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Living in Dubai has felt so different to anywhere else I have lived. Not just because of the vast desert, cactus and roaming camels, but the way of life, the law, the culture and communities that make up this incredible city.

If I could describe Dubai, I would say it is definitely a playground for the rich, where everything can be done. The biggest, the fastest, the tallest, whatever it is, you can pretty much find it here.

All over the city, construction is happening and in just 20 years, they have built some of the best businesses and tourist attractions in the world. The population has grown tremendously, and currently there are more expats living here than UAE residents. Something I love the most about Dubai, is the traditions and vibrant culture that make this city so dynamic.

Living in a country where prayer and religion is so important, has been such an eye opener to me. I have learnt that nothing stops prayer, you can be driving down the motorway and cars, trucks, lorries will be pulled over in the hard shoulder, and men/women will be on the side of the road praying on the floor. Now that seems so dangerous and in the UK that would never be allowed, but here it is, which makes it so interesting to see happening all over Dubai. Muslims pray 5 times a day and every mosque calls them to prayer at certain times. You can often be laying on the beach or walking around the mall shopping and all of a sudden you hear Adhan calling Muslims to prayer. It’s such a beautiful sound.
If you are wanting to visit a mosque, I would recommend doing it in the UAE. There are so many picturesque ones, the architecture and designs are amazing, some allow tourists to go inside. You do have to cover up before entering, there will be staff at the entrance to hand you a hijab to put on, if you aren’t wearing the correct attire.

The location of Dubai definitely has its challenges, after growing up in the countryside surrounded by lush green grass, it has been such a contrast moving to the desert with sand nearly everywhere you look. I experienced my first sand storm here, it was definitely not pretty. Visibility is low, sand and dust are blown all across the city and lingers the air, you find yourself holding your breath and walking with your eyes shut if you haven’t got a mask/goggles to put on. You do try and find yourself staying indoors and avoiding going out on those days because it can be quite dangerous and sand hitting your legs at wind speed is quite painful, but never the less experiencing a sand storm has got me another tick off my bucket list.

The hardest part I have found getting use to is the way of life, this place has one of the highest percentages of immigrants in the world, and this is the city I have realized that racism exists in so many different forms. Here it is important what country you come from, social status plays a key role like no other place I’ve been too or lived in before. It’s also the first time I’ve seen special areas allocated for ‘gold members’ and ‘women only’ in public. At attractions you will find special que lines for women only, and on public transport seating areas are divided. In Dubai there is a hierarchy and when it comes to finding a job and receiving a salary, depending on where you are from, depends on what salary you can expect and if other nationalities get priority over you for the position. Once again after growing up in the UK, where everyone is deemed equal and valued no matter where you are from, this has definitely been a real wake up call. If I could take anything away from this reality check it would be to remain humble, and never take anything for granted. I have seen and heard stories of how people here survive on the little money they earn, how they need to send it to their families. The only benefit when it comes to earing money here, is the UAE does not have any federal income tax. So, every month what you earn and work for is yours, you get to keep. But never the less, I’ve learnt that it really does matter where you are from, as that will depend on if you live to work or work to live.

Dubai isn’t what everyone says it is, yes granted there are many laws/rules that are different to other countries, but it’s not what people portray it as. Many people’s concern when traveling here, is whether or not they have to cover up. Well let me tell you, it is okay to wear normal swimwear on the beaches, you do not have to worry too much about covering up when out and about. You should always be mindful about what you will wear for the day and where you are going, but unless entering a place of worship you shouldn’t worry. About the other laws, there are some I will never understand the reasons behind such as, ‘no affection in public’, this is something I have always thought is a strange restriction, but one you must respect to risk being deported, fined or being imprisoned. Also, Dubai’s licensing laws require venues serving alcohol to be attached to a hotel or private clubs. It is illegal to drink in the street or a public space. Crime rate here is so low, I actually feel safe walking around in the dead of night than I would walking down a street in the US in broad daylight. Although I don’t make it a habit of wondering around at night alone, the point is I don’t feel I’d be in any danger if I did, beyond perhaps a rude whistle from a fellow expat spilling out of a club. Horror stories do get around on the internet, or in the news about expats who get arrested and put in prison for things westerners take for granted and their own country would see as minor incidents. The easy way to avoid this is to know the laws/rules before you go, and respect the countries wishes.

The weather is hot, hot, hot! Dubai doesn’t have four seasons, it is either winter or summer and when it’s winter, it still feels like summer. It can reach temperatures of up to 50c and for 4 months of the year most people leave the country, travelling to escape the heat. A lot of the theme parks, gardens, and outdoor amusements close during this time, as it just isn’t comfortable and everyone hibernates in the day. The malls are all air conditioned and after 4pm people disburse into the shops, cinemas and any other indoor location with an air conditioner. Every mall is awesome, each different in their own way, the Mall of the Emirates has a ski slope in it! Who wouldn’t want to ski in the desert! The Dubai mall, the biggest in the world, is one everyone has to experience at least once. The giant aquarium is one you cannot miss!

Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa is 830m to the tip, the views from the top are staggering. Fun fact – The tower is so tall that residents that live above the 80th floor, have to wait an extra two minutes for the sun to go down, before they can break their dawn to dusk fast during Ramadan.
The dancing fountains and light show, has to be one of the best things I have seen here. The way the water is timed so perfectly so it dances to the music is amazing, the lights and laser show that is projected onto the Burj is awesome too. You have to get there early, to get a good spot in the crowd, the atmosphere is what makes this free show all the more spectacular.

Now let’s talk about Camels!
I’m just laying on the beach minding my own business, then all of a sudden one camel, two camel comes strolling along the beach. One of them ‘casual’ moments! Of course, the ones on the beach are with their owner, he parade’s them up and down until tourists offer him money for a ride, but just having Camels lying next to your beach towel, seems so surreal. Oh, so fascinating in the moment.

I love being able to go out into the desert on safaris, having BBQs while watching the sun go down. There’s definitely something special about watching the golden sun, sink over the sand dunes. There are so many incredible things for tourists to do in Dubai, and so many opportunities for work and business growth. I kind of see Dubai as being in the centre of the world, so travelling is made so much easier which ever country you want to visit, because it seems you’re already half way there. It really has been incredible experiencing living in the UAE, it’s definitely a country that has educated me more so on culture, religion, social status and how the other half live.

Wow!

If you like flowers then you will like this. This is definitely the most beautiful garden I have ever seen, flowers everywhere. Dubai change the theme of this garden every year and I visited while they have the A380 Emirates plane structure, which currently holds the Guinness world record title for the largest flower arrangement, which covers the entire plane. It is pretty spectacular, it even has turning propellers at the engines.

Cute gnome houses covered in flowers are beautiful and when I climbed to the top of the viewing platform, I could look down on the whole garden and see that a lot of the structures were made to look like the tops of castles, it is such a princess world!

Considering the number of flowers that are here, the up keep of them must be crazy but I didn’t see any dead flowers or dying ones which, I would have expected. So nice to see it is kept so clean and tidy.

It was a warm day and I was there around lunchtime, so once I had a good look around I went and found a swinging chair to sit on and just watched the world go by. It was so peaceful, there are so many places to sit amongst the flowers. You aren’t allowed to take food or drinks into the garden as they have food carts and small shops placed around the outside of the garden paths for you to enjoy. I tried my first Arabic Shawarma here! It is kind of like a kebab, but with a few different ingredient’s, I had chicken in my pitta bread pocket, and it also had pickles and a yoghurt sauce. It was so yummy!

Another few of my favourite pieces at the Miracle garden would have to be the giant teddy bear made out of flowers and greenery. Also the swans that lined each side of the main entrance path. It definitely is a beautiful place to spend the morning or afternoon and the entrance fee only 45 durum. (Around £9)
If you are planning on visiting Dubai, be sure to put this attraction on your bucket lists. However, time your arrival right, because the garden is only open during the winter months. It is closed for 6 months of summer as it is far to hot!

Also, don’t forget to try an Arabic Shawarma while you’re there!

How to decide whether hiring a Nanny is best for you and your child

When it comes to childcare, how do you decide if hiring a Nanny or using a daycare is the best option for your child/children? Suitcase Nanny tells all about the benefits of hiring a Nanny.

Nannies come with a wealth of information and will either have experience and/or qualifications that enable them to provide excellent care for your child. Some Nannies will have gained all their experience after working for many years with families first hand whereas other nannies may have studied or be new to Nanny life and taken courses to broaden their knowledge before taking that first position.

To list a few Nanny duties:

  • Be aware of educational and development milestones for each child and ensure your child is properly stimulated throughout the day
  • Nannies sometimes take on Nursery related duties (taking care of child’s clothes, meal prep, tidying of child’s spaces)
  • Ensure the safety of your child at all times when on duty
  • Work alongside other household staff members when needed including chefs/housekeepers/drivers
  • Arrange playdates/educational classes and activities that will benefit your child
  • Liaise with parents regularly to ensure everyone has the same common goals for the child

Benefits of hiring a Nanny

First of all, you get to know the Nanny as a person and in your own time which will enable you to build trust with this person. Having a Nanny in your home also allows you to keep an eye on her and your child. Some families choose to have Nanny cams fitted in their home so they can check up on their house while they are away or at work, this gives some parents peace of mind and sense of security when leaving someone alone with their child. When hiring a Nanny from an agency, in most cases you would not need to do background checks as the agency would have completed this all for you. Most Nannies that are found through an agency are required to have a minimum level of childcare experience, CRB check and first aid certificates. While having a Nanny and it being a professional role in some cases families do start to think of the Nanny as part of their family however you need to keep in mind that you are their employer and this is their job and so maintaining that balance of professional and personal boundaries is important to avoid conflict.

Key points of hiring a Nanny include:

  • Solely focused care for your child/children, your Nanny can then focus on the exact needs of your child individually and attend to them efficiently and attentively
  • Children will have a strong attachment to their Nanny and feel safe and secure with another person other than their parents, parents can feel reassured their child is being taken care by someone who loves them as much as they do
  • Trust issues are higher due to that personal working relationship between Nanny and the family
  • Routines can be tailored to each child being taken care of
  • Nannies will try and make the child’s day as productive as possible
  • Nannies can teach your child a language, many families now opt for a Nanny that speaks several languages
  • Nannies sort schedules and routines for the child so parents can have peace of mind that their child is being fully stimulated throughout the day and is sleeping/eating correctly
  • Nannies can create healthy meal plans for the child
  • Due to the nature of Nannies working relationship with the family, they often help out and do extra hours when needed and can be on call for if emergencies arise subject to contract agreement
  • Any issues or problems that arise with childcare can be discussed and amended quickly due to the personal relationship
  • As the Nanny will be working in the family home parents have more opportunities to fit in seeing their child more often around their schedule. For example, if parents come home during lunch breaks they get to see their child, this is harder to do if the child is in a daycare centre.
  • Having a Nanny will also help your child become familiar with other people. When your Nanny takes the child to classes and activities outside the home your child will be constantly interacting with other children/caregivers.

So, the only thing to do now if you are thinking of hiring a Nanny is finding the best one suitable for your family’s needs.

Register with Suitcase Nanny here and let us show you how we can help to find the best Nanny for your family. We have a guide specifically tailored to ‘hiring a Nanny’ which gives a lot of advice, guidance and information that will reassure you that choosing a Nanny is the right thing for your family.

Please note Suitcase Nanny will not find you a Nanny but will give you the guidance needed for finding the right one.

How to decide whether hosting an Aupair in best for your family

Many families choose to host Aupairs rather than hiring a Nanny because of the low cost.  Aupairs are seen as temporary family members who you pay a stipend for (pocket money) because they care for your child/children.

The pros of hosting an Aupair:

  • Cultural exchange – Your family will get to know more about another country and other cultures, this also will benefit your child and raise their cultural awareness and tolerance.
  • Low cost – Hosting an Aupair is more affordable than hiring a Nanny or paying for your child to attend Nursery.
  • Flexible time – As the Aupair lives with your family you have the flexibility to assign childcare related tasks when you need them to fit around your schedule staying within the maximum allowed number of working hours.
  • General duties – The Aupair can do light household chores and help around the house which enables you to spend more time with your children after a busy day at work.
  • Another language – Many Aupairs come from other cultural backgrounds and speak other languages and so your family could have the chance to learn another language by hiring a native speaker.
  • The length of time an Aupair can stay – Aupairs can stay for up to two years on an Aupair exchange program visa (this may vary based on location) which gives your child reassurance and a long enough time to create a bond with that person.

The cons of hosting an Aupair:

  • Loss of privacy – An Aupair lives in your home and this will have an influence on your privacy, you definitely get to know each other quicker and have to be open-minded and understanding of someone else’s personal habits.
  • Living costs – When you host an Aupair this means there is an extra person in your home and so you have to be prepared for your bills to increase such as phone, fuel, water, food, heating and electricity costs. Also, you would need to pay the Aupairs share if you go out for lunch, on activities or outings or on holiday.
  • It’s not a professional childcare – The main aim of the Aupair program is the cultural exchange so many Aupairs don’t have professional experience or formal training of looking after children, they have usually just done some babysitting or helped other siblings.
  • Cultural gap – It can take a while for Aupairs to get used to a difference in the country, rule change, a different environment, laws and cuisine. An Aupair can feel homesick also so you have to be understanding. It can take a while for your child/children to accept a new person in their life. Also, you could struggle with communication if your Aupair is not fluent in your native language.
  • Other considerations – As a host family you will need to provide the correct documents to the Aupair agency, pay for visas, flights, boarding etc. and have a big enough house where you can accommodate an Aupair properly.

Register with Suitcase Nanny here and let us show you how we can help to find the best Aupair Agency for your family. We have a package specifically tailored to ‘hosting an Aupair’ which gives a lot of advice, guidance and information that will reassure you that choosing an Aupair is the right thing for your family.

Please note Suitcase Nanny will not find you an Aupair but it will give you the guidance needed to find the right one.

Communication between the family and Nanny is so important for the relationship to work and you should have this from the start. A good way to have this is to plan meetings or discussions regularly for you and the parents/guardians to sit down and discuss issues, personal subjects or child related subjects relating to their child/children. In doing this, it will create a strong relationship, gain trust in each other and everyone is then aware and on the same page.

It is important that families and Nannies go over all of their expectations and requirements from the beginning, that way all parties are aware of what is expected and a lot of problems will be avoided. When issues do arise, it is usually over little things and would be avoided if discussed upfront. When dealing with confrontation use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’. For example, ‘When you tell me I’m not doing something right in front of the children you make me feel embarrassed.’ Instead, you could say ‘I feel embarrassed when you discuss the things I do wrong in front of the children.’ This way you take away the blame off someone and make it personal and the opposing party will respect that making it an easier way to fix things.

As a parent, it is important to check in with your Nanny on a regular basis to make sure she is doing okay and is happy. In most cases Nannies leave their home country to come to work in your country to take care of your children. That Nanny has left family, friends, loved ones and has come alone and so making sure she feels welcome and you showing a caring nature towards her will make her feel more settled. When you get home from work ask ‘How are you?’ ‘How is it going?’ Usually 9 times out of 10 the Nanny will immediately tell you exactly how she feels because they will know then that is a good time to talk about anything they need/want to talk about.

In turn, when the parents and Nanny have excellent communication this will ultimately benefit the child/children.

As a Nanny myself I find this a touchy subject. Yes, this scenario is real and happens more often than not.

I can see where parents are coming from with this, they pay a lot of money for someone to come to their home and take care of their child but if the child is asleep… parents often tell themselves that their child’s caregiver isn’t really working and they won’t count it in the Nanny’s weekly hours.

Believe it or not parents, your Nanny/babysitter is not doing ‘nothing’, they are taking care of your child. Your child needs to be taken care of even when asleep otherwise you wouldn’t have hired someone in the first place. What if that child wakes up?  What if there is an emergency?  That is what your Nanny/babysitter is paid for.

If it is seen as doing ‘nothing’ then that Nanny/babysitter would be allowed to leave the child unattended to go and do her/his own thing.

To not count their working hours when your child is sleeping is insulting, considering the reason they are a part of your child’s life is that you need/want the extra help and that is their profession.  This also applies to night Nannies, when the Nanny is allowed to sleep while on night watch, particularly when a baby monitor is on this should also be counted as work.

Even though your Nanny and baby are sleeping, your Nanny still has a monitor on to enable them to hear and listen to the movement of your child during the night. I can assure you when this is the case your Nanny does not get a peaceful and completely rested night’s sleep whether your child slept through the entire night or didn’t. Your Nanny is still conscious and aware of her own sleep and of your baby whether the Nanny and baby sleep in the same room or separate rooms.

When you hand over the responsibility of your child, whether it is while they are awake or asleep and they are needed to watch a baby monitor or listen out of for your child, your Nanny/babysitter is on duty and supervising your child whether you like it or not.

Last week, I visited the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, a brand-new museum which opened on November 11th.  I had seen the write up on it in the local Dubai newspaper and the advertising was huge so I knew I wanted to check it out. Plus, it was reported that Abu Dhabi had paid France 402 million to use the ‘Louvre’ name. After seeing the museum in France I knew this one had to be good. I took a drive to Abu Dhabi it takes about an hour and a half from Dubai, the Louvre has actually been built on its own island and the building structure has been built into the water. What can I say, the pictures don’t do it justice, it is stunning!

The floating dome, the blue water that surrounds the white walls make it so beautiful, the French architect really knew what he was doing here. Inside, the light streams through the dome making beautiful patterns of light as your walking through. The museums narrative is broken into 12 sections that give visitors a global glimpse of the past 12,000 years on earth. The exhibits inside are spectacular and the whole museum is set out like a maze, each room numbered and easily signed so you are able to keep track of where you have already been so you don’t miss anything out.

They also have a children’s section which is lovely, with all sorts of different sensory and learning exhibits that they can interact with but also learn something at the same time. You can definitely spend a good 4 hours here, they have a café and a restaurant that serves yummy food and has seats outside on the water overlooking the city of Abu Dhabi. They also have an ocean view auditorium where performers sit in a sort of floating/island stage. It is definitely a beautiful place to spend the afternoon.

Every year for the last five years I have celebrated my birthday in different countries all over the world. I have been able to do this due to my job as a Travel Nanny. This year for my birthday I have ended up in Dubai. I was lucky to enough to have my best friend come out to Dubai the day before my birthday who happened to be coming for a work project. I decided that due to my location there was no better way than to spend my 23rd birthday with my best friend other than trekking through the desert on camels.

The camel trekking safari that we booked included transfers to and from our pickup location, a 45-minute camel ride through the desert, sunset barbecue dinner and belly dancing entertainment into the evening.

It is lonely working as a Private Nanny, it is a career where you talk to children all day who sometimes don’t have the verbal capacity to communicate back, so you always seem to be having a conversation with yourself. Also, 9 times out of 10 you are not in your home country close to friends and family and so you do have to make the extra effort to go out and try and meet new people, join different groups and classes that are just a part of what comes with this job. It is not like an Aupair position where you can talk to your ‘host parents’, cook dinner together, watch tv shows you all enjoy, it’s very much employer and employee relationship rather than a part of the family.

You are alone, it is hard but that’s where I have really learnt how to enjoy my own company and how to deal with ‘boredom’. I find that when I do feel alone or feel down it is usually because I am bored so when this happens I go out and do something. I find something new to go and visit, whether that is visiting a historical or cultural building, going for a walk or doing a fun activity like paddle boarding or visiting a theme park.

You may think ‘who would want to go to a theme park alone?’ Well actually sometimes these are the things as a Nanny you have to go and do because otherwise you would never get out and have fun. After working for 3 days straight,  I had the day off to go and do something and considering I was in Abu Dhabi for Formula 1 I decided to go and check out Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest roller coaster. At first, I did feel a little out of place walking through the front doors by myself, seeing everyone else in groups with their friends or family laughing and having fun together, I thought I would walk around inside and check it all out before I decided on purchasing a ticket, I really didn’t know if I wanted to go and queue up for the rides by myself.

Roller coaster Formula Rossa

I love roller coasters, I am a real adrenalin junkie, I kept watching people getting on the rides and wanting to do it but not knowing if I should wait and come back and experience it with someone else. But then I also knew if I didn’t do it I would have regretted it and who knows when I’d be back to visit. So, I purchased my ticket, and to my surprise, being a single rider worked in my favour, I skipped most of the queue’s filling in the gaps for other people, I actually went on most of the rides twice all for the price of one standard ticket. Because the final for the Formula 1 Grand Prix was approaching people started leaving Ferrari World so a couple of the rides I was the only one riding! Ha! The staff operators couldn’t believe I was on my own and called me ‘a strong independent woman’ they just kept sending me around the track until more people turned up to ride it.

I went and rode the fastest roller coaster named Formula Rossa, it was such an adrenalin rush, we had to put goggles on to protect our eyes and it travels at a speed of 0-240km/h (150 mph) it was insane!  Another attraction I really enjoyed was the 4D cinemas, they have awesome effects and I think I enjoyed it more than the children that were there. All in all, the afternoon spent there was worth it and I am so glad I went and did it, and it doesn’t matter that I was exploring alone because I now get to say I’ve ridden the fastest roller coaster in the world!!

In the UK the pop-up, German markets that come to Birmingham in December are a popular and well-known attraction, something I like to visit every year. This Christmas I had 3 weeks off work and returned home, my partner and I were looking for a short Christmas getaway for a few days but being Christmas time, we knew prices on flights and hotels tend to be expensive so we were on the hunt for a last-minute deal.

I was looking into Germany for two reasons, one the Christmas German markets would be on and two the first family I became a Nanny for were there on holiday. We found some good flight prices on Sky scanner that was within our budget and we booked straight away which flew us from Birmingham to Düsseldorf Germany with Euro wings. We needed to be staying in Aachen, a city 1 hour 30 minutes train ride away from the airport so we booked into the Mercure hotel a close walk into the centre of Aachen city.

When we arrived we quickly realized that all of the German words we knew between us wasn’t enough to help us understand and ask anyone for directions, the majority of people were very friendly, happy to help and had okay English speaking skills. It is always good and respectable to know some of the language, not only to help yourself but for the locals to understand what you are trying to ask. So, we downloaded the free google translator app which was a lifesaver.

Over the next three days, we spent our time amongst all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers. The German markets were beautiful, we enjoyed seeing the lights and handmade German gifts that were on sale. The markets are set around the Aachen Cathedral which is amazing on the eye and as you walk around you really feel like the Cathedral is towering over you, it is one of the oldest Cathedrals in Europe. We also tried some German cuisine and one of our favourites was ‘Flammkuchen’. This is translated to ‘Flame Cake’, it has a crispy thin crust and rather than tomato sauce, the dough is spread with crème fraiche and any toppings you desire but traditionally is topped with cheese, bacon and onion. They are then cooked in a wood-fired bread oven, you can also find sweet versions. These are delicious, I would highly recommend having one of these the next time you visit Germany.

Aachen is not just a historical city, there are many other things to enjoy such as, great places to shop with loads of high street stores and a lovely shopping centre called Aquis plaza. This is home to one of my new favourite warm drink shops, ‘The Chocolate Company’. There is also a very exciting water park called ‘Aquana sauna and Freizeitbad’ just a 20-minute drive from the city centre which is fun for all the family, we enjoyed visiting this for an afternoon going down the water slides, river rapids and fun in the wave machine.

I would recommend Aachen Germany as a travel destination for anyone, after visiting twice now, I know there are lots to do in all seasons and another special place to put on your bucket lists!