It’s a lonely New Year for some new UAE expats

Khaleej Times has reached out to mental health experts as well, for solutions to loneliness

by

Waad Barakat

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Published: Sun 31 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 31 Dec 2023, 11:52 PM

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. For some newly-arrived expatriates, however, living in the UAE this time of year can be particularly challenging as they find themselves alone during the season of festivities.

To gain an insight into their experiences, Khaleej Times spoke with expatriates who are navigating loneliness and sought advice from mental health experts.

Challenges

Mohamed Amr, a 24-year-old Egyptian architect residing in Sharjah, shares his struggle to find suitable places to spend New Year's Eve as a single individual.

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Like many expatriates, Mohamed is facing the difficulty of not having friends available to join him for any activities.

He explored different options, such as staying at JBR or going to the cinema, but encountered limited venues that catered to solo visitors. Mohamed's experience highlights the challenges faced by expatriates seeking companionship and connection during the holiday season.

Mohamed Amr
Mohamed Amr

Ammer Afaq, a 24-year-old filmmaker from Pakistan, reflects on his decision to move to Dubai and the emotional toll of being away from family, friends, and familiar surroundings.

While he acknowledges the difficulty of being alone, he remains optimistic about building a better future for himself in Dubai. Ammer's story underscores the sacrifices and determination that expatriates often exhibit in pursuit of personal and professional growth.

“Saying goodbye is always the hardest part. [Especially], when you embark on a journey that you know nothing about – it feels like going to war,” Ammer expressed to Khaleej Times.

Finding fulfilment

Najma Swaleh, a Kenyan expatriate who arrived in Dubai a month and a half ago, shares her experience of leaving her home country in search of opportunities and adventure.

“If we think about it, video calls help a lot. I might not be able to hold them but seeing them does help,” Najma shared about her coping mechanism.

While she has one friend in Dubai, Najma emphasises the importance of exploring new hobbies and engaging in activities to combat feelings of loneliness. She has discovered joy in scooter riding, cycling by the beach, and attending art festivals. Najma's proactive approach exemplifies how expatriates can find solace and fulfilment by immersing themselves in new experiences.

Social expectations

Loneliness during the holiday season can have a profound impact on mental health. Dr Aida Suhaimi, a Clinical Psychologist from Medcare Camali Clinic, explains that societal and personal expectations often contribute to heightened stress and anxiety during this time.

The pressure to meet these expectations manifests in symptoms such as sleeplessness, appetite fluctuations, and physical complaints. Prolonged loneliness can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing depression, anxiety disorders, and even dementia.

To cope with loneliness, Dr Aida advises seeking social and emotional support through support groups, connecting with friends or family, and engaging in volunteer or charitable activities. Taking care of oneself through self-care practices is also crucial. This can involve learning new skills, indulging in relaxing activities, and focusing on activities that boost self-esteem and satisfaction.

Seek help

“If you feel alone, it is important to seek out social and emotional help,” Dr Aida added.

Dr Aida recommends accepting the reality of loneliness and reaching out to individuals who can empathise with your feelings. Cultivating gratitude through a journaling practice can also foster a positive mindset and provide solace during challenging times.

By embracing gratitude, individuals can develop an attitude of thankfulness and create a written record of cherished moments and experiences.

While the holiday season may be lonely for some expatriates, it's important to remember that they are not alone in their struggles. By implementing coping strategies and seeking support, individuals can navigate this period with resilience and hope.

The UAE's multicultural environment offers opportunities for connection and engagement, and expatriates can find solace in exploring new experiences, building relationships, and prioritising self-care.

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