Expat Guide for working and living in Abu Dhabi

Moving to the Abu Dhabi means embracing a whole new way of life. The culture is very different to the UK, though there are Western influences intermingled with more traditional values.
If you’re relocating to this north-eastern part of the Arabian Gulf for work, our essential expat guide for working and living in Abu Dhabi gives you some key information about what it’s like to live and work in the emirate as an expatriate.

Geography and climate

The city of Abu Dhabi itself is located on an island off the mainland. It’s easily accessible via two bridges and its surrounding coastline is simply stunning. The rest of the emirate has borders with Oman, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, which makes it a bustling hub of the UAE. It offers some of the best work opportunities in the UAE.
Coming from the UK, one of the biggest adjustments to make is getting used to the warmer climate. In summer, it’s not unusual for the mercury to hit 40°C or higher. Even in the ‘cooler’ months, it rarely drops below 15°C and there is little rainfall. There are other weather condition to consider too, such as sandstorms, which can often whip up out of nowhere.
There are many other islands around the Abu Dhabi coastline that are worth visiting. Each of the main islands has its own personality and feel. For example, Dalma Island is perfect for history lovers who want to make the 26-mile hop to visit the Dalma Museum. One of the best-known islands is Yas Island, which is a little easier to access given it’s possible to drive there, and is a growing tourist destination.
It’s almost impossible to live without a car in Abu Dhabi. Whether you opt to ship your own when you relocate, or you buy one in the UAE, it makes your commute to work much easier. Public transportation is efficient and accessible within the city boundaries itself, but far more minimal in the outlying residential areas.

Culture and lifestyle

The culture of Abu Dhabi is very much steeped in tradition. The Islamic country has impressive and ornate mosques that attract both worshippers and interested visitors alike. You can find traditional street markets and bazaars sitting alongside ultramodern shopping centres with Western brand names – a typical but appealing clash of old and new, East and West, that Abu Dhabi does so well.
Abu Dhabi is a thoroughly modern and cosmopolitan city, with a good infrastructure and high-end facilities. However, expatriates need to remain aware of its more conservative rules, which are prevalent in society. Wearing the correct dress and consuming alcohol only in licensed venues, for example, can take a small manner of adjustment from Western norms. The same applies within the business world. While there is largely no language barrier to worry about, there may be cultural practices that need to be adhered to and respected.
More than 80% of the current population of Abu Dhabi is made up of expatriates, from all over the world. This makes for a fantastic and interesting cultural mix, which is a large part of the emirate’s appeal.
This is reflected in the exceptionally wide range of food available. No matter what cuisine you’re craving, there will be a restaurant to suit your requirements. The same goes for entertainment – most tastes are catered for. Saayidat Island, for example, has been undergoing a huge transformation to make it a cultural hub for the emirate. Art lovers can enjoy the Louvre Abu Dhabi or, hopefully at some point in the future when its development is complete, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, Emirates Palace, a luxury hotel, hosts a series of high-profile concerts and events.
If you’re moving to Abu Dhabi, find out how Cadogan Tate’s removals services can help you with your relocation.