Most expats moving to the UAE head for Dubai and Abu Dhabi taking advantage of the free trading zone and great lifestyle and amenities.
The UAE’s subtropical-arid climate means winters are a balmy 30°C whilst summer temperatures can exceed 40°C. Thankfully many of the modern buildings are equipped with air conditioning, making life more comfortable.
Religious traditions are an essential aspect of life in the UAE that expats have to adhere to, including a different etiquette, modest dress and certain limitations in their daily lives. This is especially so during the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, resulting in reduced office hours, closed restaurants and other daily disruptions.
A slower pace of life, extensions and postponements are often a normal part of work-life in the UAE especially during Ramadan, hence working in the UAE can require some patience.
Living in the UAE, especially Dubai, comes at a price. Rents, in line with the standard of living, are high, and it is common to pay one year’s rent in advance for unfurnished housing. That said, groceries, transport, utilities and of course petrol, are quite reasonably priced when compared to other expat destinations.
Driving in the UAE can be a hazardous and frustrating experience. Dubai has a bus and metro system and taxis are relatively cheap and easy to find. Car hire is available using certain international licenses. In order to drive anything other than a hire car, you must have a valid UAE driving license which is available to some international licence holders without an additional test. It is essential that you obey and respect the laws of the UAE when driving.
Although alcohol can be bought and consumed in the majority of the Emirates, it should be remembered that, as an Islamic country, the UAE has strict alcohol sale and consumption laws. Non Muslims are allowed to drink in licensed bars and restaurants. However, it is illegal to buy, transport or keep alcohol at home without an alcohol license which allows non-Muslims to buy alcohol from special licensed retail outlets only. The license entitles you to purchase a prescribed amount of alcohol per month and can only be used in other emirates to that in which it has been issued. The emirate of Sharjah does not permit the sale or purchase of alcohol within its borders.
There is always something to do in the UAE which has an abundance of activities, events, services and facilities to cater for everyone. Due to the climate, expats can enjoy the outdoors for the majority of the year.
The souqs (traditional markets) allow expats to experience what life in the UAE used to be like as many of them have been preserved in their original state.
Expats can dress as they wish within certain limits. For men, just about anything goes. Shorts and flip flops are acceptable, however, keep your top on until you reach the beach. Women should refrain from wearing anything too revealing. Indian and Pakistani men, in particular, have a tendency to stare at women and make no attempt at disguising this. Expat women do not have to wear the traditional dress worn by local women, the abaya (long light material black dress/cloak covering the entire body) or the veil if they do not wish to.
When it comes to schools expats have a variety of different private schools to choose from. There are approximately 150 private schools; some purport to offer a curriculum based on a particular country. Some present themselves according to the dominant language and still, others emphasize religious teachings. The fees for private schooling range as widely as the types of schools available. Due to shortages and competitive admission, it’s important to start the enrolment process as early as possible.
Westerners find the UAE to be an extremely safe environment where crime and theft are rarities.