The 16th of November 2017 marks a year since my move from Malaysia to the United Arab Emirates happened. It’s been an incredible year to say the least, filled with many new experiences and many new insights into myself as a person and life in general. Over the past year I’ve experienced moments of heartbreaking sadness and moments of unrivaled joy. I’ve met people who in their own words “have tattooed their names in my life” and said goodbye to many who have been bedrocks in my life prior. But thus is the experience of life I guess, highs and lows galore with many a lesson in between.
What started out as a leap into the unknown has now become the constant norm. Skyscrapers and sand as far as the eyes can see are now my daily sight, when just a year ago skyscrapers, rain and trees where my scene. But after having said all that the most common question I still get asked is “how’s it like living in Dubai?” And I thought rather than giving a summary of my past year, why not try to paint a picture for people about what it is like living in Dubai. So in case you ever have the urge to relocate here then at least you kind of have an idea what you are in for.
Now there are numerous blogs that tackle the idea of life in Dubai so am going to stray a little from their model of “oh you need this many dirhams to survive” etc. and am going to tackle the challenges with regards to living and not with regards to making a living. There is also something that I need to clear up, Dubai is not a country in and of itself. Its a state in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in fact its not even the capital of UAE, the capital is actually Abu Dhabi. Dubai just happens to be the most known.
So on that note, one of the first things I noticed when I came here was how grand everything was. Huge buildings, malls, roads and houses. And don’t get me started on the cars, am not much of a car person myself but it’s safe to say I’ve seen every car that’s ever been made. But that’s the common theme here, grandeur. Lots and lots of grandeur. Without using too many words there is a heavy emphasis on the external. So that tends to impress a lot of people when they come here.
The other thing I quickly noticed was the diversity in nationalities of people living here. Particularly in Dubai you are more likely to bump into a foreigner than you are into a local. And this provides a unique challenge, particularly at work whereby you are placed in positions where you have to interact and work together with all these varying cultures, backgrounds and nationalities. Something that I very much enjoy to be fair, but definitely takes some getting used to.
As far as the locals themselves are concerned, of the many I have met and interacted with, they are extremely polite and respectful in their dealings with others. Contrary to most outside impressions that middle eastern Arabs are all rich, stuck up and arrogant I would say that very few of them come off as that and are usually very humble, even if they just pulled up in a Bentley.
So since the ratio of locals to foreigners in UAE is so small, statistically less than 15% of the population is local, as a foreigner you can quote-on-quote work almost any job given that its legal. That is something that is contrasting to many other countries where the population of locals far outweighs that of foreigners and so opportunities are limited for foreigners in those countries. Now the downside of this is that it creates tremendous competition for employment. And with the attractive salaries that are often provided here you have people flooding in from all over the world trying to get a taste of some A-rab money. Also Dubai is very much a regional hub with many major international companies having their regional offices here resulting in a pretty healthy job market.
In addition to that life is extremely busy here, as is the case with most metropolitan cities. Everyone seems to be in a rush to get somewhere or busy doing something. Aside from that comes the aspect of entertainment, to balance out things perhaps. There never seems to be a dull weekend (even weekday sometimes), where there is nothing big happening in Dubai. Be it a famous celebrity that’s in town or some international event or some fair, concert or roadshow that’s taking place. There’s always something happening, you just have to keep your eyes peeled out for it. That and of course all the ever present theme parks, shopping centers and tourist spots makes living in Dubai very eventful for lack of a better term.
From a financial point of view, the country is expensive with regards to certain things and cheap with regards to other things. In Dubai particularly, accommodation is ridiculously expensive and most people shy away from living in the city itself and live towards the outskirts and commute in to work everyday. The state of Sharjah is the closest to Dubai and actually a lot of people live there and commute to Dubai as rent is a lot cheaper there. But hey cars are cheap 🙂
The final thing I want to talk about is religion. UAE (Dubai) is an Islamic country (state), there’s mosques everywhere and the adthan is heard nearly everywhere too even in shopping malls and airports. But I think what they’ve managed to get spot on was that it’s controlled and moderate. You are free to dress how you like (with certain obvious restrictions of course), if you are not Muslim alcohol is available. Basically it eventually works its way back to you. What you believe in and how you wish to lead your life. No compulsion what so ever.
Of course there are numerous other things I could add but if you have made this far along in the article then you deserve a cookie, haha! Also most of the above stems from my own experience of things and by no means is statutory law, and your experience might be better or worse depending on your circumstances. What I can tell you however is that one year in and I couldn’t be happier to be honest, thank god for that. And I would definitely recommend experiencing life here in Dubai to anyone.
Lets just hope year two is better.
God bless and stay happy 🙂