Expat life in Dubai

When Europe is going economically not well, its young and restless citizens are trying to find out new places to live. Asia continues to be an attraction, and most recently, New Zealand and Australia are becoming a good hub for anyone looking for rest or good salaries. Many take the risks of living in the middle of a completely new culture and move to places as Dubai. A couple of weeks ago I had a long discussion with my old friend from Berlin who decided to move with her husband to Dubai, after giving up the difficult fight for badly paid jobs. Now, they are happy, living in a big house and working hard but for a nice salary. After a couple of hours of long talk, C. explained me what does it mean to live in such a place.

Health insurance

For Europeans, health insurance is very important. In Dubai, one may pay around 3,400$ the year. In case that one wants to give birth to a local hospital, the price may be around 6-7,000 $. One single consultation costs around $700.

However, if you give birth in the Emirates, the citizenship is not automatically assigned and living for a long time in the Kingdom is not a guarantee that one may receive the citizenship. Hence, there are people living there for 40 years and still not officially welcomed as full citizens.  Another restriction is related to the possibility of buying properties in the Kingdom, that cannot be done without the direct approval of the sheik.  And the prices are getting higher and higher each month. The residence can be obtained if you can prove you have a ‘sponsor’ – someone able to pay your expenses – or a clear contract with a company. If a woman wants to enrol to a driving school, she needs to bring a written agreement of the husband that he agrees with such activities, even though the couple is not local. However, women can go alone on the street, I was told.

The good local doctors from the private hospitals are educated abroad and they are familiar not only with the English language, but also with the general requirements of the foreign patients. English is the universal language and many foreigners do not need to learn the local Arabic for doing well in life. If one may address a local hospital, much cheaper, he or she should be ready to have a translator as English is not spoken always at this level.

As anywhere, the knowledge of the local language is an open door for better jobs and positions. The most sought jobs for the moment are in the are in the domain of media/advertising and film industry in general, oil, constructions, architecture, interior design, engineering and medical services. If you are a fashion designer, you have a bright future, as the customers are very sophisticated and looking for high-end products.  The tourism is another sector bringing profit, with many Russian and rich East Europeans visiting the kingdom for shopping and showing off.  Many tourism companies offer tours outside Dubai, including in Oman.

Why is considered Dubai a ‘paradise’ of expats?

The nightmare of anyone living in the West are taxes. In Dubai, you don’t need to pay it, but one should cover all the usual expenses that otherwise are supported by various social contributions. There are no children allowances and many expat mothers don’t take maternity leave because afraid of losing their jobs. American-style with some special Middle East flavours, isn’t it? Working from home is very usual here too, so there it is not so difficult to deal with various family obligations.

A basic salary can be of 5,000$ the month, but for many it is not enough and  in many cases, a second job is a necessity. Many locals gather a lot of debts but once the year the sheik in his generosity will pardon all and thus, they are ready to start a fresh new year of debts.

In Dubai, there are two categories of expats: the ‘Westerners’, mostly from US, UK or Germany who are well paid and spend their life from a party to another, dancing salsa and resting in the lounges, and the poor people from China, India, Philippines, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries that are hard working for a modest pay living under harsh life and professional conditions, receiving no more than 7,000$ the year. They live out in the sand under slave-like conditions.

For the hard working expats – many of them working more than the local rich families – life in Dubai can be full of parties and distractions. Compared with Abu Dhabi, for instance, the ‘modesty’ rules are less strict even though if one dares to wear hot pants in town may need to pay a harsh penalty. Some companies hiring foreigners may have their own dress code rules, requiring long skirts, but if the companies are 90% made up of expats, the rules are more loose. Billboards in public spaces outline the modesty rules, but in the private clubs money rules. The most difficult time of the year for expats is during the Ramadan, when they need to hide water and food during the days, against the high temperatures outside.

As in many other countries in the area, Internet is filtered and many sites – not only those with explicit adult content – are blocked.

An advantage that was outlined by many expats living there was the possibility of home delivery for everything, including McDonald’s. Thus, you can better work without asking at least one hour for your lunch break.

Most locals are using the cabs or their personal cars. There are buses, but during the summer are not recommended. The subway looks elegant and it is relatively cheap – 1-1.5 $, but it is not a prestigious social statement to use it.

A lot of glamour and glittering and the possibility to live in your special bubble: this is why many foreigners will decide to relocate to Dubai. It is like doing window shopping every day and enjoying the feeling of living in a place where you will never fully belong!


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