Why a Keralite nurse eschewed prospects in UK to embrace searing heat of Dubai

'Nurses working in the Gulf should think twice before grabbing seemingly lucrative offers from Europe and America.' Representative Image: Dimple Bhati/istockphoto.com

After the Covid struck, there was an exodus of nurses to Canada, the US, and Europe, seeking better pay. Now, it seems these nurses, most of whom spent many years in the Gulf, are finding it difficult to adjust to their lives in these Western nations.

And they are seeking ways to find placements in the Gulf. Most of these nursing professionals had grabbed lucrative offers in Western countries as the shortage of nurses in these countries suddenly exposed the public health systems there post-pandemic.
But though employment offers were lucrative, many of them found it difficult to adjust to the living conditions there, after just spending one or two years in these places.

Nurses working in the Gulf should think twice before grabbing seemingly lucrative offers from Europe and America, a professional who also did a stint in the UK before returning again to the Gulf says. The Thrissur native speaks to ManoramaOnline about her experiences in the UK and the Gulf.

Embracing the searing heat
Many people give up their decent employment in the Gulf and land in the UK, as they toe their spouses, who are nursing professionals who get lucrative employment offers in Western nations, where there is an acute shortage of nurses. There they end up doing jobs that involve heavy physical exertion.

Then they try to get placements in the US. Many such people now ask the Thrissur native nurse why she is not pursuing such a professional line. She said she had tried enough of such forays after many advised her it would be better to get out of Dubai.

Even now, many of her friends are pursuing the UK-US route, which she despises. It is still a trend, she admits. If you have kids in these countries, then your expenses will skyrocket, she points out. Most of these nurses pursue a career in these countries solely from the prism of better financial prospects. But what happens is that they end up in faraway countries, injecting in them a feeling that they are too far away from their native places, unlike in places like Dubai, which is just a five-hour flight journey from Kerala.

Her husband’s brothers are in London now and they call regularly, unlike when they were in Dubai, she says, underscoring the feelings of Keralite expats in European nations, the US and Canada. When they were in Dubai, they never had free time to make such courtesy calls, but in these places, the only thing you can do is to pick up the phone and call your near and dear ones. But you just can’t call people in your native place too often as they would also be busy with their household chores.

So when they reached Sheffield in South Yorkshire, all of her husband's brothers and their families were happy. They started meeting at family get-togethers often and visited their other relatives in the UK also. This is because of the intense loneliness people living in such places are subjected to, says she. A sense of longing for your dear and near will seep into your veins.
In the Gulf, this is not the case– there is a visible Malayali culture here in Dubai and other Emirates. That is why just a day after the couple returned to Dubai, we even forgot the place where we stayed in Sheffield.

Despite being in the UK, we never participated in the local festivities. But when we started life in the UK, we began to feel our intense bond with Dubai. When I told my friend that I am taking back my husband and returning to the Gulf, she asked me how life was there.
The Thrissur native confessed to her she just “loved the simmering heat of the Gulf.” That was because the sub-zero temperatures in the UK were unbearable, she says.

Water woes
The lack of water in toilets is another issue that was a nagging worry for the couple. They just could not adjust to what they termed “the tissue culture” for obvious reasons. The frequent sweeping changes in climate in the UK have also been a dampener. If she had stayed in the UK some more time, she could have adjusted to the conditions. But she had no intention of staying there.

Sheffield, the place where they stayed in the UK, is a hilly region. Her husband found it more difficult to adjust to the conditions. Though she was a talkative person, he gradually withdrew to a shell and was seen mostly sitting alone. It was a difficult sight for her. That made the couple decide unanimously that they had to go back to Dubai.

Going ahead with determination
The nurse in question had to overcome giant odds to complete the BSc Nursing course. She could not even take care of her kids properly in the two years she was in the UK, says she. She could come back to Dubai and apply for fresh employment only because of her nursing degree, without which their lives would have hit a downward spiral.

Her husband prompted her to just give it a try. And she succeeded in that endeavour. She says everyone should take up the challenges posed by life. Some situations will groom us to be able to tackle such challenges head-on. After returning to the UAE, she applied for employment in many institutions. She expected her experience to come in handy at this juncture. And it did happen, as she landed a job at a premier hospital. If that didn't happen, they had planned to go back to Kerala. Her hubby is also able to actively pursue a career of his choice.

She hails from a family that values their motherland and holds it in high regard. Perhaps that was why she missed her native place a lot during her UK stint. Perhaps that is also the reason why she cried while watching a scene in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum in which Kajol bursts into tears while the National Anthem is played. 

She despises the line of thinking of some people “who want their kids to utter English” as soon as they are born. They think that is a status symbol.

Her kids were happy in the UK, and they got attracted to the English way of life. However, kids are expected to pursue independent lives as soon as they turn 18 in the UK. A relative’s son proudly told her he was getting into his teens next year and would be going away from home.
But there are many Malayali families in which the kids stay back with their parents even after they become majors.

Positive vibes
She recollects the story of the family of a nurse who came to the UK which she saw on YouTube. Her husband and kids also followed her to the UK, but they left for their native place after realising that they couldn’t adjust to life there. The woman, who also had a nursing degree like her, also left her job. The Thrissur native thinks hers is a similar story, as she also felt a bit odd at first after she reached the UK. She did enjoy the initial three months with her friends in the UK, but slowly she realised that the vibe was somehow missing.

Many people who land in the UK take up jobs in warehouses. It was a tough job, considering the working conditions, and many people had fallen into the depths of depression. So she decided she was not taking up such opportunities.

Realisation dawns
She says we all pass through such lowly phases in life. We had a sense of getting back our vibe when we reached the UAE again. Not only those who reach the UK from the UAE, but those who directly land there also seem to be unable to deal with the living conditions there.  However, a nurse in Kerala, especially in the private sector, earns only Rs 25K per month. Perhaps, you may be able to get that much as daily wages in the UK. And may be that is why many people continue to live and work in the UK, despite facing hardships.

But, there are Malayali professionals in the UK who consider the UAE as a better place to live and work. “They ask us why we left the UAE and landed here, she said. At the same time, many in the UAE also wondered why we returned. We are not dejected or disappointed by these issues. One thing needs to be noted. Whatever decision we take, there is some merit in a rethink,” she points out a profound learning in her life on two continents far way from her native place.

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