Dubai, United Arab Emirates Report of what it's like to live there - 01/30/11

Personal Experiences from Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates 01/30/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Have also lived in various UK cities

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Perth, Australia. Very easy, direct flights to Perth with Emirates or flying through various Asian hubs.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Educator

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is mostly apartments, but villas are available. The range and quality of apartments varies wildly. Commuting within Dubai is pretty easy and usually not to long, traffic can be pretty bad in peak hour, there are often accidents.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get everything for a price. Fresh food does not last long and can even be starting to turn before you get it home. Prices vary, you can get cheaper options in local supermarkets or the more western supermarkets have everything that's familiar but it costs more. Products are not always readily avialable and some things can just disappear of shelves for months inexplicably before you see them again.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing. You can get it all here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Food quality and price can vary wildly. There are some truly fantastic restaurants here which are very expensive. There are also many cheaper options which are excellent. Lots of places home deliver (including all the big name fast food joints). Pretty much any type of food you fancy is available here. Alcohol is expensive.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

It's all available but for a price. The carbon footprint of this city is very poor, but you can buy organic food from nearly anywhere in the world if you desire it.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None to worry about in the city

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Use your company's PO Box. There is no home delivery service. Depending on who collects your mail it can be pretty safe. I've had a number of things never arrive. I would not recommend you get things which are valuable sent to you here.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very readily avialabe and inexpensive. You can hire for all sorts of positions.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are everywhere. Most apartments buildings will have a gym for tennants to use. If you want to be active there are lots of opportunities.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Plenty abound. Easy to use

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. There are a number of Christian churches around the city. There are also places for many other religions. Being Jewish in this city in highly inadvisable.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, quite a few English-language papers and news stations. Some very good ones which have intersting alternative views to mainstream western media outlets. Some free to air TV stations. Quite a few differnt packages are avialable for satellite TV.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is the main language of Dubai. I've learnt some Arabic but there are very few people to practice on. If you speak English you'll be fine.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are cheap and readily available. There are good buses around which are clean and safe. The metro is pretty good but has limited access and stops which make it less useful than other forms of public transport.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Cars need to be able to handle the extreme heat. The aircon systems in cars need to be gulf certified. Any kind of car is fine in this city, though you'd probably want something with extra safety features as accidents occur regularly.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, depending on the speed you want, you can get packaged easily for about 200 dhs a month on average.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Two phone companies- Etisalat and Du. Both owned by the same parent company. Both can be frustrating. Some numbers cannot be dialled from Du phones with ease.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

It is avialable but there are not many options. Pets are not as common here as in other places.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Definitely. You can earn very good money in this city.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Be conscious of the local culture. Women should have their shoulders, cleavage and knees covered, but you can get away without being covered, though it could cause problems if you work with Arabs. When going out for the night, you can wear what you would in any other country.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No, probably the safest city I've ever been in. You can leave your car running with the keys while you run into the petrol station for 10 mins. A very safe city. As a woman sometimes you might be mistaken for a prostitute but that's easily solved by ignoring them. I feel very safe as a single woman.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care varies greatly. There is a culture of fear amongst the medical fraternity here, it seems they get sued easily, so if you go to the doctor you're likely to have far too many tests that you don't really need.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Generally good. We get a lot of sandy days where the city is covered with haze, but, as someone who does suffer with hayfever and asthma, it's not too bad. I've not had any problems.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very, very hot in Summer. You really can't be outside for too long. Sadly, the aircon inside malls and offices is usually far too cold so you jump from one extreme to another. A cardigan or pashmina is a must all year round. Winter is very pleasant.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

A huge variety. Most schools are run for profit and that can mean some bad educational decisions. Depends on what type of school your're looking for, there is a huge range, but they can be pricy. Don't assume that most expensive equals the best. That is not true at all.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Depends entirely on the school. Do your research into this one very carefully if you have children with special needs. Many schools will say they care about special needs but the provision is poor.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Friends with children find daycare pretty easily. Many of my friends hire live-in nannies for little expense. Sadly, most of the children I teach are raised by nannies, maids or drivers.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, there are lots of things for kids to do too. As above.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge- Dubai is 85% expat. Mostly other Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis and Fillipinos. However, there is a good sampling of all nationalities in this city.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies depending on your social circle. It's easy to forget you're living in an Arab country at times and I hear many people complain it's not like their home countries, but that's because it is the Middle East. Take it for what it is and it's all good.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is a lot to do, especially if you like bars and clubs. Good options for dinner and the champagne brunch is a Dubai tradition. Plenty of other social and sporting clubs are avialable too.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's great for all. It can be a very superficial souless city, so if you're looking for real connections with people, it can be difficult to find. Having said that I have made some very close wonderful friends here. Dating is very difficult- a lot of superficial, transient people make for great flings but poor relationships.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

A surprisingly large and active gay scene. Gay friends of mine have a great time here but it is more hidden as it is illegal. Though Arabs can have a funny interpretation of what it means to be gay.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

You are definitly judged and paid according to your nationality. If you are Arab or Western it can be very easy, but it's heart breaking to see how other nationalities will be treated, especially Indian and Pakistani workers. Gender issues can be problematic. Women need to be aware that this is a conservative country underneath all the glitz. It can be easy to forget that and cause offense. Arabs prefer to deal with people of their own gender, which can make getting things done difficult at times. It's always handy to have a friend of the opposite gender along if communcation becomes problematic.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Best social life I've had. There are always things to do and places to go. It is a very busy and exciting city. Travel opportunities abound.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Heading out into the desert camping or wadi bashing is a lot of fun and you can do it in small groups rather than pay a tour company. Lots of sporting options through duplays. Always clubs and bars to head to. Abu Dhabi is an hour's drive and there is lots going on down there too.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Arab foods are great.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Dubai is becoming a significant travel hub, very easy to travel to Asia, Africa, Europe and of course around the Middle East from here. Weather is great between late October to early May. Lots of sunshine and bright days. Very pleasant. It can be easy to save money here as long as you don't succumb to the lavish expat life style which is very easy to do.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, depending on how you choose to live your life.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes definitly. Though I'd be a lot more picky about my employer.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

ideas that the Middle East is unsafe. Dubai is a very very safe country. No need for coats or jumpers either.

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3. But don't forget your:

designer clothes and accessories. Seems that labels make this city go around.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

City of Life- a recent film by a local Emirati really does sum up the experiences in this city.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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