Survivors Guide to Expat Life in Dubai!

Recently my husband and I found ourselves discussing our pros and cons since moving abroad. A fellow expat once described that living in the UAE IS LIKE you have two buckets. One bucket full of money and one bucket full of s**t!

You leave when one of those buckets are full.

At first we laughed, because it isn’t too far from the truth, there’s a lot of s**t that gets thrown your way when you first arrive in Dubai. I can’t count the number of times we wanted to throw in the towel and leave.

To be honest my first year wasn’t easy. I was pregnant for 9 months of it and essentially a new mother of 2 under 15 months ! What a whirl wind. You try hibernating at 7 months pregnant because it’s 50 degrees outside and you can barely move from the amount of swelling. Pregnancy aside, moving to a new country and essentially starting again isn’t a walk in the park for anyone.

The job which brought us here ended up being an absolute nightmare for my husband. This happens a lot, you really do get sold the dream when businesses tell you about all the opportunities and financial gains of moving to a country that is tax free. We slept on the idea of moving to Dubai for 2 whole years before we actually decided to make the move. And I suggest you do that same. So I’ve come up with 6 tips, with the help of my other and sometimes better half, on how to survive moving to the UAE!

1. Do your research!

Get your Google skills out and do some homework. You want to be prepared on absolutely anything that may be thrown your way, from Visa laws, rules pertaining to living arrangements if your single, in a de-facto relationship or married. The UAE requires an abundance of documents which all need attestation and certification from the embassy in your home country, this includes university degrees and marriage / birth certificates. Trust me have it done before you arrive, as you’ll be paying through the nose to have those things sorted out from here.

2. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

After my year of mourning Melbourne, I realized I wasn’t going to survive life abroad unless I got out there and started to meet people. I used Instagram to my advantage and connected with a number of incredible woman, whom I am now blessed to call friends. These woman were where I was once upon a time, some of them full-time mothers to young children who quit their careers and followed their husbands abroad, while others were full time professionals, and others entrepreneurs, starting up their own busiensses. All with one thing in common, they were all away from family, away from their homes and know just how daunting the first few years of settling into a new country can be. It’s safe to say I’ve made more meaningful relationships and friendships via social media in Dubai at the age of 30, then I probably ever have in my life. Get out there, it’s an incredibly social town!

3. Hang in there !

Processes especially arranging your VISA can be a headache. If your company or partners company has as an administrator that’ll pretty much so it all for you and all you need to do is show up to your medical then you’re laughing, the rest is a walk in the park. However not all companies have such smooth processes in place and may expect you to do all the leg work. The UAE has strict laws on not granting VISAs to anyone who has had TB, or are HEP A,B or C, and HIV positive. Best to get these things checked in your home country.

4. Don’t delude yourself – it’s HOT!

Prepare yourself for the heat! Summers are looooooong, humid and hotttttt! Like in many cold parts of the world where people hibernate during the winter, well in Dubai most of us hibernate in the summer time or escape it all together. If your not traveling abroad or visiting home, you’re stuck at home, work or inside shopping malls which have the AC on full blast! Prepare for some skin dryness and getting a cold a little more often then not, because no ones immune system likes air-conditioning 24 hours a day unfortunately.

5. Budget, and spend wisely!

Many come to Dubai with dollar signs in their eyes. But beware Dubai is by no means not a “cheap” country to live in. It is in fact probably one of the most expensive places in the world to live. From rent, to lifestyle, Dubai can really suck you into it’s glitz and glam. There’s nothing you can’t get or do in Dubai, and if your a sucker for luxury, you’ll find yourself in some of the most luxurious and extravagant places on earth. Most landlords expect annual rent to be paid in 1-4 cheques. Unfortunately there is no monthly rent in Dubai, and you’re looking about spending anywhere between 90-150,000 DHMS a year on rent depending on where you choose to live and how many bedrooms you’re after.

If you’re moving abroad with a young family make sure you consider the cost of schooling for the little ones. if it’s not included in your companies employment contract you’re looking at anywhere between 20 – 50,000 DHMS annually to get your little ones education.

6. Don’t believe everything you hear!

Unless it’s coming from an ex expat whose lived in the UAE, don’t believe everything you hear! Dubai is an extremely multiculturally diverse country and incredibly tolerant and respectful of its non-Islamic expat community! Yes it’s Islamic, and yes certain things just aren’t going to cut it here but be smart. You’re not going to be thrown into jail for dropping the f-bomb in public, but you may get a few looks if your behaving like a lewd moron and yes you may even get Ted pulled up on it by police. Respect the laws of the land, no overt PDAS in public, no drunken or aggressive disorderly behavior in public either. Only licensed venues serve alcohol (at a pricey cost); the party scene is actually quite big here, I like to call it the Ibiza of the Middle East to be honest, so if that’s your thing, then you’ll have no dramas here!

City Walk – Dubai

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