Dubai, United Arab Emirates Report of what it's like to live there - 07/30/13
Personal Experiences from Dubai, United Arab Emirates
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No- previous postings to Vienna, Austria and Cairo, Egypt.
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?
Washington, DC. Direct flight on United or Emirates about 14 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
Recently completed one year out of a two year assignment.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Foreign Service Officer.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There is a diverse housing pool for U.S. government employes assigned to the Consulate. It is a mix of apartments and villas with yards. Most people are very happy with their housing assignments. Commutes vary from 10 minutes to one hour.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
All goods are available in Dubai. 15 percent more expensive than in the U.S.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Saltine crackers. Good hot sauce and BBQ sauce. An outdoor grill (overpriced here).
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Every chain that you could imagine is in Dubai. 15 percent more expensive than in the U.S.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Some ants and sand fleas.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO (U.S. government mail system) is very slow. 4-6 weeks for packages. 6-8 weeks for letters.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Easily found. Affordable. Mostly ladies from the Philippines and India. Many exact families have live-in help and most apartments and villas will have a maids quarters.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Tons! This is a gym culture for sure. Everyone wants to look fit at the clubs.
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?
Easy. All over.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Tons! Do a google search and you will find them.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Tons of options.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None! Do not bother learning more than a few phrases of Arabic. You will not use it. Farsi or Hindi are more useful for everyday life. I really don't know why there are Arabic designated jobs in Dubai.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
None. Good public transportation with wheelchair access. Clean, modern streets and sidewalks. Building with ramps, etc.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Safe and affordable metro. Safe and relatively affordable taxis.
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?
A lot of people buy when they arrive in order to have a car with Gulf specs that can tolerate the heat and sand. SUVs and luxury sedans are king.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. See comments of telephone providers.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Ugh. Super annoying monopoly by two partly government owned companies - Du and Etisalat. Both are expensive and Skype is blocked.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Good and easily available.
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?
Yes. Banks, PR Firms, schools, international companies, etc.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Similar to DC. More conservative during Ramadan.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None. I mean it. This is a very safe city. It is often called "Middle East light."
Any crime, no matter its size, is taken very seriously and often leads to deportations. However, the criminal code is very different than most Western nations. Alcohol, sex outside of marriage, and insults to government officials are very serious offenses.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Great facilities and western trained doctors and nurses.
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?
Beautiful from October to April. Sand storms and humid, thick, hot air in the summer.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
See above. It is really really hot in the summers - 43 Celsius or 115 Fahrenheit on a regular basis. You can't breathe in that kind of heat. It severely limits outdoor activity in the summer and can be claustrophobic at times. Most expats that can escape in the summer.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge. 85 to 90 percent expats.
2. Morale among expats:
Great for most : ) Low among laborers and household help. Many labor abuses reported in Dubai.
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?
American women should definitely look into the American Women's Associationin Dubai. It is a great place to meet other female expats!
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a good city for all people. Families live in tight knit residential communities with pools and rec centers for easy gathering and entertaining. Singles have access to a vibrant expat community of young (20 and 30 somethings) from all over the world to meet and mingle with. The bar and club and music scenes are huge in Dubai. Couples have great restaurants, concerts, representational events... You name it and you can find it in Dubai. The social scene feels like Las Vegas without the gambling or NYCwithout the added cultural benefits of the boroughs and East Village.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Not so much. There is an underground scene here but there is not a lot of diversity. Most of the community consists of 20 something Emirates flight attendants. Great for casual flings but not for real connections and romance (this applies to the gay and straight dating scenes in Dubai ).
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes. Similar gender issues in Dubai as the rest of the Gulf. Very few female Emiratis in management positions in the workforce.
People of African or South Asian heritage will find strong prejudice in the community. Jobs are listed by cultural heritage or nationality rather than qualification in the classified sections (ie wanted- Arab woman to fill publishing position in top firm OR for hire- woman from the Philippines seeks secretary job).
All religions are free to worship in Dubai but proselytizing is against the law.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
I have really enjoyed living in a diverse city. There are expats in Dubai from all over the world. This means that the restaurants are diverse and offer high quality cuisine from all over the world. There are opportunities to meet new people everywhere. Worship services are dynamic.
Cultural excursions to the desert or to traditional Bedouin homes during Ramadan are enlightening. However, there are very few opportunities to interact with Emiraties or engage with the local culture.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Diving in Musandam, Oman. Day trip to mountains of Hatta. Weekend in Abu Dhabi. Kayaking in the mangroves in Fujeirah. Art museums in Sharjah. Desert camping in Al Ain.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Local? Camel milk chocolate.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Dubai has one of the world's largest and busiest airport. There are direct flights to pretty much anyone you would like to go. Cheap flights on FlyDubai.
The weather is beautiful 7 months out of the year and there are lovely beaches in Dubai and within a few hours' drive time.
Desert camping, yacht parties, active pub culture, vibrant expat community.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Preconceived notions of the Middle East. Winter clothes.
3. But don't forget your:
Money! This is an expensive city to live in.