Living in the UAE: 11 Things to Know Before You Move
So you have received a job offer that involves relocating to UAE, or you’re thinking about moving and opening a business in Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Well heads up, because you’re about to embark on a unique adventure and experience, in one of the most sought-after destinations in the world, both as a holiday destination and as a global business hub.
Living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can be a great experience on many levels. A cosmopolitan country with a large mix of nationalities, a reputation for it’s love for everything lavish, and year-round sunny weather, this country has a lot to offer.
If you can secure a good job with a decent salary, or start a profitable business, and you’re able to navigate yourself through the cultural shock , then be ready to enjoy what the UAE has to offer.
However, moving to a new location will always have an “adapting curve” until you get used to the new environment and culture, in this post we go over the top 11 things to know before moving to the UAE.
1. How many emirates are there?
The UAE was founded in 1971, by the merger of seven emirates into one country, right after the british stopped protecting the region. The two most famous emirates are Abu Dhabi – which is the state capital and most populated emirate – and Dubai, the global trade hub, and one of the fanciest cities in the world.
Abu Dhabi has the biggest economy of all 7 emirates, with a GDP of $249 billion. That’s more than the combined GDP of Kuwait, Morocco and Lebanon.
Dubai comes second with a GDP of $106 billion, however for many it tops Abu Dhabi in the wow factor, with some of the most magnificent architectural wonders man has ever made, such as Burj Khalifa - the world’s tallest skyscraper - and Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall in the world.
While life in Abu Dhabi and Dubai will never let you get bored, the other emirates are also worth exploring as well – not least for their highly Instagrammable landscapes. There’s Ajman, which is mostly an agricultural region, and there is Fujaira, an emirate with beautiful countryside and mountains.
2. The Cost of Living is Considerably High
Living in the UAE isn’t cheap, in fact Dubai is one of the most expensive cities in the world when it comes to cost of living. For example, the average cost of a three-bedroom flat in Abu Dhabi or Dubai is around $2600 a month, and similarly, you will find prices of everyday commodities to be higher than their counterparts in many western countries.
If you’re coming from a big city with a high cost of living like New York or London, then you’re already prepared for these sort of prices. However, make sure to do the math and see how your salary is going to match your desired lifestyle.
3. The Work Week is Sunday to Friday
Unlike the traditional Monday to Friday work week in western countries, here the weekend is Friday and Saturday, with Friday being a holy day for Muslims.
A popular weekend tradition for expats is the famous Friday brunch, which is nothing like any other brunch you’ve been to. These brunches usually consist of an enormous 5 star buffet, available to you for a fixed fee, Including everything from steaks and shrimp cocktails to truffles and macaroons.
4. It’s a Very Safe Country to Live in
According to The Global Peace Index, Living in the UAE is safer than living in the USA or France, it also has the second lowest crime rate globally. According to reports issued by the UAE government, the rate of premeditated murders is 0.3 per 100,000 people, leading local police officials to call the UAE “the safest country worldwide”.
5. 0% Tax on Income
Yes, you read that right! there are absolutely no income taxes on residents or expats. The only tax applicable in UAE is 5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on most products and services, but other than that anything you earn is yours to keep.
6. You Don’t Need to Learn Arabic
As with any other country, If you pick up a few terms and words from the local language, then you’ll find it easier to communicate with locals, and the same applies here with Arabic. However, English is almost like the second national language in UAE, due to the sheer number of expats in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
7- Majority of residents are expats
According to the United Nations (UN) statistics, more that 88% of the population in UAE are expats, which translates into a unique mix of nationalities and cultures, therefore you will never feel alone as an expat, especially if you’re from the UK or US, as there are over 120,000 residents from the UK, and 50,000 from the US.
There are also large communities from all around Europe, in addition to India and the Philippines.
8. Being Late Is The Norm
If you’re used to being punctual with time, then it’s OK to dial it down a little in UAE, because people are used to being late to meetings all the time, it’s not only accepted, but is also generally expected, so try to keep that in mind to avoid frustration.
9. Ramadan Is Observed and It Will Affect You
Since UAE is a Muslim country, Ramadan, the month-long Muslim religious event, is observed. During Ramadan people must abstain from eating, drinking or smoking from dawn to dusk. Most Muslim countries have regulations affecting businesses during that month, for example work hours are usually reduced, many restaurants remain closed until sunset, and most bars will be closed for the whole month.
10. Being Respectful of the Local Culture Is Important
Because Dubai is one of the most advanced cities in the world, it can often be easy to forget that the local culture is very different. It’s important to respect the culture throughout your time here. Bear in mind that during your first few weeks you’ll be woken up by the call to prayer and that people take time off work to pray. It’s also common for people to go to work wearing the national dress.
11. Weather Can Get too Hot During the Summer
If you’re used to sunny weather and hot summers then this may sound like nothing you can’t handle, but remember that summer temperatures in Dubai can go as high as 50 °C (122 °F). And even though you will find that most of your life will be spent in air conditioned areas, it's those little outdoor moments in-between - like walking back home from the nearest bus station - that will make you realise that there is such a thing as too hot.