Dubai is rapidly becoming one of the more attractive destinations for UK expats. Boasting unparalleled economic growth it is a city aflame with entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity for the enterprising. It also offers a completely different environment from the UK, scorching weather, vastly different language, religion, laws and customs.
Those willing to integrate though will find Dubai very welcoming, much more diverse than one might initially expect and much more affordable than the UK. In addition there is a thriving expat community with whom you can socialise, play sports and indulge in the favourite British pastime (aka drinking).
Myths about Dubai are prevalent in the media, but in fact you can buy alcohol in bars and specialist shops (with a liquor licence granted to non-Muslims) and you don’t have to adhere to an Islamic dress code (though there are prohibitions against ‘indecent clothing’). You can also buy pork in the western section of some supermarkets.
Why move to Dubai
Of all the changes undergone by world cities in the last few decades the most startling and dramatic have occurred in Dubai. Once a mere business hub for the oil industry, the Emirate has taken advantage of rising oil prices and businesses moving from other parts of the Middle East to massively expand its economy and explode onto the international scene.
Nowadays oil and gas revenues make up less than 7% of Dubai’s income - the city has radically diversified its economy to encompass real estate, construction, trade, financial services and tourism.
This transformation has seen the landscape and population change as much as the economic balance: Dubai skyscrapers continue to shoot up, piercing the Arabian skyline, while man-made islands create real estate and tourism opportunities; Emiratis are now a minority in their own city as foreign workers have been sucked in to sustain the boom.
Opportunities for British people emigrating to Dubai are therefore plentiful and many have taken advantage of the low crime rates, enhanced spending power and low property prices to vastly improve their quality of life.
Dubai was named the 2nd best place to live in the Middle East (behind Abu Dhabi) in a 2012 Bayt.com and YouGov survey.
Dubai has the well-earned reputation of being a haven for people looking to boost their careers. Tax-free salaries and excellent job opportunities have lured thousands of expats yearly.
Dubai’s economic boom of the previous decade seems to have dwindled somewhat in the last couple of years. However, 2017 is set to be a year that revives the industry. While sectors such as retail and hospitality has seen a bit of a recent dip, industries such as education, agricultural sciences and manufacturing have enjoyed a considerable growth.
The most sought after employees in Dubai are engineers, teachers and people who work in more creative fields such as marketing and communications.
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2016 to 2017 has proved to be a remarkably bad year for Dubai’s housing market. Overall, residential property dropped by around 9% last year. Though this isn’t great for Dubai property owners now, it does mean the prices of apartments and villas are considerably lower than they were a few years ago. This is good news for expats thinking of investing in property soon, as it means more affordable property prices.
Given the recent downfall in housing prices, it may seem that investing in Dubai’s property would be a poor business idea. Nevertheless, Dubai’s property market is predicted to improve by the end of 2017, and hopefully continue to grow.
Interesting fact: Dubai has no address system - no street numbers, no road names and no zip codes. Directions and the postal systems run on what landmarks you are near.
Healthcare for Expats
Dubai boasts a highly developed modern healthcare system for natives and expats alike. The public hospitals, free to use by citizens and expats who have a health card, provide free or highly affordable healthcare.
Many expats opt for private healthcare. One new development to the in the city-state’s private healthcare is an enormous medical unit, literally named Dubai Healthcare City. It’s a huge collection of clinics, hospitals and universities.
Comparing Dubai to London
Moving from London to Dubai will make you wonder how you ever managed to survive in a city as expensive as the UK capital. Everything from groceries to utilities are cheaper in Dubai - among the very few things you’ll find yourself paying a premium on are, understandably, alcohol and women’s fashion.
Compared to London, Dubai is generally safer and property is more affordable. The city’s roads though are highly congested so you won’t be escaping the London pollution.
Culture and nature
In cultural terms Dubai isn’t going to serve up your western staples - English language theatre, cinema (apart from the biggest Hollywood blockbusters) and live popular music will all be hard to find. If you’re willing to embrace the difference though you won’t be disappointed - the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is a good place to start.
There are also nature reserves, scenic parks, a well curated museum, a racecourse, some of the world’s most ambitious modern architecture to admire and golf courses aplenty.
Dubai’s climate is desert - much further removed from that of London you could not get. Average high temperatures in the summer months regularly exceed 40°C and rainfall is virtually non-existent except during the months December to March.
The summer humidity can be quite uncomfortable unless you’re in an air conditioned building or near a chilled pool.