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Friendships made in UAE: Expats share their untold stories

Dubai: One of the beautiful aspects about living in the UAE is that it has expatriates living here from all over the world. Friendships are formed, bonds are forged — so much so that many fra-milies (friends who are like families) are created. Having said that, we cannot take away the fact that UAE is a transient society. One where people come and go. And many a times people just go away, for good, leaving behind their fra-milies who miss them more than ever.

Gulf News spoke to residents to see how they deal with such separations and if the friendship they form in the UAE is indeed for real and for good.

Common interests

British expatriate Rhian Johnson, 45, misses her Australian friend Tanya McDonald. The two met through common friends and did many things together. They shared common interests and then Tanya had to leave during the early part of last year after COVID-19 struck. “She is now back in Australia. But I miss her a lot. Having said that I am happy that she is back in her home country as it was the best option for her then. I am so glad that she is doing so well for herself now back in Australia.”

Rhian Johnson (right) and her friend.
Image Credit: Supplied

Johnson said this is the sad reality of living in the UAE. “Friends you make sometimes have to leave because of the nature of our jobs. We have to learn to deal with it. The best thing is that the friends you make here are for good, they are real people and that is one of the most beautiful aspects of living in the UAE.”

‘A close-knit group’

Having lived in the UAE for more than ten years, Himani Agarwal, 40, a software engineer at a private company in Dubai and her husband have made many friends during their stay here. “We have a close-knit group of friends and we are very thick,” she said. “In fact I would call them fra-milies all the way. The bonds of friendship forged in the UAE, especially during the pandemic, are very strong.”

Himani recalled her special bond with one particular friend who moved sometime ago to Malaysia. “Our husbands knew each other and we became really close. So much so that I was like her guardian mother. She was a new mother and she would take my advice on parenting. Our hearts were broken when she had to leave, but I was just relieved that it was for a good reason that she left. Her husband got a great break in Malaysia and she had to leave for that.”

There was no party or event that they did not attend together. So much so that even now they are in touch. “For my 40th birthday, we did a zoom chat. They sent me several videos wishing me on my birthday. We are still in touch and there is no doubt that we are like family now.”

Himani said another Egyptian friend, who became close to her at her workplace, moved to New Zealand for good. “Again she and I bonded really well. We stay in touch over emails.”

‘Sharing day-to-day happenings’

Sri Lankan expat Yoshita Ahmad, 51, said ironically it is the transient nature of life in the UAE that makes people forge strong friendships. “In a place that is away from our home country, we look for friends to support ourselves and be with us in our journey here. Common interests also bring people together.”

Sri Lankan expat Yoshita Ahmad (right) said ironically it is the transient nature of life in the UAE that makes people forge strong friendships.
Image Credit: Supplied

Yoshita, a painter and teacher by profession, said her good friends have been her students. “They came to learn painting from me and we became such close friends. I cried when they had to return home. It was very sad. But I am still in touch with them. We share our day-to-day happenings, paintings on WhatsApp.”

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