• Article
  • 23 Nov 2017

Living as an Expat in the UAE

Living as an Expat in the UAE.jpg + Listing Image

So you’re considering a move to the UAE or you’ve secured a job … but that’s just the first step!

“What’s the culture like? Is it safe? Where can I live?”

These are all questions every expat will think to themselves, it may be a daunting prospect to some or an exciting challenge for others!

To give you some background and some confidence before reading this article, I am a Recruitment Consultant specialising in placing Aerospace and Defence Engineers out in the UAE. OK …. Maybe the “Recruitment Consultant” in that sentence was a poor choice of words; but don’t leave yet! I’ve been working on Aerospace and Defence Engineering positions in this region for more than a year now and I have visited the UAE to see my clients and candidates numerous times, which has set me up to prepare them for life in the UAE and in turn, to write this article! [Good save?]

One of the first questions I get when someone is interested in the prospect of moving to the UAE, is the culture.

”What is it like?”

The UAE is an Arab country and predominantly Muslim. Islam is the basis of the UAE’s culture, political system and way of life but at the same time it is very multicultural and welcoming of other religions.

The best example I can give about this, is from my first visit, I had no idea what to expect and I was very conscious not to offend anyone. A UAE National from one of my clients was the first person I met with, we had a great conversation about business during the day and then he invited me out for a dinner locally, later in the evening. [Amazing! This has went well, I didn’t offend anyone; but surely a local dinner is setting me up for a massive cultural fail?]

Not at all, we had dinner, he welcomed any questions I had about the culture in the UAE [plenty] and we shared stories about our cultures and homes!

The truth is, it is very hard to offend people in the UAE, but you could end up embarrassing yourself if you don’t know the etiquette.

Here are my top tips I took away to avoid embarrassment if you’re visiting:

Don’t offer to shake the hand of a local woman, unless she offers you first. This one can get awkward, you might stand there for a few seconds before you realise.
Don’t eat in public during Ramadan, everyone is understandably hungry. To be ‘Hangry’ is a real emotion, do I need to say more?
If you’re unsure just ask! Everyone is open to teaching and learning about other cultures, it’s the best way forward.

“Is it safe?”

This is a very common question and the answer is: Yes, completely. But I found some surprising statistics from gulfnews.com naming Abu Dhabi as the safest city in the world followed closely by Basel in Switzerland. You could argue this is a biased source, but I needed to squeeze a picture into the article to space things out …

“Where can I live?”

I wanted to speak about this specifically as there are some myths about UAE visa’s restricting where you can live in the region.

The UAE is built up of 7 emirates: Abu Dhabi (the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain. The two emirates that are most commonly known, are Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The myth lies in having a Dubai VISA vs an Abu Dhabi VISA; if you have an Abu Dhabi VISA you are not able to have a living address in Dubai and vice versa – I can confirm this is not true.

You can live where you like and your VISA will not restrict this.

“But where is best to live?”

Now this is completely personal preference and I can only give my view on what each area is like…

The best analogy I was told, is this:

In the UAE, Dubai is like New York City and Abu Dhabi is like Washington DC.

And I completely agree! Dubai is a huge, busy and densely populated city with everything going on, whereas Abu Dhabi is a bit quieter and spread out, more of a relaxed city. Outside of this you have smaller suburbs, such as Al Ain which is more suited to family living with Private Schools and lots to do.

This is just a few of my tips and experiences, but I am interested to hear from anyone else and if you think anything should be added!

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