Ex-pat series: ‘Moving to Abu Dhabi was the best decision I’ve made’

Chris White enjoys camping with friends in the desert
Chris White enjoys camping with friends in the desert
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Christopher White is living the high life in Abu Dhabi.

He moved abroad when he was 23 to pursue a career in IT after taking an adult course at Runshaw College. Now aged 27, he visits his hometown of Chorley three times a year, but can’t deny his love of Abu Dhabi’s exciting new lifestyle and culture. This is his story...

The decision

“I went out to Abu Dhabi for a six-day interview and turned 23 whilst I was there in the summer of 2008.

“I had decided to pursue my career in IT further and felt that internationally was the best way to fast track that progression, whilst also giving me a chance to experience different cultures and visit different countries.

“I absolutely loved it. I’d never been travelling abroad entirely on my own before, and I immediately saw a lot of what the country had to offer.

“I was offered the job before going home, and after wandering the city and seeing some sights, and briefly sampling some night life, I set off home and started researching what the cost of living was compared to the salary to make sure it was a realistic opportunity and not just a pipe dream.

“After a few days thinking about it, I took the job with the condition that I could stay in the UK for two more months to finish that year of college.

“The lifestyle I’d seen, along with all the experiences and the great career opportunities, had already made the decision for me on the first day of the interview.”

Life in Abu Dhabi

“People out here work extremely hard, and this is a great place to enhance your career.

“Outside of work there’s lots of things to do in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the surrounding areas and countries.

“I often go camping in the desert, kayaking, 4x4 off-roading, snowboarding (there’s the Ski Dubai indoor ski slope, which is weird in the middle of a desert country), and I also managed to achieve my lifelong ambition of scuba diving.

“I go wall climbing and hiking, and have managed to buy a sports car due to extremely low costs for insurance and fuel.

“I have been to see the F1 a number of times, and a lot of similar car racing, horse racing, and camel racing, with music gigs happening all the time too.

“I’m also proud to have visited Baghdad (as non-military), which was a rare opportunity and experience.

“Despite what some media have reported, the nightlife in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is fantastic (if a little expensive sometimes) and I have rarely had a month without a good night out.

“These can be from British or Irish bars, to bars aimed at the local labour workers, who despite not earning anywhere near what minimum wage in England would be, know how to enjoy themselves!

“It can also be very high class, with clubs and bars looking like they are from LA, or which wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond film.

“The scenery is often spectacular where you can see the most impressive buildings, and just by turning your head can see sand dunes as far as the horizon.

“I live by myself and my career is intense – I quite often have to put in long hours – but my social circle is more varied than it was in Chorley, with people from all sorts of countries, cultures and with all sorts of interests.

“The weather is completely different and the climate is very hot (although during the two days of real rain we get, I do quite like to go out and taste a little bit of home).

“Being single and with no family or contacts out here encouraged me to dive into the experience head first, whereas people who come with family and friends have a fallback when there’s nothing to do.”

Memories from Chorley

“I went to Duke St. School and Parklands High School in Chorley, and Runshaw College in Leyland.

“Later I attended Runshaw’s Adult College in Buckshaw Village as I was getting a degree for IT – a late decision.

“I had worked at Tesco in Chorley since I was 16 until I was 21, and I actually got recognized in Abu Dhabi by a person who used to frequent the Chorley Tesco last year whilst at a bar!

“I had never met him before but even after seven years, a skinny young-looking lad from Tesco was still recognizable

“A lot of memories from home involve finding the fun in whatever I could; seeing what there was in the shops and stalls.

“Of course later, there was also the Market Street pubs, and Applejacks, and frequent visits to Preston for the nightlife and shops.

Missing home

“I do miss a good chippy, and I miss my family and friends; it’s always nice to visit the shops and pubs for a bit of nostalgia.

“Saying that though, moving out here was without a doubt the best decision I’ve made so far.

“I learnt more about the world in that first year than the 23 years that proceeded it, and I have experiences that I never would have had.

“I also now have a very impressive CV that will hopefully allow me to experience even more countries and cultures after I move on from here.”

- Do you know someone who would like to be included in the Guardian’s ex-pat series? Email kay.taylor@lep.co.uk