Sustainability is the New Black

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Sustainability – It’s the catchword we’ve seen bandied around for over two decades. The proverbial light bulb turned on for our our global leaders and influencers in the mid-80’s with the introduction of ideas such as renewable energy and the need to slow down and even reverse the environmental impact of centuries of industrial development.

It is undeniable that the UAE has made unprecedented rapid growth as a country, however with great progress comes great responsibility and we are now seeing the move towards sustainable planning and living.

The year 2018 was declared “The Year of Zayed” to commemorate 100 years since the birth of His Highness Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, the founder and first ruler of the UAE.

An inspiring visionary, Sheikh Zayed was committed to rapid progress – yet not at the expense of the values and long-term benefit of his people or his land.

For many who first visit the UAE, it is hard to imagine what this place looked like less than 50 years ago. Here’s a quick glimpse of Abu Dhabi before the 1970s oil boom:

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Fast forward 47 years since the unification of the Emirates, and the progress and development of this nation has to be seen to be believed.

When I first moved to the UAE in 2001, the UAE was going through a significant shift in public policy. Bur Juman Shopping Mall in Dubai was the first to introduce a No Smoking policy and national campaigns explaining the impact of littering and water wastage were just getting started.

Today in 2018, we are seeing a huge focus on national identity and cultural heritage and it has been encouraging to see the grass roots movement towards more responsible living motivated by national pride and social responsibility.

Here are a few of our favourite initiatives that are blazing the way for a sustainable UAE:

  1. Eating local: Local organic farms such as Ripe Organic Farm are leading this push to eat locally sourced, organic, fresh produce, reducing the dependence on overseas imports and the carbon footprint that leaves.
  2. Pre-loved shopping: Yessss! Thrifting is finally a thing in the UAE thanks to organizations such as Dubizzle, Shop Retold and the brand new Lahum at Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s carbon neutral city development. We can’t wait to see this industry grow! (Did someone say “bargain”?!)
  3. Tackling food wastage: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum ordered the establishment of The Dubai Food Bank to tackle the issue of food wastage on a global scale. This is also being taken up on a local scale by two Dubai-based entrepreneurs who founded BonApp, which sees users nabbing great deals on soon-to-expire food from major food and beverage outlets across the city.

Here at The Shift UAE, we’re looking forward to exploring more ideas of how we can make personal and social changes to ensure higher levels of sustainability in our homes and communities.

What are some things that you do to lead a more sustainable and responsible lifestyle in the UAE? 




Will you be my “Kabayan”?

IMG_1355.JPGLiving in the UAE opens to door to the world. Over the years, we have collected the most extraordinary group of friends and family from all corners of the earth.

Being part of such a multinational community means being exposed to the best of what the world has to offer. From food, to parenting, to new words and phrases, we love being able to integrate these gems into our own family and community culture.

Perhaps one of my favourite cultural quirks is the “kabayan” culture of our friends from the Philippines.

“Kabayan” simply means “fellow countryman”. Walk around a UAE mall long enough with your Filipina friend and you’ll want a dirham for every time another Filipina calls her “Kabayan”.

There is comfort in knowing you’ve got other people “on your team” when you’re in a foreign country, and folks from the Philippines have this thing nailed.

A couple of weeks ago our Filpina friend went to the mall in search of a new sim card for her phone. She went off to one of the main telecoms branches to make the purchase, however when the sales clerk saw her and heard her request, he directed her to another phone kiosk that sold the same item for 50% of the price – all because she was his kabayan!

As a girl who’s always up for saving a few dirhams and gets major buyer’s remorse when I’ve found out I’ve been jipped, this made me think – “Where is my kabayan when I’m at the mall?!”

 Let’s be honest – no one likes to be ripped off and we all love a bargain.

I think it’s time we all did a better job of sharing our insider knowledge of where to get the best deals in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

So here’s your platform, people!

If you have the inside scoop on a great bargain, send me the details or post it on Instagram and use the hashtag #theshiftuae

Off we go!

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?