To many Filipinos, the opportunities and inconveniences of working abroad is a challenge already accepted as part of the package being called an overseas Filipino worker (OFW). To us living and working abroad has become a lifestyle widely accepted in Philippine society. Schoolkids of those working abroad can be seen as well-off, sporting brand-new shoes, paying tuition fees on time and parents of OFWs living in their newly-built homes can be a source of envy among neighbors.
On the other side of the planet, Filipinos toiling hard dealing with a combination of homesickness, boredom and weariness. But as the notion of going abroad took off, many Filipinos abroad gather together to work and build communities. Take for example Dubai, where 450,000 of the estimated 700,000 Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates live, accounting for more than 20% of the total population of Dubai. Filipino shops can easily be found,
Filipinos in Dubai play an important role in rebuilding their homeland 7,200 kilometers away. In 2007, they sent more than US$500 million worth of remittances.
Like any other cities, Dubai has its share of heaven and hell to migrant workers, all of whom come here in search for greener pastures. The good side of Dubai, often preached by both opportunistic real estate agents and genuinely contented expats while disgruntled workers with bad employers or those unwilling to respect its decency laws — relatively mild in the Gulf Cooperation Council region — enumerate its bad side. Which ones you choose, it’s all up to you.
Great things about living and working in Dubai
- Dubai is culturally diverse. Expats from both East and West converge in the city and calling it a melting pot of different cultures seems like a cliche already. Here you’ll learn more about the world and meet friends and acquaintances who will join you in the struggle to fit into the society and acclimatize the culture that looks so foreign to them.
- In Dubai, there’s no dull moment. There’s plenty of things to do, diverse type of food to eat, interesting places to visit you’ll have lots of things in mind to do when you’re off from work.
- The quality and attention to detail is impeccable. Gifted artisans, skilled planners and hardworking labor force make Dubai what it is now. It colors your view of the world and sets standard you’ll often compare with other places.
- The hot weather can be a good thing. While we all complain about how the extreme temperatures of Dubai, and all other Middle Eastern cities, toast us, almost every indoor venue is cooled. While folks in North America and Europe freeze for a seizable amount of time, Dubai offers a world of alternatives that you can simply enjoy al fresco atmosphere aided by the ever relieving air conditioner.
- Dubai is a land of opportunities. All walks of life — from banker to bartender — see Dubai as a land of opportunity. No wonder many Filipinos claim to be tourists at immigration counters when the truth behind traveling to Dubai is to land decent job with bigger pay than back home. Did we say Dubai is tax-free so whatever is your salary is all yours!
Worst things about living and working in Dubai
- Racism and discrimination is strife. Based on color of your skin or passport you carry, you could either be pampered well or experience hardships and unfair treatment. Landlords may have their reasons but Filipinos are often singled out, unable to find decent place to live even if they can afford to rent them.
- Cost of living is outrageous. There’s a good reason why Dubai is tax-free; tax payment can easily be eaten up by excessive rent, school fees, outdoor dining and other daily expenses if an expat is not careful.
- The road can be hazardous. Dubai (and Abu Dhabi) drivers are notorious for texting or emailing while on the road, which contributes to the road being among the most dangerous in the globe.
- The changes in the law. Just as the city can’t stand still, so are its laws. At one end, you’ll learn that new laws empower landlords to demand excessive rental raises or that the government relaxed ownership restrictions of foreigners. No wonder one has to be updated with just about everything in the news. And it pays to have a compassionate employer to deal with changes.
- Integration is imaginary. Even when other metropolitan cities have embraced integration in society, life in Dubai seems temporary, living in transience. You don’t learn the language because it’s both international and there’s no need to, even when you proclaim Dubai is home.