From Divorced And Laid Off To Living Debt Free In Abu Dhabi
By DeAnna Taylor
Teonna aka Tete is from Kansas City, Missouri. She has lived in Abu Dhabi since 2015, and she works as a teacher.
We spoke with her via email about her life as a Black expat in the UAE.
Travel Noire: Why did you make the move abroad initially?
Tete: Before I moved here, I had one passport stamp from Canada. It was like the universe was calling me to explore the unknown. My last year teaching in the States, they decided to remove the 6th grade from my school, so I was laid off. In my heart, I knew this was a sign. I needed to take my love for teaching and try to figure out how to feed my soul what it had been missing. I needed something new. I was also going through a divorce.
I got divorced that February and moved overseas in August of 2015. I needed to find myself again, and I knew it wasn’t in Kansas City. My house was paid off, the divorce was final, and I had gotten laid off. It was time to follow all the signs that were thrown to me.
TN: How did you decide Abu Dhabi of all places?
Tete: Some of my coworkers talked about moving abroad. One went to Vietnam and one went to Saudi Arabia. They seemed happy. Life was easier. I searched and decided this place was best suited for me. I make more than I would ever make in my field in America. There are many women from my sorority that reside here as well. Abu Dhabi seemed so innovative, has great weather, a luxurious lifestyle, amazing beaches, a stable economy, great nightlife, and low crime. The choice wasn’t that hard.
TN: What struggles have you faced since being there?
Tete: I live in a small town called Mirfa which is a very rural part of Abu Dhabi. There is no mall, a small local store, one hotel, and five schools. I live about an hour and a half from the city of Abu Dhabi. My entire community speaks Arabic. It is really reserved where I stay, with not much to do except the beach. This is much different coming from me living in the city all my life. I have adapted and learned so much about myself. I learned to be alone and like it. I have been so immersed in the culture. I’ve experienced local Emeriti weddings, Ramadan Iftars with locals, dinners, random campfires in the middle of the desert, even learning some of the Arabic language.
TN: How does your quality of life compare abroad versus back home?
Tete: Honestly when I visit America now, I feel out of place. Going home is a culture shock. Living in the Middle East, I have been able to live the dream that is promised in America. Life is complicated in the U.S. I go to work and come home here. The work day is stressful, but once it’s over, that’s it. I don’t take it home with me. I am debt free over here, saving money, and its tax-free. The stressors that you have in America are irrelevant. You don’t have to worry about things like paying rent, bills, medical care, and safety.
TN: Do you have any tips for those interested in moving abroad?
Tete: Do your research. Use the internet and ask around. There are many websites and Facebook groups to reach out to and ask questions. Ask those questions, think of more, and ask them. The more prepared a person is for the less alluring aspects of life abroad, the more they’ll be able to adapt to life abroad. Therefore, know your pros and cons and remember your purpose for moving.
TN: Where can we find you on social media?
Tete: I can be found on Instagram @mzinternational_tt.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.