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One Year In Wonderland: A True Tale of Expat…

One Year In Wonderland: A True Tale of Expat Life in Dubai

by Christopher Combe

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115820,536 (3.58)1 / 4



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Showing 5 of 5
I received a free copy of this e-book from the author in an exchange for a review.
“One Year in Wonderland...” is a blog-style story of a professional QS living and working for approx. one year in Dubai, UAE. What initially seems to be a tax-free paradise, quickly turns out to be a real eye opener for the author and his family alike. He tells us about the two expat and immigrant communities living in Dubai, his everyday professional and family life abroad and the challenges and boredom he faces as a Westerner.
All in all it is a very interesting book that I quite enjoyed. Didn’t fully appreciate the blog-style writing, would certainly suggest a lot of editing to be done (spelling mistakes etc); also thought that the author didn’t really make much effort to know Dubai and the whole culture better, e.g. spending most of his spare time in shopping malls and then describing them in detail, but on the other hand it only shows you it’s not possible to adapt to a new culture/place in just one year and the life of an expat is not as great as they like to paint it (at least in the early stages). It’s definitely an interesting read and would recommend it to anyone going to UAE to work or holiday and also to those thinking of moving to live in another country. ( )
  justine28 | Feb 24, 2012 |
I have to say I enjoyed this book, particularly regarding the sights and sounds of Dubai and surrounding areas. However, I wasn't a big fan of the 'blog style of writing' and I found the author to be a bit of a whinger. Ring said, it was entertaining and kept me reading to the end! ( )
  Cdnwren | Jan 29, 2012 |
I received a free copy of this book in exchanged for a review.

As someone who blogs regularly, I found the blogging style of the book to be a little disjointed. It just didn't seem to flow well.

The book is narrated from the point of view of an expat who occasionally plays tourist. I felt like I was visiting Dubai as I read. I could picture the people, the environment, the sights,sounds, and smell of busy Dubai. As it is a true story, the writer infused his emotions into it. The emotions helped me to understand more about the Dubai culture.

The writer is hired for a Dubai construction firm, and moves there. His wife and children join him a few weeks later. He writes about being immersed into a culture he knows little about. He writes about the society of the rich and the poor. He writes about the large expat community there. He writes about all things Dubai.

I found the story itself very interesting and informative. I learned a lot about Dubai and about the culture there, something I never would have bothered to learn otherwise. I recommend reading this book, especially if going to Dubai. ( )
  seashellmoore | Dec 21, 2011 |
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this as an e-book in exchange for an honest personal review.

Having visited Dubai in its pre-boom days and having an interest to visit again, I was very intrigued by the prospect fo reading about a western ex-pat's experience in Dubai for a year. While the book had some great insight into the country as well as the expat experience, it was overall a bit disappointing and low-density (you have to read a lot of pages to get something truly though-provoking or interesting).

There are some great descriptions of people and places that are quite good. Several subtle pop-culture references (and probably more that I missed as a non-Brit) that were quite clever and effective. I got a good idea of what to plan for when I take a holiday in Dubai (which actually is my intent at some point). I think he has some very good observations about society in Dubai and the gaps between the haves and have-nots. I had noticed this in my visit in the mid-90s also and it is interesting that it is still very much the case--perhaps even more so.

Probably the biggest shortcoming is that the book is a publication of a blog, apparently without a retrospective edit to identify and coalesce around a coherent theme or direction. There are entries about his health, his work, a little about his family, the mechanics of living in Dubai and hanging out. Had the author looked back at his entries and identified a major theme that he wanted to convey about his experience and then revised his entries to develop that theme it would have been much more interesting. In one case, he went back and added a retrospective to tie in with a theme, but it's almost as if he felt that he had to keep all his entries pristine as they were originally written to be true to the blog/diary genre. Several entries were rather bland and pointless and seemed to have no function exccept to support page count.

I appreciate he author's self-awareness of his perspective as a Western Ex-pat and how that colored his perceptions. However--perhaps because of that perspective--he fell short of his potential by only observing culture at a shallow depth. He never seemed to ask "why" the society is as it is--he is content to simply accept it even though he seems to disapprove of it.

The tone is very conversational and personal. While this lends an accessible air to it, it also lets the book slide into informality that diminishes its value. The cynical tone and language in some places is rather off-putting. Again, something that could have been improved and made more effective with some editing.

All in all, 95% of the book was summed up in the last 4 pages, and if that's all you read, you really wouldn't have missed much. It's an easy, entertaining read that's easy to read in small chunks. ( )
  gpaisley | Dec 19, 2011 |
If you're looking for a book that is only about the expat lifestyle, or only about Dubai, or only an amusing read, you shouldn't go here. If you are looking for all of those things combined, then this is the place to be. The blend of true life "adventures" and "new world" discoveries is perfectly told in amusing fashion by a man who's actually been there and done that. You won't learn everything there is to learn about Dubai, and you won't learn everything there is to learn about taking your family to a world alien to you and trying to live and work there, you won't learn everything about finding balance in life itself, but you will laugh and share bewilderment at the events that happen.

In its whole, it is actually a very informative book. As someone who has just had a spouse move to a foreign country in order to enjoy the perks (and mishaps) of working tax-free in a location that needed her, I found that I was quickly and easily put into the mindset of exactly what she would have to be going through. I felt it provided me a sort of buffer to what she would be experiencing before she experienced it, not preparing me for the entire journey, but nudging me in the right direction.

When moving (or even visiting) a new place, you don't often think about the actual culture of the people. I don't mean, the religion or customs, I mean what they actually do, how they behave and seem to an outsider. Watching someone else observe a culture as that outsider, really put things into perspective, making even the most insignificant change strike me not as large, but simply as real.

An enjoyable read that I'd highly recommend to anyone who is going through this kind of move, has been through it, or knows someone who is.

Note: Though this book was a free gift from the author, the content of my review was in no way influenced by the gifting. The book speaks for itself and my review would have been worded just this way even if I'd gone out and bought it. I also give bonus points for Text To Speech enabling on Kindle format.... but that also wasn't a factor in the above review. ( )
  mirrani | Dec 1, 2011 |
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To my wife and children, who indulge my daydreams but keep my feet on the ground.
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I leave Dubai almost exactly one year on from when I was offered the chance to go there.
Dubai; the shiny new city in the sand. There's nowhere quite like it.
More "Only in Dubai" moments over this last week, including the moment I walked into a bank and saw a man stood at the service desk with a brilliant-white specimen of a parakeet on his shoulder.
This is life in Dubai: You can see what you want, but you can't have it.
I see tower cranes emerging from the midst of the myriad new developments in the distance, and every few kilometres there seem to be another concrete batching plant surrounded by fleets of dusty concrete mixer trucks.
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