Happier kids, better work-life balance: How Dubai life changed for residents who moved to the suburbs

Four expats — who gave up the convenience of city life — talk about what makes the long, daily drives worth it


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Fri 23 Sep 2022, 2:46 PM

Last updated: Sat 24 Sep 2022, 9:07 PM

After a long day at work, Filipino resident Rochelle Bautista happily makes the almost half-an-hour drive from her office to her new house at Damac Hills 2. Once there, she gathers with her husband and children in the backyard to relax and bond.

“It is so quiet and peaceful as it's so far away from the city,” she said. “It feels like home.”

Rochelle is one among the hundreds of UAE residents who are moving away from the city into the suburban areas. “For over 15 years, I absorbed the hustle and bustle of Dubai,” she said. “Now, I enjoy the peace of my community and the fact that my children are growing up so close to nature.”

Since moving in May this year, Rochelle’s 12- and 7-year-old boys go biking in the community and she is glad they have that opportunity.

“There are not many cars, and the kids can go around the community safely,” she said. “I feel like more value has been added to our life since coming here. The price is reasonable and even though the drive is long, we are happier and more content.”


Community spirit

The community feel is what pushed Indian national Zamaqshari Zubair to move into Nshama’s Town Square in 2019.

“When we were in our apartment, we didn’t know who lived next to us,” he said. “However, here we know everyone around us. We know each other’s kids. When one of us is travelling, we leave our spare key with the neighbors. It is a great community feeling that I hadn’t known during my last almost 20 years living in the UAE.”

According to him, the move has been great for his family.

“My wife is very active in the community group,” he said. “They meet up almost every week and organise fun activities for the kids and families. My son has a lot of friends with whom he plays. The community is quite self-sufficient with shops and other amenities.”

He enjoyed living there so much that a year after being a renter there, he decided to buy his own property. “Initially, my wife and I were hesitant that the drive might be too much for us,” he said. “But once we started staying here, we realised that this is where we want to live and raise our son, so we invested in a property.”

Safety and space were the key factor for Lebanese national Yasmine Ghalayini and her husband who moved from Dubai Marina to the gated Sidra community of Dubai Hills.

“After the Covid pandemic, we just wanted some more space for our kids to play and enjoy in,” she said.

When she moved, she was surprised by the changes in her children’s personalities “My children, who had rarely ventured out of our building on their own, are now cycling to their tennis and basketball classes within the community,” she said.

“They go to the community pool and park with their friends. Yesterday, my daughter told me how she and her best friend had made some bracelets and sold it to a few other children at the park. It was so funny but so cute. They have become so much more independent and resourceful since moving here.”

Here's a photo of Yasmine and her family:

However, Yasmine admits that she sometimes misses the convenience of her apartment. “Even if it's just a pack of bread that I want, I have to take my car and go to the mall,” she said. “I miss the grocery below my building, but it is a small price to pay for the amenities we have.”

For Indian expat Tara, it was also the change in quality of life for her 3-year-old son that clinched the deal when she moved into Nshama Townsquare.

“We moved into a villa whose backyard opened out into the community pool,” she said. “I was able to keep an eye out on my son even while I was working. He goes out with the nanny to the park as well and has a lot of friends his age. He has become so much more social now.”

According to Tara, she was also able to achieve better work-life balance after moving.

“As an entrepreneur, I was able to convert one of the rooms into my office,” she said. “This means I get a lot more time with my son and I have a better work-life balance. Also, every morning I wake up to the sound of birds chirping in my garden. It is such a great feeling. I feel like I have become more creative since starting to live here.”

So impressed are her family and friends with the community that many are in the process of moving there as well. “My sister has already begun the process of finding a place here,” she said. “Some of my friends are also looking. I am excited about having my loved ones close by.”


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