Florian Akinbiyi (36) – a Bavarian in Dubai
“I was born and raised in Bad Tölz, in deepest Bavaria,” relates Florian. This is where he grew up – without his father, who originally came from Nigeria and has now been living in London for more than 30 years. “I was always slightly different within this environment. It goes without saying that I was an altar boy and a member of the church choir, and when I look back at old articles from the local Bad Tölz newspaper, I obviously stand out as a person of color among all those Bavarian faces. And I think this was one of the things that motivated me to go abroad.”
The 36-year-old has been living in the United Arab Emirates for seven years, working as a freelance event manager. “Over the years, I have handled pretty much every kind of event, including a lot of B2B conferences for the automotive industry. The idea was for moderation to be one of a number of sources of income for me – but it’s a difficult job to make plans with,”, he explains. “I therefore began to coach people to make them better speakers, and I’m currently building this up into a business.”
How does someone end up working in this industry? “For me, it was more of an accident than a plan – but that’s fairly typical of my life,” says Florian, who first worked as a dishwasher at a water park at the age of 15, where he was soon organizing his first events like surf contests and summer events. At the same time, he was helping to create a snowboard park in a local recreational area with a small ski resort. As a result, he had garnered a great deal of experience by the age of 20 – and already had his own event agency in Bad Tölz.
Dubai: “A crazy city – you either love it or you hate it.”
In 2010, a communications agency gave him the opportunity to move to Dubai. “They asked me on the Sunday, and on the Thursday I was already flying to Dubai,” he says, laughing. According to Florian, Dubai is “a crazy city – you either love it or you hate it. A lot of it is artificial. It’s a city built in the desert, after all.” But Florian is perfectly happy living in this city of four million, on the 49th story of a skyscraper together with his wife Alexandra, who comes from South Tyrol. And what he and his wife like especially is the sea views.
„Go with the Flo“
“Go with the Flo” appears at the end of Florian’s e-mails – and his everyday life appears to have gone with the flow of this high-tech city in the desert, too: “I try to get up early to meditate. I don’t have a office – I don’t need one.” Florian simply works everywhere. “My wife often complains that I’m always doing something in the evening: an event, nurturing connections, networking. And I obviously don’t want to miss out on sport either: fitness, kickboxing – that kind of thing. Which leaves me with one evening a week to relax on the couch – and before you know it a week has gone!”
“We obviously enjoy the luxury of it all, but we keep our feet firmly on the ground!”
Is there not a risk of losing yourself in superficiality in this city that feels rather artificial? Dubai is highly diverse and is a city of extremes, Florian explains: “Nowhere in the world will you see as many supercars as you do here. But Dubai isn’t just about affluence: you can also enjoy a meal for two at an Indian restaurant for just five euros.” Florian and his wife have remained down to earth in spite of having lived here for years: “We both come from totally normal homes. We obviously enjoy the luxury of it all, but we keep our feet firmly on the ground. If we find ourselves back in Germany some time, we will be taking the subway to get around, rather than a car!”
„Everyone deserves respect.“
“I learned a lot from my mother. From an early age, I was taught to be there for others, to help, and to treat people with respect. And this is something that’s especially noticeable: the poor Indians and Pakistanis aren’t shown any respect. This really bothers me, and I always try to say something nice to them.”
Florian visits Germany two to four times a year, and doesn’t suffer from homesickness. “I like being back home, but I always knew I wanted to go abroad. There’s no guarantee that we will stay and grow old here – but we are enjoying it for the moment.” Did Florian always have such a clear idea of what he wanted? “Yes, I would say so – but it sometimes took me a while to find my way ...”
“For me, these shoes are a piece of home when I’m far away.”
Florian and Birkenstocks? He can no longer remember exactly when he first came across the shoes. “They have simply always been around,” he says, laughing. “I bought some when I was 15 and working at that swimming pool as a dishwasher. We were required to wear sandals, so I chose Birkenstocks. And I have had them ever since. They’re classics – especially if you grew up in Germany.” He has the Arizona model, and still wears them today, including and in particular in Dubai. And he knows precisely why: “For me, these shoes are always a piece of home when I’m far away.”