Monday, 30 June 2014

does being online affect our relationships?


A few weeks ago in Grazia there was a really interesting article entitled "Are online relationships more intimate than real ones?" Which as someone who uses the internet to maintain the majority of the relationships in their life, got me thinking. 

A new study from Queen's University in New York has found that online conversations with partners are more open and honest than those you have in the flesh. Interesting right. And while I don't 100% agree with the studies findings I do think there is an interesting discussion to be had. 

Twenty-something's like myself are growing more and more reliant on the internet to develop, maintain and even end our personal relationships. We are a generation of social media obsessed professionals who include the online world in the most precious moments of our day. Just look at bloggers; we write about everything (or almost everything) and publish it, giving the world the authority to read and judge us. 

But it is our personal relationships that I guess, are helped or hindered by being online. As someone who has been in a long distance relationship on and off for several years, the internet is my savior. It allows me to have that instant contact with the boyfriend which would otherwise be missing. We can share moments of our day in real time, over what'sapp, get a look at each others dinners via Instagram and talk face to face via Skype.

In our case being online is a necessity rather than simply a lazy way of communicating. I would give up the internet in a heartbeat if I meant I could swap our Skype time for a real life date night. However I do wonder whether we talk more freely to each other through the internet than when we are face to face or whether actually it is the other way round. Do we hold our tongues more when we're online, to spare each other's feelings and enjoy the precious moments of communication we do get, rather than spending them arguing across Skype. 

Being online has been crucial to our relationship. But I don't think it has made us any less honest when we are together. Maybe we let the smaller things go; time apart has taught us to appreciate the moments when we are together and with that comes a realisation that his socks strewn across the floor and my need to tidy stuff away are just little drops in the ocean which although may be annoying, can certainly be overlooked.

I guess it comes down to a balancing act. We have almost become socialized to use our smartphones throughout every aspect of our day and as such it is logical that it is easier for us to convey our feelings across whatsapp. And I'm sure many people in the future will have a problem resulting from this. Maybe we will loose our backbones, or the ability to voice our opinions and emotions when a real life situation of potential conflict rears it's ugly head.

Possibly. But I guess that's a symptom of modern society we will have to accept because I can't see the demise of the internet coming any time soon.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Review: 25°55° CAFE BISTRO, Dubai Marina Yacht Club

Lazy Sunday mornings have been replaced by lazy Saturday mornings and I am surprised at how quickly my brain has adjusted to that. And part of a lazy Saturday or Sunday is breakfast. Breakfast is one of my favourite things, although any meal time ranks highly in my books and living in Dubai Marina, I am sure there are a million places we could go. But I have been here for just over two weeks and the only place I have ventured for breakfast is the 25 55 Cafe Bistro at Dubai Marina Yacht Club

And that is not because I am lazy; you know I would climb a mountain for good food. No, it's because I can't get the mental taste of eggs benedict florentine out of my brain, since my first encounter on my second day in Dubai. The perfectly poached eggs and the creamy spinach and hollandaise sauce have been permanently etched into my brain and since the boyfriend suggested breakfast, my taste buds have been in a frenzy. 

25 55, named after Dubai's nautical coordinates has a calm and classy interior, dark wood, white and blue bringing the feeling of the ocean inside. The breakfast menu has something for everyone; a full English breakfast served up in a cast iron frying pan, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, granola, pancakes or a fresh fruit platter. Oh and I totally recommend you start your menu deliberations with a glass of freshly squeezed apple juice. 

The staff are amazingly attentive and patient; I say patient because the boyfriend wanted to substitute half the items in his full English breakfast with other items and the waiter was very obliging. And as I already mentioned, I can recommend the eggs benedict florentine. Oh and one last thing, they give you the choice of pork sausages, which is a big plus as not everywhere will. 

I'll be sure to try something else off the breakfast menu on our next visit so I can give you a more rounded review of the food. And with a view like that, Dubai Marina Yacht Club is firmly on my radar as a breakfast hotspot.

sunday sound #27

Saturday, 28 June 2014

my thoughts pre-ramadan

Ramadan is a big deal and as a new expat in Dubai, I am intrigued and interested to learn more about the culture I am now living within. Sure Dubai is filled to the brim with foreigners; tourists and expats who have made this place their home and somewhat taken over, bringing their western cultures with them, but fundamentally, the UAE is a muslim country. 

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, is one of the most important periods in the Muslim calendar. It is a time of spiritual awakening, self-evaluation and remembrance of Allah, which Muslims observe through fasting and prayer. Ramadan teaches Muslims self-discipline, humility and giving. Charity is a significant part of Ramadan, and Muslims are expected to help the needy.

I don't know much about Ramadan and what I do know comes from the internet (here is a really expat-friendly overview of what Ramadan is and the traditions) and advice and guidance from new friends in Dubai; seasoned expats granted, who have spent several years in the UAE and survived several Ramadan experiences. 

The UAE Moon Sighting Committee has announced that Ramadan will start tomorrow, Sunday the 29th June. And aside from being a little anxious, I am rather excited to see how this religious festival pans out and how it affects us non-muslims taking up residence in Dubai. 

The night before Ramadan starts sees the city go completely dry, with no alcohol for sale. This doesn't apply for the whole month of Ramadan, however i've been told many bars and clubs wind down during this period due to the heat as well as the religious customs, such as the prohibition of live music. The bars that remain open for business will have limited background music and will only serve alcohol after sunset. 

Fasting is a major part of Ramadan and while non-muslims are not required to participate, the key to a happy ramadan experience is respect. This means expats and tourists are not allowed to drink, smoke, eat or chew gum between sunrise and sunset in public. And public extends to offices, cars and even your balcony. This will affect everything from having breakfast on the balcony in the morning to walking to the metro station waterless. But in the comfort of your own home, you can do what you like. 

The rules extend to clothing too. Dubai is a pretty progressive place and you see women wearing all sorts of clothing, baring all when they are out and about. But during Ramadan a heightened degree of respect is advised and women are asked to be respectful with their clothing choices covering shoulders and knees in public places which includes the metro, the malls and restaurants. 

I have heard that some restaurants are open during the day and offer places to eat out of direct public view and many hotels continue to operate fully, even allowing guests to eat and drink on the hotel beaches. 

Maybe Ramadan won't affect us too much since the boyfriend works in a predominantly expat office which offers areas for expats to go and drink and eat. And I, well I have no reason to leave the house except for the pool or to explore, all of which are becoming increasingly difficult anyway, given the soaring temperatures and the humidity. But once the sun sets and Muslims embark on their Iftar, breaking the days fast, us expats are free to eat and drink throughout the city. 

We will see if my feelings about Ramadan change as the month goes on. In the meantime, get clued up about Ramadan and being respectful, this is a great little article.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Life Lately: 73% humidity

I thought I was acclimatising to this city but then we had 42 degrees celsius and 73%humidity and I was blown back out to newbie territory.  The humidity is really intense here and the best way I can describe it is standing fully clothed, in a steamy bathroom after a really hot shower, while someone blasts your face with a hairdryer. But this process is all part and parcel of expat life in Dubai. 

I wake up every morning, the sun quickly rising heavy and golden in a cloudless blue sky and that in itself brings a wave of satisfaction that instantly reminds me the decision was worth it. 

The skyline is incredible and on every car journey or dog walk I make myself dizzy as I stare up at the gigantic, shiny buildings towering above us. The architecture here is modern through and through but it is nevertheless mesmerising. 

I am trying to implement a smoothie a day into our eating patterns, whizzing up banana's, frozen mixed berries, yoghurt and honey to balance out the ongoing trips to Shake Shack that we just cannot resist. Job hunting is the main goal of my days and a little hour break by the pool is just the motivation I need, plus it means I don't have to worry about having any vitamin D deficiency's! 

Oh and those beauty's down below are my new trainers, which I still can't believe I got so excited about. It only took 10 years for the boyfriend to persuade me trainers are the way forward. And my feet are thanking him now. The Adidas x Farm collection has definitely got me excited and the bright floral print pairs and neon yellow accent pairs wonderfully with denim shorts and a white T shirt. But more about those another time. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Review: Nadia Beauty Style Salon, Sheikh Zayed Road

I have never been a high maintenance type of girl no matter what the boyfriend will tell you. But getting my nails done is becoming more and more of an essential. I've spent years filing, caring for and painting my nails myself and the result is a mediocre manicure that chips within a few days. And if it is one thing I hate it's chipped nails. So a little Shellac manicure here and there makes me a happy girl. 

Being a newbie in the city, I enlisted the help of  my best friend (who just so happens to be living the Dubai life too), and two of her friends, who scooped me up and took me for my first Dubai salon experience.

Nadia Beauty Style Salon was our home for the afternoon; located just off Sheikh Zayed Road and a few minutes walk from the World Trade Centre Metro, it is easily accessible for those who drive and those, like me, who don't. Stepping off the escalator on the mezzanine floor of Sama Tower, you're welcomed by a clean and bright reception space and some very happy looking receptionists who got us all booked in within a second. My deliberations over nail colour however, lasted much longer! Ten minutes later I settled on a summery muted orange, called Tangerine Dream, to compliment my new found golden glow.  

The salon is white and modern, without feeling clinical, with splashes of purple running throughout, which reminded me of lavender, have a soothing, relaxing effect on the eyes and body. The nail area of the salon is large and spacious and the leather armchair moulded around my body as soon as I sat down. A coffee and glass of water were promptly laid down on the arm of my chair and after a quick discussion about the desired shape of my nails, we were off. 

Two gorgeous ladies got to work on my toes and fingers simultaneously and I had to do everything in my power to resist the sleep, as relaxation set in. They filed, buffed, scrubbed and got to work on my cuticles before slathering on layers of Shellac. All that was left once my nails were set was a little hand and foot message to make sure I was truly relaxed. 

As my first Dubai salon experience, I have nothing to compare it too, but in all honesty, the Nadia Beauty Style Salon staff were so kind and polite, the service and treatments were excellent and the space so relaxing, not to mention the convenient location, that I don't think I even want to try another salon. 

Thanks to one of the lovely new friends, who had a spare Groupon voucher, this whole experience cost just AED 79, which is about £13. And with almost monthly groupon deals, I think these girls afternoons could become a regular activity. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

is expat life luck or fate? Moving to Dubai with

I have always been a bit shy; people that know me will think that statement is absurd, but honestly, in new situations I regress slightly into the safety of my tortoise shell so to speak and barely dare to stick my head out. Despite moving around to different countries and meeting lots of new people, this lack of confidence is still occupying a part of my brain and it is something I am working on. 

Given the aforementioned, you would think that moving from country to country would send me into a meltdown. Indeed there have been some very stressful moments and occasionally, big drops of tears threaten to escape from my eyes when it all becomes a bit too much. But in a funny way, I feel like expat life has kind of been my calling and the stress and tears have made me a stronger human as a result. 

If you had told me ten years ago I would be living in a country half way round the world, with my long-term boyfriend and high maintenance pooch, I would have said you were crazy. I was never one to plan out my life and a good job too because I could have never envisioned the adventure that was waiting for me. Am I lucky? Is it fate? Do I deserve the life I have somewhat stumbled into? I don't know but I have definitely paid my dues in life and I feel like I have found my feet as an expat. 

Expat life suits me; exploring new countries and cultures, learning about a place, it's people, the food, the climate, feeds the desire my brain has to continually learn. And packing up and moving feels less scary every time you do it; even the dog has become accustomed to the changing scenery.

Moving to Dubai was quite a stressful process, but now that we are all here, the research, the planning, the organisation and the anxiety that came in floods during the transition phase, has passed and we can begin to reap the benefits of sacrificing everything for opportunities abroad. 

There are millions of people moving around this little place we call the world and the internet is a vast cave of information which can be seriously difficult to navigate at times. So I have teamed up with Expats Blog to launch a series of informative articles giving you a real take on moving to Dubai and how to do everything from relocating a dog to Dubai, completing the immigration process in Dubai and find somewhere to live in Dubai. 

If your thinking about or are in the process of moving to Dubai, check out the first article here. And if your a expat in Dubai who can give a newbie like me some tips for settling please give me a shout. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

is it sunday or monday?

I've surprised myself with how quickly I have begun to settle into life in Dubai. Last Sunday we spent the day hopping from air conditioned government office to air conditioned government office, completing visa application forms, giving blood and having every inch of my hands scanned.  This Sunday I started my day with a swim in the pool, the boyfriend has gone off to work and I am now ready to get down to some serious blog prep, job hunting and writing.

The apartment is definitely starting to feel more like home and actually, so is Dubai. Maybe it is the boyfriend and the pooch that have helped me settle so quickly or maybe this sprawling city with it's towering skyline and beautiful sunsets has just hijacked a piece of my heart already.

Adapting to the different structure of the working week is something I am yet to accomplish; I posted my Sunday sound on the blog yesterday (Saturday), which is our version of Sunday. I then had an internal discussion with myself about re-naming the post to Saturday Sound which lasted all but two minutes before deciding not to. 

I woke up this morning ready to start Monday and then looked at my phone to see the word Sunday glaring back at me. To be fair my brain is on the right track; it is the first working day of the week, it just happens to fall on a slightly different day.  

I am sure this is something that will get easier once I have a working structure in place and I have to remind myself that I have only lived in this city for a week and three days which means there are many more weeks of adjustment to come. 

sunday sound #26

Thursday, 19 June 2014

beauty: paw paw by papaya gold

Paw Paw by Papaya Gold is a great multi-purpose balm that I feel is going to give Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream a run for her money.

The Elizabeth Arden is a miracle worker but sometimes I feel like the gloopy texture is a bit overwhelming on my skin. I love the healing properties of it but have been in pursuit of a multi-purpose balm that will give me moisture and nourishment without the greasy gloop. And on my return to London, a wonderful display in Boots caught my eye and the rest is history so to speak.

Papaya Gold's Paw Paw moisturizing balm is crammed full of Bio Active Manuka Honey 20+ which soothes and moisturises dry and irritated skin and lips. I have been using it on the dry skin on my hands, my lips, elbows and the sore patch of skin where my flip flops have been rubbing for the last few days. 

And I have to say I am rather impressed with this balm. It is thick enoug to feel moisturizing but not too thick that it leaves a heavy, greasy residue on your skin and it hasn't got any sort of overpowering smell, something I really dislike in skin products. 

And it is suitable for use on excema, psoriasis and dermatitis so it is definitely and all round product. It's available at boots for just £5.99 and was the perfect size to pop into my hand luggage to keep dry skin at bay on board my flight last week. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Life Lately: welcome to Dubai (long post alert)

I landed in Dubai International Airport at about 11:30pm on Thursday 12th June and it is safe to say, the past few days have been a whirlwind. First impressions of this city........well it is insane. 

morning walkies along the marina

Dubai Marina
I landed a little later than scheduled and after travelling since 9.30am that morning, the only thing that kept me going during the wait at the gigantic queue at immigration was the fact that the boyfriend was on the other side, ready to collect me. Luckily, I picked the quicker of the queue's and the efficient Emirati man at the desk checked my visa, snapped my photograph and stamped my passport within a few minutes of my arriving at his desk. 

I am not sure if it was the excitement to see the boyfriend or the sheer joy that I was finally here, but I completely forgot to change into something lighter and as soon as we stepped outside into the parking lot, the heat and humidity hit me, in my jeans and t shirt, like a brick wall. The humidity literally took my breath away and right there and then I thought I wouldn't last a night here let alone a few years. Needless to say my body has since acclimatised. 

We have done so much since I got here that I cant quite believe it has only been 4 days since I arrived. We have completed two trips to IKEA and the apartment is looking and feeling a little more homely (more about the apartment and the building we are in at a later date) and the dog has gotten used to me after a shaky start. The boyfriend has driven me around Dubai while I sat there staring out the window like a kid, been to the Mall of Emirates and the Dubai Mall, both of which blew my mind and we have seen the dancing fountains at the Burj Khalifa which deserves a blog post in it's own right. 

the dog

the Ikea trip was...

...pretty successful

Dubai Marina from the pool terrace of our building

the Souk in Dubai Mall

Love the ceilings in the Souk at Dubai Mall

pick and mix spices at the supermarket

sandcastle on Jumeirah Beach

More importantly, we have completed all official requirements and I am now a legal resident of Dubai; this place is beyond efficient and on Sunday, it took us a few hours (a lot less than the time we had originally assigned) to complete all applications, my medical examination and visit the Emirates ID Authority to get my finger prints and photographs taken, all of which are required as part of the immigration process. On Monday all that was left was to take the results of my medical examination to the immigration office, where they checked my online file and swiftly stamped my passport with my official visa. And while it all sounds quite complicated and long winded, it was actually easier and more pleasant than my immigration experience in Cyprus! 

We have even found time to go for dinner and explore a few of the bars (which are all in hotels, but more about that later) to allow the boyfriend some much needed World Cup watching and I have used the gym in our building, tested the pool on the fifth floor terrace and navigated a Dubai supermarket. 

Dubai Marina

Dancing Fountains at the Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

The first weekend was a pretty successful one and if first impressions are anything to go by, we are going to be very happy here. The best way to describe Dubai is like London except better; the buildings are bigger, the customer service is better, the supermarkets are bigger, the sun shines and despite what people say or what the internet tells you, life is cheaper! 

Expect a lot more Dubai based blog posts to come.