Dubai, a name synonymous with modern life yet retains its Arabic identity. As a place that hosts millions of migrant workers, it sure has provided plenty of opportunities for many foreigners in the emirate.
Every city has its beautiful and ugly sides, and anybody’s fit depends on tolerance and personal preference. For example, its high-rise skyscrapers look more western than any typical Arabic city, but we are also reminded of priorities in this Arab emirate — calls to prayer occurs five times daily.
So let’s countdown the advantages and disadvantages of living in Dubai.
What expats love about Dubai
1. Despite under Muslim rule, Dubai tolerates other religions
Such is the beauty of living in this place if you belong to faith other than Islam. Although proselytising will not be tolerated, practicing other religions is allowed.
2. Dubai is an expat-friendly city
With majority of population not born in the UAE, it’s a city that cater to the needs of many expats. You can find expat enclaves, multicultural offerings in food, and a cultural melting pot. This means you can always find someone from your country, or someone who share similar interests.
3. There are plenty of housing options
Depending on your budget and housing standards, there is a big real estate market targeting the expat population, many of whom prefer to rent properties for short- to medium-term. Plenty of such properties are offered in high-rise towers or serviced villas with good facilities, furnished interiors and breathtaking views.
4. Plenty of opportunities for professionals
As a city the continue to innovate, human resource requirements continue to be available across multiple fields. Certain fields such as construction, healthcare, information technology and finance have been continuously looking for competent professionals. Opportunities are also available for blue-collar jobs in both full-time and part-time capacity.
5. English is widely spoken
Even if Arabic is the official language for both verbal and written communications, English is widely spoken so meeting new friends — whose common spoken language is English — from across different parts of the world. This means it is easy to do grocery, ordering food and engaging other activities.
6. Adequate public services
Public transport is well established. The Dubai Metro is a clean, reliable and affordable way to move around the city. Along many of these stations, there is a system of feeder buses offered at most of the major stations. Blessed by influx of medical professionals, many of whom come from the Philippines, healthcare system is also well-established.
What expats might not like about Dubai
1. Cultural adjustments not familiar at home
The call to prayer five times a day can mean that non-Muslims may have to wait a bit to continue their business until Muslims return from prayer. Also, during the holy month of Ramadan work slows to a crawl and most restaurants will be closed during the day or serve a limited menu. No alcohol will be served until the fast is broken at sunset.
2. Apartment rents may need to be paid annually and up front
While this arrangements leave a resident not to worry about paying the rent for the next 12 months, and some employers make advance payments deductible to an employee’s monthly salary, it could also mean lack of attention from owners or agents to handle cases such as maintenance issues and an absentee owner’s failure to pay residential obligations mean restrictions of using certain facilities in the housing estate.
3. Emiratization means not all expats get jobs their skills fit
The nationalization of certain jobs — providing Emiratis more employment opportunities in the private sector — has gained traction over the past years. It has not only restricted employment of non-Emiratis but also makes it not usual for a qualified foreign professional to work under a less qualified Emirati boss.
4. It takes a long time to get things done
Paperwork may take longer than usual. Applying for your resident or work visas, opening bank accounts or mobile phone subscriptions may have to go through Dubai bureaucracy. Some documents are in Arabic and need translations back and forth that expats need to get a certified and reliable translation companies.
5. Summers can be hazardous to health
Extreme temperature during summer season can be very unpleasant to newcomers.
6. Driving can be difficult for newcomers
Newcomers will always need to adjust to a new city. This applies to getting around the local culture, driving around, and familiarizing street signs and traffic laws. Dubai, unfortunately has this problem where driving can be difficult and erratic. Not all streets are clearly marked and directions are given in landmarks. Making the wrong turn can take you back half an hour to get to the right direction.
7. Not all healthcare providers are reliable
As good as bigger, more established providers provide excellent service, smaller clinics and outlying hospitals don’t offer the same peace of mind. Perhaps language problem or inexperienced staff, but it pays to get treatments from the reliable providers.