Hi, I’m Kristen.


Welcome! I’m the creator of The Shift UAE.

I’m a 30-something, Australian expat living in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

My husband is an airline pilot and together we have three kids – a 7 year old and 4 year old twins. (Excuse me while I go and search for my sanity…)

I have been an expat since 2001 and consider the UAE as my home (for now). As the UAE continues on its trajectory of rapid change, we’re presented with plenty of challenges and opportunities – mostly in the meeting and letting go of friends so quickly, but also in terms of managing our personal finances and keeping ourselves grounded in a very consumer-centric society.

We have established a wonderful life in Abu Dhabi and have a phenomenal community of friends-like-family who have made our life rich and full. We are also not-so-typical in that both my parents and my husband’s family live within driving distance from us. We are incredibly blessed.

I first moved to the UAE as a 19 year old university student to live with my parents and get an overseas experience. It seems the expat bug sunk its teeth in pretty deep. I met my husband in Dubai (a Papua New Guinean expat) and after we had completed our studies in Australia and done our time in the jungles of PNG, we headed back to the sandpit to establish our careers.

We didn’t have the typical lucrative expat experience as D.I.N.K.s (“Double Income No Kids”) from the outset as my husband was a hard working cadet on a very modest stipend for some time. But for a good 12 month period we had an exceptional joint income and no debt to speak of. We took advantage of the opportunities to travel, eat out, and be a little more frivolous with our spending than we had been able to afford at the beginning of our marriage.

After establishing a career in Communications and Strategy Development, I decided to stay at home with our then newborn son, sacrificing 50% of our joint income for the sake of a stable family life. Fast forward seven years, twins (!) and a move from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, and we are finding news ways to be more responsible with our money while still being able to be generous in sharing what we have with others.

I am passionate about my Christian faith, hospitality (not the fancy, catalogue-worthy type but the real, honest, meet-people-where-they’re-at type),  leading my children to grow into awesome people, responsible and sustainable living – and I also love a great bargain!

At The Shift UAE, I’m looking forward to sharing and discussing how we can live out this privilege of being in the UAE in such a way that we are changed for the better for having been given this opportunity.

The Dawn of a New Era


Hi! I’m Kristen. I’m a 30-something Australian, a pilot’s wife, a mother of three and an all round “get ‘er done-er”.

And I’ve been an expat for more than 15 years.

As a young professional making a great double income with my husband, we took advantage of the lifestyle the UAE offered – international travel, stays in luxury hotels, the occasional designer clothing splurge and lots of eating out.

Fast forward to 2018, one salary down and three children later, the living isn’t quite so frivolous. After a great career as a Strategy Manager, my weeks are now spent strategizing how to save a few extra dirhams on the grocery bill so that we can pay for piano lessons this month.

We simply can’t afford to go out for AED500/head lunches, pay top dirham for personal trainers or take our kids out to expensive play centres every week.

My husband is privileged to have his dream job and makes a great salary, however with the cost of living in the UAE increasing every year and unexpected surprises (like twins!), major car repairs and the introduction of VAT, it’s time to be honest and shine a spotlight on that elephant in the room – The golden era has passed.

The UAE and global economies have made shift and things just ‘aint what they used to be. And for many like myself, the proverbial penny has dropped and we need to decide whether to bury our heads in the sand or jump on board that camel train and go with it!

So I give to you – The Shift UAE: A realistic take on UAE life in the midst of change, and a one-stop-shop for helping people like you and me find our bearings as we navigate through the process of settling in and living life in the UAE. Together we’ll explore day-to-day options and ideas for living out the privilege of being in this wonderful country, both wisely and responsibly.

As seasoned expats and one of the rare families that has no foreseeable plans to return to our home country, we are used to seeing friends come and go on a frequent basis. And as a long-term “stayer”, I’ve inadvertently become the “Oracle for Setting Up Home in Abu Dhabi” among our community of friends. I love to give advice about what to do, where to go, and how to go about doing pretty much anything in the UAE.

When I look back and think of the many missed opportunities that I had to establish a better financial foundation for our family, I wish that someone had sat me down and guided us through some of the pitfalls of expat living and warned us of the financial and lifestyle traps that can blindside us along the way.

This is a journey for me too, as I continue to work out how to be a wiser manager our money, pursue a healthy balance of providing well for our children and discover a clear perspective of “needs versus greeds”.

Will you join me in this journey?