possibilities, rather than a single place that in many ways is skewed in their favour, thanks to the generosity and opportunities given to us by our government and its leaders.

More importantly, I think they bring back an incredible amount of value from their time working and developing themselves internationally, from both a professional and social standpoint.

They have a deeper understanding of how governments and companies run, of best practices that make certain countries stand out, of the challenges that other countries are facing and how they are dealing with these issues.

Fast forward to when they come back to the UAE and they have this wealth of knowledge that they bring back into society. That knowledge simply adds to the diversity that already exists in our country, but it is being internally driven through people who were born and raised in the UAE.

Why do we make our world so small? So much lies beyond our boundaries, and basing our success on our advantage due to our nationality is somewhat short-sighted. We have so much to learn from the world – and more importantly so much we can bring back and contribute through the lessons and hardships we have faced along the way.

My father always says no matter where I go in the world I will always end up back in the UAE. He’s right: it’s home and it’s where my heart is.

My dream is to give back to this country and community in every way I can. But I have a lot of growing to do in the meantime and there is also an adventure to be lived along the way. So, if the opportunity presents itself to discover new places in the world, I hope to take it, for myself, my people and for my country.

Khalid Al Ameri is an Emirati social commentator

Twitter: @KhalidAlAmeri

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