The UAE is a popular destination for Britons – but what’s life really like there? Annabel Kantaria, a long-term expat in Dubai, has some advice:
You may not have as much spare cash as you think
Yes the words “tax-free salary” look good on paper but, unless your company’s kind enough to pay your rent and school fees, start-up costs can be debilitating.
Rent has to be paid annually, usually in one or two cheques, and schools usually require a year’s worth of postdated cheques in advance of your child starting.
Throw in the purchase of a car or two and a bit of new furniture, and many expats begin their UAE life in debt. A word of warning: according to Dubai Police, 42 per cent of inmates in Dubai Central Jail are there for failing to repay bank loans.
There will be a fair amount of red tape
While Dubai’s Smart Government initiatives have streamlined many once-laborious procedures, there are still some things you can’t do online. Not a lot can be done without the holy grail of the residence visa, and this involves a visit to an approved health clinic for a blood test every three years. Once it’s granted, you can open a bank account, rent a home, buy a car, put your children in school, and acquire an alcohol licence.
It’s OK to drink alcohol
Just make sure you have your liquor licence which is available to residents and costs AED 170 (£31). It’s also important to keep yourself out of any alcohol-related trouble, and never, ever drink and drive: the UAE has a zero tolerance policy.
Camel racing at Al Marmoum camel track Photo: Annabel Kantaria
It’s not as restrictive as the papers make out
However, neither is it the Marbella of the Middle East, so a certain standard of behaviour is expected. Cover up from shoulders to knees in public places, don’t swear, don’t make rude hand gestures, don’t pick fights, save your intimate moments for behind closed doors and live within your means and you should manage to stay out of jail.
It’s a great place for women to live
Yes, there are frustrations, especially pertaining to the sponsorship system that requires married women to obtain permission from their husband (sponsor) to do things such as buy a car, open a bank account or take out a credit card.
But women are traditionally the backbone of UAE society and, as such, enjoy a level of respect here that may supersede that which they get back home.
The beaches are a huge bonus Photo: Annabel Kantaria
You’ll have a better quality of life
Forget the sunny weather, the beaches and the wealth of incredible experiences available on your doorstep, expats responding to the annual HSBC Expat Explorer survey continually rank Dubai highly for safety and security, quality of education, quality of childcare services, quality of life and quality of health care.
It helps to learn the language
Chances are, you’ll never have to speak a word of Arabic. However, learning a few key phrases may open doors that otherwise seemed closed, and learning the language in depth could well give your career here a turbo boost.
There’s more to Dubai than shiny buildings
There is history, tradition and culture by the bucket load. Make a start by wandering through the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood down by Dubai Creek, or taking a drive out to the camel races at the Al Marmoum track.
Photo: Annabel Kantaria
You may stay longer than planned
If I had a dirham every time I met an expat who “came for two years” but has stayed for 10, I’d be writing this from a sprawling ranch in California while browsing apartments in Monte Carlo.
Be it the pink velvet light of the sunrises, the haunting sound of the dusk call to prayer, or the warmth of the people you meet, there’s something about the UAE that gets under your skin and makes you never want to leave.
But you can’t stay forever
As the law currently stands, it becomes increasingly difficult for expats over the age of 60 to gain a residence visa.
True, there are loopholes that can be exploited to extend your stay indefinitely but, be honest, would you really want to be one of a minority of expat OAPs living in a city of young, ambitious upstarts? via dailytelegarph.co.uk