Expat guide to working and living in Dubai

If luxury living, modern architecture and excellent career prospects are high on the agenda, the city and emirate of Dubai is a good expat location of choice for those moving to the United Arab Emirates.
It’s the most populous city in the region, located right on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf offering stunning views across crystal clear waters. The vast majority of residents are expats and migrant workers, meaning that the city has developed a real multi-cultural vibe, with a good mix of solo travellers and families. The thriving metropolis has been attracting large numbers of expatriates for many years, its tax-free living being a real boon for those who want to experience a better way of life.

Working in Dubai

There are a lot of multinational businesses based in Dubai, given its good location for trading in the Middle East and strong economy. There is a heavy reliance on professional and skilled expatriates to fill job roles, as the native population is so small.
Across the United Arab Emirates, both wage growth and career progression are high and Dubai is no exception. While the region is known for its roots in the oil industry, the majority of business now is outside of this field, in banking, finance, tourism, communications, construction and more. It has also continued to grow its economy despite the global downturn, which it weathered better than most.
Business is generally straightforward, but it’s important to be aware of Arab culture and its particular rules and regulations when working with local companies. While English is widely spoken, Arabic is the official language, so some documents may require translation. International companies tend to operate in much the same way as in their country of origin, which can make for a seamless transition. One thing to get used to is a shift in the working week; Sunday is the first day of the week and the weekend falls over Friday and Saturday.
Most expatriates will enter Dubai with a firm job offer and a relocation package, which will deal with the relevant visas for the worker and any family that are also moving.

Living the life

It’s not all work in Dubai; there is a fantastic quality of life on offer too. Everything from schooling to healthcare, and infrastructure to public amenities is considered world-class. This is reassuring for those moving as a family unit, particularly with young children.
There are many international schools to choose from, which follow the British curriculum. These can be very expensive however, and it is not as common as it used to be to have education included as part of a benefits package, so it’s a cost that needs to be addressed from the outset. There is a good home schooling network among current expats too, which is a viable option for many families, particularly those who are in the country on shorter-term contracts.
Often, expat communities stick together in Dubai, but it’s worth getting out and meeting the local population too. It’s a great way to find out about good places to visit or eat, as well as for networking and building personal relationships. There are some cultural and religious customs to observe, such as modest dress in public areas, for example.
The cost of accommodation can be high, but there are a lot of different options, so it is worth hunting in the various areas of the city for the right property. Many expats in Dubai live within complexes that have shared facilities and this is a good way to start to build a community.
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Information correct at the time of publication.