To lots and lots of sand. It really is everywhere, and creeps in through teeny tiny cracks. There are days when it fills the air and eclipses everything. Moving here, I learned the air can be orange.
To more family time. Despite busy work schedules, we still find time for occasional family lunches, and surprise afternoon lattes with our kids. Next year the youngest will be back in the US for college aka university(Brit term) with her brother, and I'm so thankful for the time Abu Dhabi has given me with them. Our life in the US was more of a rat race. My husband and I spent all day at work, and the kids usually spent their afternoons and evenings at football and soccer practice. It didn't leave a lot of time for just sitting and enjoying each others company.
To crazy fast luxury sports cars I had never heard of, lots of random speed bumps, round abouts without rules, people playing real life Frogger, and the occasional car-b-que some days all within the span of a mile. I pray in the car a lot here, and have even been known to do a quick sign of the cross. My husband laughs and reminds me that we're not Catholic.
To religious tolerance and acceptance like I've never seen. As a Christian not only is it ok for me to practice my faith here, but my Muslim friends and neighbors go out of their way to wish me a Merry Christmas and Happy Easter. Malls, hotels, and businesses here are decked out at Christmas, and some of my Muslim friends even celebrate Christmas. Yes, Muslims love Jesus too.
To hoarding "American food". It is completely normal to buy every single can of soup a store has all because you or a friend has been looking for it for months. I recently had a friend post in a ladies chat group that she was looking for a particular cereal for her son she could no longer find in Dubai. I think she probably had enough for a year within a week from women in Abu Dhabi that went on alert. It was like she put out a bat signal for Apple Jacks.
To friends that quickly become like family. They fill your table at holidays and birthdays, and make you laugh till you want to cry. When you get sick they drop everything to drag you to a hospital, and bring you "survival bags" whenever you find yourself stuck in one.
To slaughtering the English language to make people understand you, and sounding like you were raised in London rather than the South. Some how now I can go from sounding like my North Carolina and Virginia relatives with a southern drawl and twang to Mr. Belvidere and Mary Poppins in 2.2 seconds. It's a source of amusement for my husband and kids, and I get joked on quite a bit.
To lots of great food that usually comes with spectacular views. I confess, we dine out more here, but there always seems to be a new restaurant popping up that needs to be tried. I've become more of a foodie now for sure.
To sitting in gas station lines for over 30 minutes as the people around you lay on their horns as if it makes the gas pump faster. The poor ADNOC attendants will probably all need hearing aids one day, and I'm sure they probably have nightmares about blaring horns.
To amazing vacations that last way longer than they ever did in the US. This past summer we spent a month roaming around France, and I kept having to ask myself how we were still going to have jobs when we returned. Oddly enough, we still had vacation time to use up after being gone for a month. I know Europeans won't understand, but this just does not happen in the US.
To sharing this place with friends and family that come to visit. I always say it's only after people come here that they can actually understand what life here is like. I always love seeing people take in this place and all of it's beauty and quirkiness for the first time.
Five years ago we said hello to Abu Dhabi.