‘I knew the answer right away’: UAE residents embrace 2021 with bold steps

Stock Dubai skyline
A view of Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Many UAE residents have turned a new leaf in their lives for the New Year.
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Beyond the fear of what the future may hold in 2021, after a year overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many UAE residents have turned a new leaf in their lives for the New Year.

British expatriate Jenna Stirland was walking one day with her sister, who suddenly asked her: “In a worst-case scenario, what if we go into movement restrictions again? Where would you want to be? An apartment or a villa?”

Stirland said she knew the answer right away.

Stirland, 30, had been living in skyscraper-studded Dubai Marina for almost five years now and her lease was about to come to an end. Her sister came from the United Kingdom to join her in Dubai in November and after that conversation during their walk, they both decided to look for a villa. They then moved to Arabian Ranches in Dubai.

Lessons learned

Jenna Stirland

“This year has taught me so many lessons, one being how important outdoor space and nature are to me. Lockdown in a 14th-floor apartment with no balcony taught me that! The Ranches has so much greenery and nature and is so relaxing, I am so grateful every day to live here,” said Stirland, who is a senior account manager at Plus 1 Communications in Dubai.

“There is obviously some element of uncertainty signing a new lease when nothing is certain anymore, but then, was it certain even before? Who knows. I like to stay positive and think everything works out in the end. COVID-19 has affected every single person in one way or the other. It has taught me what really matters in life, which I believe to be good health and being around good people. Living in Dubai and being surrounded by people with a can-do attitude who believe in themselves and business ideas, and that anything you work hard at will succeed, is contagious and fills me with hope for the future. I’ve never felt luckier to live in Dubai.”

‘Right place, right time’

Radhika Sil

Meanwhile, Radhika Sil, an Indian chef in Dubai, is in the process of launching ‘Thrriv’ her own “healthy, keto diabetic-safe” food manufacturing brand, which she hopes to make “all official” by January 2021. Sil, 45, said “the time has never been better” to start something like this in the UAE, despite the ongoing pandemic. “This is going to be locally sourced, locally made. You don’t need to wait for it for 60-90 days because of the [international] supply chain … for products ranging from clean-label pasta to keto ice creams. In fact, I think I would be the first keto ice cream manufacturer in the country,” said Sil.

“This is the right place and the right time. I can’t think of any better customer base than the UAE because it’s such a melting pot of people from so many different nationalities. People are hungry for good products.”

Sil is not only feeling confident about her new venture, but she is full of positivity in general. “I always say I’m very optimistic, I’m always very hopeful. When someone asks me how am I doing, I always tell them I’m always good. So that’s my standard response and my feeling for 2021. I’m actually feeling very positive. I think all of us have come out a lot stronger from 2020.”

‘Cautiously optimistic’

Theo Adamson

For Theo Adamson, a British expat in Dubai, 2021 is about being “cautiously optimistic”. The 38-year-old former freelancer said the pandemic gave him “time to reflect”, leading to his decision to start a business, called Formulate Creative, together with another partner, Dan Brown. “As a freelancer, I was working long hours and all the pressure was on myself to deliver. It’s always been an ambition of mine to start my own business. So it was sort of a natural transition from a freelancer to a small branding and design agency … It might be the worst time to do it, or it might be the best time to do it. But if I never do it, I’ll never know,” added Adamson.

“Everyone’s talking about being freelancers nowadays, but there’s another side to it, where you start as a freelancer and hopefully you develop and grow into a company and as this happens, you can obviously support the bounce-back of the economy.”

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