One of my followers on my Instagram asked me a few nights ago whether I could write a helpful post on this topic – I’ve since been inundated with messages from people saying they are moving to Dubai this year / next and would love to know more. I’ve also had a fair few messages asking for a blog on the best brunches and restaurants to visit whilst on holiday in Dubai, so that’ll be coming up soon!
Lesson number 1 though, please always get in touch with me if there’s anything you’re super confused / interested / fascinated with and you want me to shed some light on. Second, it seems a lot of people are moving here that mutually follow me so might be a good idea to get in touch with each other below in the comments and start the friend hunt sooner rather than later?! It’s certainly one of the more trickier parts…
Fortunately, there’s very few of them :)
Get in touch with me at any of these places;
My blog – comment below
I’m going to focus this blog on things I would have wanted to know when I first moved here; from accommodation, work opportunities, making friends, prices, weather, life hacks and generally how I find it and of course, would I recommend it! If I’ve missed anything out, shoot me a comment below and I’ll get back to you! Most of what I’m going to say is comparing Dubai to the UK, as that’s all I know, but I hope it helps everyone is some way.
1. Lifestyle and Expat living
First things first, Dubai is full of expats so you will never be in short supply of someone from your home country. Most of my friends are British, but there’s also a strong Aussie crowd, as well as many others! One thing that blew me away when I first came out here is that everyone is happy & willing to start new friendships. Imagine your current friend group at home – if you were facebooked by a long, distant friend of a friend asking to go for dinner, you may not be so quick to say yes. Here, it’s a different story; everyone has been through that tough initial phase of not knowing many people (or no-one in my case) and so are super reciprocating which makes life a lot easier.
The lifestyle in Dubai is rather incredible I must admit. I never thought I’d move away from home but being based here for 4 years now has made me realize how big our world is, and in so many ways, how it seems sacrilege to not experience more than just the country we were born in. When the weather is good (realistically talking October to early May), you’ll be hard pushed to not know anyone doing a Friday brunch, a boat party, a day in the sun at one of the many hotels that accept day passes, or a weekend of camping, a staycation to Abu Dhabi, horse riding in the desert or BBQ’s at home (one of my favorite). Then you also have that incredible plus of being within a short distance to breath-taking places like the Maldives and Seychelles (under 4 hours), and even slightly further afield like Bali and Thailand which don’t seem unreasonable to go for just 3 or 4 nights. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing in March..
The big killer? Well of course that is being so far away from family and friends. It’s not easy and you can’t take that for granted. The flip side is you’ll be in a place that many people want to visit so getting guests over never seems to be too tricky! Be prepared that that can be hard however, I would say it’s affected some of my old relationships back home because life moves on without you and it’s hard to be totally involved in someone’s life over Skype and FaceTime…
Okay so this massively varies depending on what job you’re coming out with, and crudely, how much money you’re going to be earning! Most expats that come here that are on a salary of around 12,000-15,000 per month will be going for JBR residences or Marina. That’s where I started too, and it’s a really great location to be in; close to the beach, very expat concentrated, surrounded by shops and restaurants and easy access to a lot of the office based jobs. Dubizzle is the website I used when I first arrived to try and find a flat share. You’ll be looking at paying between 4,000 AED – 5,000 AED for a room, depending where you are in the Marina or JBR.
It’s also worth noting that people are moving around all the time so if you do know anyone, it’s well worth putting the feelers out there to see if someone knows of a room going.
If you are a family or have a bit more spend and looking for a larger place, then I would recommend either City Walk and Downtown (more for singles / couples without children) or if you are a family, the Palm / Springs / Meadows / Greens. The Palm actually works well for both categories.
I’m personally in the Springs (Springs 1 & 2 are the slightly larger villas) and I absolutely love it. We have a small garden and the villas are great sizes and well located. If we had more to spend – I would be moving to the Meadows or Greens, though.
3. Living Costs & The Tax-Free Environment
I can’t lie, the living costs out here are pretty expensive! Rent wise, it’s actually very similar to London and you’ll get a bigger apartment and likely substantially more modern with similar money so that’s good. However, F&B prices take some time to get used to! It costs a small fortune, to be polite about it! As Dubai is a Muslim country, alcohol is incredibly expensive; the cheapest bottle of wine at any given restaurant will start from £30/£40 and food in general is pricey too … especially the fine-dining restaurants. Day brunches are anywhere from £50 – £100 a head and even supermarkets are at least 1.5X the price of UK supermarkets. The cost of importing I guess!
However, you do live income-tax free which is incredible and can make a massive difference. It also makes moving back to the UK pretty hard when you know what will be lost! You just have to make sure that you put a savings plan in place otherwise you’ll see no benefit of living tax free, and all your money will disappear on expensive restaurants, wine, and living the high life! One other thing to mention, I think a lot of companies have pension schemes operating differently here to that of the UK at least. For example, in Jack’s company – there is no pension scheme at all where as in London all the guys and girls are getting that contribution. So yes it’s tax free here, which I believe outweighs the lack of pension, but still something to consider and talk to future employers about?
4. Job Opportunities
If there’s one thing I’ve learned and cherished about Dubai, it’s that if you have the determination and passion, your career can leap miles ahead of what I call ‘standard time’. It’s a transient place, where opportunity is abundant, so I’ve seen many friends move up to incredible positions where they themselves admit wouldn’t have happened if they were still in the UK.
In terms of working for yourself, you do need to be on a visa so make sure you think about that if planning on coming out as a freelancer.
5. Health & Fitness
The health and fitness scene is growing here steadily but surely. Healthy restaurants and food are not nearly as readily available as places like London/US/Australia but we’re working on it and the Dubai Government have big plans to transform that part of the city which is super exciting! The fitness scene is actually pretty good I must admit, there are tonnes of classes of all shapes and sizes and personal trainers galore to keep you on top of things! I am more than happy to help recommend these too, or if you’d like to see an individual blog post about that, comment below please!
My Vegan friends – it’s available but it’s not as easy, especially when it comes to eating out. I have friends that are vegan and cope absolutely fine but as far as choices go, compared to some other countries, it is slightly ‘newer’ here let’s just say.
Yes, the summer months are bloody hot but you won’t die! You will just spend most of your life in aircon rooms/offices/restaurants etc. It’s not pleasant but certainly survivable – just not a time to sunbathe or head to the sea as it’s way too hot! Realistically, it gets more uncomfortably hot and humid from May until end of September, with July and August being the worst.
For the rest of time, it’s a dream. I can’t tell you the difference it makes to my overall mood for the day when I wake up to clear blue skies and sun shining. Evenings can be spent with sunset drinks and morning runs need no more than a pair of shorts and a tank. It really is an incredible benefit and something that will put me off moving back to London. I feel like everyone should have a chance to experience that kind of weather ‘freedom’ at some point in their lives.
Is that weird?
7. Does it Feel Like Home?
Honestly … not home-home. Not yet for me anyway … and I don’t believe it ever truly will. Dubai will be the place that gave me the platform to change so much in my life for the better and it’s not a decision I have ever regretted. But in my opinion, home is where your family are and whilst I have Jack here and I’ve made some close friends, Skype simply doesn’t cut it for the rest of the people I love. In addition, you are a guest in someone elses country, something you need to respect whilst you’re here. Although Dubai makes life very easy for expats, it still can sometimes be a little nerve-wracking knowing that if anything were to go wrong, you are under different laws to what you’ve grown up with, many of which are significantly stricter here.
8. Which Schools to Choose?
I wasn’t going to include this topic as it’s obviously not one I’ve had much experience with, but a mum coming to Dubai asked for some advice and I put it out to you guys who were amazing with your feedback! I’ve received tons of helpful suggestions which is why this section is now here :) Schools are obviously going to be tricky to recommend as a lot of it is down to personal preference / location and fees but I’m going to list the below ones which came up the most times through all my responses from both parents and teachers in Dubai. Please note; if a school isn’t on here it donesn’t mean to say it’s not one of the best – I have literally just taken the top 5 as a tally of most mentioned but please do share more below if you have them.
There was also one great comment to say that because of the diversity of all the above, there’s a helpful website called www.WhichScoolAdvisor.com which in her own words could “save a lot of pain” so I hope that helps! I was also told about the KHDA which regularly assesses schools so another good port of call.
Otherwise, the five most popular suggestions for schools in Dubai were;
I hope this post has helped shed some light on the questions many of my readers have sent in, and if there’s anything I haven’t covered, please comment below and I’ll be more than happy to help fill in the blanks!