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A Bermudian in Dubai: everything is bigger

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Everything is bigger in Dubai.

That's something Bermudian Taina Santin (née Durham) found after she moved with her family to the United Arab Emirates last year.

The city had just one skyscraper in 1990.

Today it boasts more than 400 — including the world's tallest, Burj Khalifa.

It's also home to the longest metro line, Dubai Metro; the biggest man-made island, Palm Islands; and the largest shopping centre, Dubai Mall.

“My first impression of the city was ‘wow',” Mrs Santin said. “This is a country of over two million people and 85 per cent are foreigners.

“You will meet people from just about every country in the world here. Dubai is a mix of the old and the new. If you wish to experience the new, it is all here and if you want the cultural side, that's here too.”

Mrs Santin and her Italian husband, Massimo Santin, left Bermuda in 2007 so their two sons could better experience their Italian heritage.

Then when Mr Santin found work in Dubai, they realised it would offer them yet another crack at experiencing a new culture.

“My biggest challenge in moving from Bermuda to Italy was the language,” Mrs Santin said. “It didn't take me too long to master it. My children spoke Italian before we arrived so it was relatively easier for them.

“Moving here to Dubai, the biggest challenge for me is driving. I actually had to take a driving test and before I could take the test, it was mandatory to take 20 driving lessons. People here drive really crazy.

“Other than that, it has been really easy to settle in.”

The laws in Dubai are very strict.

Sex outside of marriage, taking photos of people without their permission and drinking in public are just some of the things that could land you in a Dubai jail.

On the plus side, there are a multitude of jobs available in the city in just about every field.

“Living here is also substantially cheaper than in Bermuda,” Mrs Santin said. “I pay approx $18 to fill up my gas tank each week.”

She describes herself as an “outgoing [and] sociable person”, so for her the biggest reward of living abroad is the opportunity to travel.

“My children have now visited 24 countries and they are very open towards people from other religions and cultures,” she said. “They have also learned languages.

“My oldest son, Marcello, started at Bournemouth University in September studying sports management, so he only gets to experience Dubai for school breaks, but he loves it here.

“Giordano is thriving here. After attending school in Bermuda, Italy, England and now Dubai, he says that the school here is the best, both educationally and socially.

“He has friends from many different backgrounds and cultures and he says he finds it far more interesting than having friends all from the same place. He is studying for his A-levels and plans to get a degree in marketing.”

Mrs Santin is the head of admissions at a local school.

After a hectic week on the job she likes to keep her weekends fairly relaxing.

“My youngest son plays football on Saturday mornings and then has three hours of training on Saturday evenings. During that time I like to get together with friends for dinner or a movie or just to hang out.”

She said there's never a lack of exciting activities going on.

The Script, Iggy Azalea and Keisha descended on the area for the RedFest concert last month.

It's also a shopping lover's paradise.

“Dubai also has some of the biggest shopping malls in the world,” Mrs Santin said. “One has an indoor ski slope, one has an ice rink and indoor aquarium and yet another has indoor skydiving.

“Shopping is a major pastime here. You can find whatever you are looking for at reasonable prices.”

Her advice for anyone who wants to experience life in another country? Visit first.

“See if you have a good first impression of the place,” Mrs Santin said. “Really look at the cultural side and not just the parts that tourists see.

“Also, try to make friends as soon as possible because being far from home can be lonely if you don't. Living in another country is eye-opening and makes you appreciate what you have left behind in Bermuda.”

Bermudian Taina Santin and her Italian husband Massimo
Massimo Santin with sons Marcello, right, and Giordano
A photo taken of the Dubai skyline. Bermudian Taina Santin moved to the United Arab Emirates last year and said it has been a fun adventure for her and her family
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates
Beautiful mosques such as this one are sprinkled throughout the city of Dubai. Taina Santin says the city is an interesting mix of old and new
<p>Five things to see and do...</p>

Dubai Mall

Whatever you’re looking for, chances are you’ll find it in the world’s largest shopping mall. It has 1,200 stores, a giant ice rink, aquarium and indoor theme parks.

When you’re exhausted from an afternoon of shopping, sit down for dinner at any of the 150 food outlets there.

Jumeirah Beach

Considered Dubai’s best strip of public (cream-coloured) sand, this beach also boasts a children’s playground and barbecue and picnic areas for families. One word of caution: don’t leave home without your bottled water and sunscreen. The sun’s rays reach their strongest point during the middle of the day and dehydration or sunstroke are common. According to Mrs Santin, the beach pales in comparison to Bermuda’s but she finds lots of enjoyment walking along the boardwalk.

Social House

Not sure which international cuisine you feel up to? Social House in the Dubai Mall offers food from practically everywhere — whether you want Japanese sushi, Italian pizza or British style fish and chips.

Sand boarding.

Kind of like surfing, but instead of being on the water you will get to coast up and down the folds of the Dubai desert. This adrenalin-pumping activity promises to provide you with an unforgettable ride.

The Women’s Museum

Looking for a bit of culture in the city? This is one of Taina Santin’s favourite cultural places to visit, which you can do from Saturday to Thursday to explore and celebrate the lives of women of the UAE.

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Published March 10, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated March 10, 2015 at 10:32 am)

A Bermudian in Dubai: everything is bigger

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