Friday, 4 December 2009

A move towards the East

It's exactly a year since my husband got the job offer he'd been waiting for, and we knew we'd be moving out to the Gulf. A great deal has changed in that year...

For a start, I've noticed a real shift in attitudes towards the Middle Eastern airlines amongst the flying community. When we first announced we were moving out here, a lot of our pilot friends felt slightly sorry for us, having to move our lives halfway across the world. There was definitely a feeling that being in a Muslim country would be a tremendous trial for us, too (I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked if I can drive, work or drink alcohol here, etc, etc). Of course, we were forced into a corner to come here by the collapse of my husband's old airline, so we felt sorry for ourselves, too.

Now, though, things seem to be changing. We've been contacted by a great number of British pilots asking about the recruitment process here, driven of course by the dire state of the industry in Europe at the moment. Many UK airlines are offering career breaks to pilots who take a job elsewhere, which is a very attractive offer that many of them are choosing to take up. And on closer inspection, living out here isn't as bad as many fear. One pilot recently asked us if we would choose to do this again if we were actually given the choice. So I thought about my answer...

Well, for a start, my husband is flying for an airline with very, very deep pockets. Just knowing it's not going to go bust any second is quite wonderful. My husband is flying an aircraft he has always wanted to, and didn't expect to be able to do at this relatively early stage of his career. Financially we are doing pretty well, despite the fact I'm only working very part-time. This is of course helped by the complete absence of tax here (yes, there really is NO tax!). We have comprehensive international health cover, and the hospitals out here are extremely good, which is a relief, as I'm planning on giving birth in one! And of course our accommodation is provided, we can rent our house out at home, we get great staff travel across the industry, we get a transport and communications allowance, will get school fees paid... etc, etc. Suffice to say we're better off here than we were at home.

Then, of course, there's the biggie; we really don't believe I'd be pregnant if we were still living in the UK and I was still working full time in my stressful job. For us, that's the deal breaker.

So, despite the negatives of living here - being far from friends and family, the difficulties of living in a different culture - we are actually very happy, as are almost all of the expat pilots and their families who have moved out here in the last year, too. We all agree that basically, life out here is what you make it. If you want to be miserable, it's perfectly easy to do that (just stay in and refuse to meet people, don't personalise your house, spend all your time staring at the TV, etc). But if you get out there and do things, meet people, and make the most of things, it's a pretty great place to live.

My husband and I were walking along the seafront the other day in the lovely warm (but not hot) evening breeze, reflecting on how life has changed for us over the past year. We both agree that this period of our lives is going to be one we will look back on extremely fondly.

There've certainly been lots of downs along with the ups, but on balance - would I do this again, given the choice? Yes, absolutely. Although of course I'd like to do the move knowing what I know now, not arriving clueless as we actually did... Wouldn't it be great if we could always do that?

Oh, for time travel...


  1. A friend of ours took a contract job shuttling cargo around in Iraq. I would definitely NOT be cool with that.

    We have our discussions about what it would be like to move to Asia or the Middle East for a job. If he could get a sweet job with Qantas or Cathay Pacific, I'd have our things packed up yesterday to move halfway around the world. Our odds of winning the lottery are better though!

  2. Ah yes, Iraq is an entirely different case! I agree completely. One of my husband's former colleagues is working there now, and I must say it sounds pretty scary all told. But the money's good (not surprisingly!) and in these difficult times that's attractive for some people - usually those without wives and kids, I think...!

  3. What a lovely post, good for you both! Congratulations on the baby, wonderful news x

  4. Six figures a year and like you said, it'd completely tax free too!

  5. My husband and I secretly fantasize the financial security we'd have with an airline in the middle east, instead of our reality of being a low seniority FO making poverty wages.

  6. I've never regretted our decision to move to China, although it is hard, hard, hard some days! The contracts for qualified captains for Chinese airlines are really incredible these days. (For clarity, my husband is not with an airline.)

  7. I've just found your blog and will certainly be coming back to visit :) In the last two years we have managed to live in 4 different countries (Poland, Wales, Canada and - now - England). Two month ago we finally found some time to get married and there I am, another "pilot's wife" :) As of January he goes long haul and I simply can't wait to see what the future holds for us. Maybe we go East one day too... And congratulations on the baby!

  8. So glad to heard you are having such a positive experience. :)




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