Few destinations can claim international appeal for expats quite like Dubai.
It is one of the world’s true melting pots, and that’s not just the blistering heat of the Arabian desert talking. Dubai has become a global city known for its low taxes, excellent financial services and booming tourism industry.
It’s difficult to stare up at the astonishing skyline, to stand in the shadow of the towering Burj Khalifa… and not feel slightly in awe of your surroundings.
Skyscrapers and desert might make for great holiday snaps.
But expats generally need something more that holiday snaps to commit to a life in a foreign city, especially one in a culture as foreign as the UAE.
(We can hear our fellow Brits quaking in their boots at those booze laws…)
Is Dubai a good place for expats to live?
Expat Life in Dubai
Note: We have a complete guide to moving to Dubai which goes in to considerable detail on the logistics. This post is designed to address some of your questions.
One of the first things you need to understand about living in the UAE is that, for most people, there is no such thing as a permanent home in Dubai.
It is said that British expat life in Dubai consists of ‘ships passing in the night’.
Lots of people move here for a year, or two, or maybe five, but the reasons are typically business related.
- A job offer
- Transfer to an overseas office
- Higher salary for the same job than you’d get in the UK
Of course, it’s not just British expats making these career moves.
The massive financial service industry draws in bright minds from all over Europe, Asia and beyond. What these expats tend to have in common is that they will mostly stick to their own circles of friends.
There is precious little in the way of cultural integration.
That is partly down to Dubai being an expat paradise in the first place.
It’s estimated that over 80% of the population was born outside the UAE.
A staggeringly high percentage.
While you will find no shortage of fellow westerners here, from our experience, very few of them see Dubai as their long-term home. Dubai can thus feel transient.
The impermanence of city life is magnified by social circles that come and go as surely as a work contract ends.
Are There Jobs in Dubai for British Expats?
If there wasn’t, what else do you think we’d be doing here?!
Dubai is a fortress of expensive luxury concrete in the middle of a desert.
This is not the sort of place you’ll find half-plastered Brits venturing on gap years, unemployed, unkept, and undressed to the nines in Elephant pants.
Bangkok, it ain’t.
The majority of expats are here to work, many of them having transferred overseas within their multinational companies.
Popular industries for British expats in Dubai include:
- Legal services
There are areas of significant growth in the healthcare, hospitality and tourism industries.
Healthcare work, in particular, is considered a ‘shortage occupation’.
Note: The Dubai work day is 8 hours and the traditional working week runs from Sunday to Thursday.
Jobs in Dubai for UK Graduates
UK graduates will find no shortage of job opportunities in the UAE.
Most graduates rely on recruitment agencies, of which we can recommend three:
As a destination for young working professionals, Dubai is a great place to live. The career options are well-paid, English is the main language, and the work-life balance is generally pretty good.
Can I get work experience in Dubai?
Unfortunately, in order to get a residency work visa, a company must sponsor you for a minimum of 12 months. This reduces the scope for work experience opportunities.
There are, however, exchange programs available for students interested in studying in the UAE
Check the following resources for exchange students:
http://www.aiesec.co.uk/ — The Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales.
http://www.iaeste.org.uk/ — The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience
Teaching jobs are always popular with expats.
Good news is there is a strong demand for teachers in Dubai, and the benefits are considerable if you are qualified to make the move.
The typical salary for teaching jobs in Dubai is around 9,000 to 15,000 AED/month (£1800 to £3000). That is tax-free.
Higher administrative roles pay even more.
For some more perspective, here’s a good interview with a British expat working as a teacher in Dubai.
What’s the best way to find a job in the UAE?
A good place to start is the Bayt jobs portal.
It is the largest job site in the Middle East and has some distinguished partners, including: Samsung, Pepsi, Coca Cola and Etihad Airways.
While most expats are here because of an overseas transfer, there is still a large number who have found jobs online. A good CV is vital, but even more than that, you’ll need a hustling mindset to get out there and make things happen.
You’ve got to put yourself around if you expect to pick up a Dubai job offer from the comfort of your sofa in Stevenage.
Living in Dubai Pros and Cons
The expat lifestyle in Dubai is not for everybody.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of living in Dubai.
Opulence in every direction — Dubai is a famously lavish destination. The whole place screams of opulence, extravagance and new wealth. Many young expats are drawn here for that aspirational quality.
Full of ‘go getters’ — Some expat cities are simply glorified retirement homes for those who have slipped down the social ladder back in the UK. Dubai is a young adult’s paradise. Most people here don’t see the expat lifestyle as a downgrade, or a last chance saloon. They see it as the best time of their life. This attitude is contagious, even if it does often attach itself to vanity and greed.
Sun lover’s climate — Notice in Blighty how your house gets unbearably cold in the winter, and then unbearably hot in the summer. Dubai has no such problems. It remains bloody hot all throughout the year, with aircon installed everywhere. Hot outside, cool inside.
Expats in the same boat — This is one of the few cosmopolitan global cities where expats outnumber the natives. You certainly won’t feel like an outcast. You are almost guaranteed to meet expats in the same boat.
Difficult to settle long-term — For the reasons discussed above, most people see Dubai as a temporary home. This can lead to acute homesickness, especially if you are not particularly enjoying your day job.
Getting around is a pain — The driving is dubious and the traffic is terrible. If you thought a London traffic jam was bad, wait until you see this. Oh the mind… she shall be blown.
Very different culture — Not necessarily a bad thing, but if you cherish the British way of life, there are various customs that simply won’t translate to Dubai life under Islamic law.
Feels a little sterile — The downside to being such a new metropolis is that Dubai doesn’t have much history. It is a case of modern meets desert. If exploring London’s centuries of nooks and crannies is your thing, then you may run out of things to do in Dubai. Fast.
What do you think? Is Dubai a good place to live?
If you’re planning a move to Dubai, be sure to check out our extensive moving guide.
Let us know your thoughts and experiences below.