What's it actually like to live in the UAE?

What's it actually like to live in the UAE?

by John Richardson


Have you ever been offered a dream job in Dubai? How about that opportunity in Abu Dhabi that on paper doesn't look believable? Chances are you might have, but for some reason or another, you declined, you weren't sure of the region, the possible language barrier, how about those scare-mongering stories in the newspapers...

The idea of this article is to give you some insight, some home truths of what it's like to live here in the Middle East, the UAE and most probably in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

As an expat myself, I packed my bags and left the UK for Dubai almost 5 years ago, I've never looked back and can easily say it's one of the best decisions I've made. The weather, the potential earnings, the lifestyle and the endless opportunities is the reason I'll be staying here much longer!

So, in order for me to debunk some myths and ease some concerns, I've tried to answer some of the most frequently asked questions below:

What’s the UAE like?

The 'United Arab Emirates' or UAE as it's more commonly known lies at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, as a country, the UAE is made up of 7 states; these are Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-haimah, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, and the most recognisable being Dubai and it’s capital city Abu Dhabi.

Known mostly for its skyscrapers, amazing architecture, man-made islands and miles of sandy beaches, Dubai and Abu Dhabi has something for everyone… Like shopping? Like your food? Like travelling? Like putting your feet up and relaxing? There’s nowhere better in my opinion.

Most people don’t realise how extremely diverse and multi-cultural the UAE is, an East meets West, free to practice all religions, free to drink, socialise and generally just enjoy life, all of which with restaurants, stores and brands to give you those home comforts to make this a home away from home.

What's it like to live here?

Top international schools, quality healthcare and a social life like no other is the reason so many people relocate here and honestly struggle to ever go back (like me).

For families, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the UAE is the 2nd safest country in the world to live in, just behind Finland in the official rankings. Left your wallet or purse in a taxi or in a restaurant… you’ll be getting this back with all the contents still there, I know this from experience.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have a plethora of international schools to cater for all nationalities and curriculums, meaning that your children can easily continue their education with minimal disruption when relocating, when the kids aren't at school, there are multiple theme and water parks in the region, including Warner Bros. World and Legoland, along with numerous family-friendly beaches and parks.

Overall, there’s loads of stuff to do here, so much we can’t list it all, here’s some highlights though; nightlife – bars, clubs, restaurants, some of the best in the world! Awesome music concerts and major sporting events, over 100 shopping malls, fitness classes and sporting leagues for those fitness freaks and glorious beaches, pools and spas to relax and recharge.

Take it from me, you’ll love it here!

Is the UAE expensive?

The main attraction for most people to relocate to the UAE is that all the salaries here are income tax free! Whereas in most countries you can pay anywhere up to 50% tax on your earnings, here you keep everything you earn! On top of a tax-free salary, you’ll also be receiving private healthcare insurance and other benefits.

The UAE is often see as an expensive place to live, but according to a recent Mercer report, it has a lower cost of living than London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.

With the addition of The Entertainer, a buy-one-get-one-free app for food and entertainment, 2 for 1 cinemas tickets with most major banks and many happy hours and deals, the region can be made very affordable and allow you to save even more for your future.

Isn't rent expensive though?

It's actually getting cheaper to live here, over the last few years, we've seen a steady drop on rental prices, this is due to new buildings coming on to the market and new areas popping up around the city. But you do get more for your money when you rent here than you may first realise, as you'll most likely have a gym, swimming pool and possibly a spa in your apartment complex!

Do people speak English?

You won’t have any problems going about your daily life in the UAE as English is pretty much the first language here; from road signs to menus, everything is in English.

If you did want to say thank you in Arabic, you could just say Shukran (pronounced “Shuk-ran”) which translates to simply “thanks”, this casual thanks can be used in restaurants, shops and about everywhere else you go.

What's the weather like?

For the majority of the year, the UAE has very nice and enjoyable weather, blue skies and loads of sun, perfect for beach days and al fresco dining, during the winter months, the average temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius. The hottest months are typically July and August, when temperatures can reach the late 40s Celsius, but do not fear, everything and everywhere is air-conditioned with loads of indoor activities to choose from, such as the world’s largest indoor ski slope, the worlds largest indoor theme park and the world’s largest mall.

Here's a fact for you: The UAE holds 186 world records, with 139 held by Dubai.

Where can I travel to?

The UAE is considered a major travel hub with Dubai International Airport being the world's busiest airport in terms of international passengers, and the third busiest overall, opening the way for you to travel to all parts of the world… the Maldives – 4 hours, Bangkok – 6 hours, London – 6.5 hours and Hong Kong – 8 hours.

Let’s not forget about the local gems that’ll be on your doorstep, such as Petra, Jordan, the oases of Oman and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

These are just some of the regularly asked questions regarding the region, but myself and the team here at Discovered are more than happy to help address any others you may have, and hopefully you will take the plunge like I did!