10 mistakes expats make when moving to Dubai

Moving to Dubai for work is a big step. It means getting used to a new culture, new working practices and building a new social network. Expat life in Dubai can be quite different to life at home in the UK.
We have put together a series of practical top tips to help you avoid the most common expatriate mistakes.

Read your employment contract

Read the terms and conditions of your new employment contract carefully and double-check any clauses you’re not sure of. Labour laws differ from country to country, so you can’t assume the same freedoms as in the UK as standard. For example, if you want to swap jobs while in Dubai, what is the notice period? Don’t get caught in a ‘limited’ contract, as one professional worker found out in this article for The Telegraph.

Avoid the ‘Dubai Stone’

The Dubai Stone is a term commonly used to describe the weight put on by expatriates when they first move to Dubai. The indulgent lifestyle and a preference for eating out at luxury restaurants certainly contribute to this. It’s easy to lose track of a previously good healthy diet and exercise regime after relocation.

Buck the brunch trend

Brunch is a big thing in Dubai. Many expatriates will get caught up in ‘going to brunch’ every single weekend. But there is so much more to do in Dubai, especially if you are moving to the UAE with children. Mix up your social calendar and don’t get stuck in a rut.

Don’t get lazy

In Dubai, you can get almost everything delivered to your home. From your weekly shop to gourmet restaurant-standard foods, there’s no need to leave the house. You can get your personal trainer to come directly to your home too. It’s easy to fall into the trap, but try and get out and do things in person. It makes it much easier to meet new people and build a network.

Socialise outside your business circle

Dubai is a very diverse city. If you network only with the people you work with, you are missing out on socialising with like-minded others. Join clubs, go to the gym or take part in expatriate meetups to widen your social circle. It will make your time in Dubai far more enjoyable and varied.

Prepare before getting a taxi

Taxi drivers in Dubai don’t always have GPS in their cars. If you’re going to be using the taxi system a lot, you need to know where you’re going. The road system is complicated and if you get a newer taxi driver, you’re going to be leading the way. Also, get to know the shift system – many drivers change shift at the same time leading to a taxi shortage just when you need one.

Research the local culture

While the UAE is culturally diverse, Dubai is an Islamic Emirate so you need to be aware of the laws and customs. Make sure you respect the dress code and only drink alcohol in permitted venues. Know when Ramadan is and understand that food and drink cannot be consumed in public during the fasting hours.

It’s a small world

Dubai is a small, close-knit community. You will inevitably run into the same people again and again, in a way that isn’t common in a European city like London. Many expatriates find this disconcerting, but you soon get used to the familiar faces and places.

Don’t over invite guests

When you first talk about relocating to a new country, your family and friends from the UK will understandably want to come and visit at the first opportunity. Don’t pack in too many visitors for your first few months. It will take you time to get settled and learn your way around. You, and they, will have a much better experience if they visit when you are comfortable in your new home.

Know your location

Before you commit to an apartment or home in a particular area, do your research. You might find the perfect place to live, but check what the transportation is like, whether you will need your own car, how close it is to amenities, etc. You don’t want to be stuck on a rental contract only to find that when you move there, it’s not right for you or your family.
Cadogan Tate has a lot of experience when it comes to moving to Dubai. We can help you with all aspects of packing, unpacking, shipping and logistics for your international move. Contact us to find out more.