25 Things to Know Before Moving to the UAE
1. Summers are HOT
Summers in the UAE are infamous for their stifling temperatures. During the months of June, July and August temperatures can soar up to 48 degrees Celsius, making it difficult to step foot outside. The temperatures certainly are intimidating, but the UAE has adapted many ways to work around these temperatures.
Every building, even the bus stops, are air conditioned so that no one has to stand outside in the hot weather. In fact, the air conditioning is so cold that people carry sweaters around with them in the peak summer months!
The weather during the rest of the year is so glorious that it makes up for the hot summers. When temperatures are a balmy 27 degrees Celsius in the middle of December, you will feel more than grateful that you’re not freezing like the rest of your friends and family back home!
2. The UAE is made up 7 emirates
Many people don’t know this, but the UAE is actually made up of 7 different Emirates, the most famous of which are Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Each emirate has a different ruler and different sets of laws. Some adhere more to Islamic law while others do not.
It’s important to research the different opportunities and lifestyles that each of the Emirates offer because they differ greatly from one another.
For example, while Dubai is one of the most technologically modern places in the world, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm al Quwain are rural areas with little development. Many people choose to move to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but make sure you choose the Emirate that is right for you.
3. Tax free lifestyles
One of the things that draws most people to the UAE is that there are no taxes. That’s right, you heard correctly.
Not having to pay a tax on your salary, imports, groceries, etc., saves a huge amount of money in the long run. Not only can this money be used to save, it can be used to afford certain luxuries that would otherwise be unattainable if one had to pay taxes.
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4. Apartment living
In the UAE, houses and villas are extremely uncommon unless you’re a multimillionaire. Property is expensive and most people choose to live in apartments. While this sounds like a bad trade off, the apartments in the UAE are mostly new developments with spacious living areas, windows that let in lots of light, and are fixed with state of the art amenities.
Because most apartments are equipped with facilities such as gyms, parking, and even banquet halls they save you money while providing you with more luxuries than you could ever have in a home.
5. Invasion of the luxury cars
The UAE is known for its extravagance and opulence and that applies to everything including the traffic. On the roads you will see more luxury cars than you can even image. From Bugattis to Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Ferraris, no car is too luxurious for the UAE.
Once you arrive here you will become so accustomed to seeing these exotic rides that the novelty almost begins to wear off. But then again, there’s nothing quite like seeing a succession of 5 Lamborghinis parked in a row outside Dubai Mall.
6. …And luxury number plates
The more luxurious the car the richer the owner is a pretty universal concept. However, in Dubai, wealth and status is often displayed within what kind of number plate you’re sporting. Generally the fewer numbers on your plate the more expensive it will be. Five numbers on the face of your car will cost you a lot less than three numbers. Numbers with some kind of pattern, such as 321 or 1212 will also come at a much higher price.
The number plate business in the UAE has kicked off in recent years because of this and there is a lot of money to be made in the area. For example, the most expensive plate to ever be sold went for a staggering £7 million to Saeed Abdul Ghaffer Khouri. The number? 1.
7. The weekends are a little different
You’re probably used to working 9-5 Monday to Friday and then having Saturday and Sunday to do whatever you want. In the UAE it’s a little different. The weekend falls on Friday and Saturday, meaning that as Thursday nights get more fun, Sunday mornings can be a real chore.
8. The nightlife is amazing
When most people think of the UAE, they imagine a conservative Muslim society where alcohol, clubs, and bars are strictly forbidden but the reality is actually the opposite. Many of the Emirates, most notably Dubai, offer an incredible nightlife that rivals that of most major cities like New York and London.
There are endless clubs and bars of all varieties where alcohol is served freely and it is easy to purchase alcohol for your home as long as you obtain a permit. If you’re looking to move to a country with an endless selection of places to let loose and party then you’ve found the UAE is for you!
9. It’s not just a desert
While the UAE is primarily built on a desert, this doesn’t mean that the landscape doesn’t vary. There are a number of huge parks where fresh, green grass and flowers. If you drive to Al Ain you can see gorgeous, towering mountains that you wouldn’t expect to find in a desert.
The main parts of all the cities are filled with Date trees, the slightly stubbier version of palm trees. All of these elements make it easier to adjust to the barren landscape which does exist but isn’t overwhelming.
10. There’s an endless number of things to do
No matter your age, gender, nationality or preference you are bound to find something fun to do in the UAE. The UAE is home to the world’s largest shopping mall, Dubai Mall, which contains thousands of restaurants, shops, a movie theater, an amusement park, and a skating rink. That’s just one mall!
Imagine the possibilities the entire country has to offer! Whether it’s shopping, outdoor sports, culinary classes, or language immersion programs there’s bound to be something to spark your interests!
11. There’s no health insurance
The joy of there being zero income tax comes at the cost of having to organise and pay for your own medical insurance. Despite this, the UAE has quite notorious when it comes to healthcare. In 2015, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were voted second and third most popular medical destinations respectively. This may have something to do with the development of Dubai Healthcare City, a huge mass of medical centres, not hospitals, dedicated to research and private care.
12. Foodie heaven
The number of people from so many different countries who live here in the UAE equates to another great thing and that’s food. You can find food in the UAE from almost every country imaginable.
From Chinese, to Lebanese, to Jamaican, no part of the world goes unrepresented in the culinary sphere of the UAE. The best part is that the food is all authentic because the people making it are actually from the country where the food originates.
With thousands of restaurants to try you will never get bored of the food here. It’s no wonder why the UAE is considered one of the culinary capitals of the world, and Dubai is a foodie’s dream.
13. The UAE is extremely diverse culturally
The UAE is unique in the sense that expats make up the majority of the population. Locals only comprise of less than 20% of the population which means that everyone else is international. This makes for a unique, cosmopolitan community that lends itself to a blend of cultures, customs and traditions.
Because the population of the UAE is so international, it makes it easy for people to learn about new cultures and break stereotypes that they may have erroneously held about people of certain nationalities. The UAE provides the opportunity to make an international group of friends who can teach you many unique and interesting things that you couldn’t learn anywhere else!
14. It’s expensive but livable
Like any major city in the world the UAE can be a costly city to live in but there’s no need to fear. One of the great things about the UAE is that the salaries match the cost of living.
Unlike other expensive cities in the world where it’s difficult to make ends meet, the high salaries that the majority of jobs offer here mean that almost all people live very comfortably even with the high cost of living. So don’t let the prices of things here intimidate you!
15. The UAE observes Ramadan
The UAE is a Muslim country and because of this it observes the month long ritual of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during the daylight hours. Ramadan makes a huge impact on life here in the UAE. Office times are shortened, many restaurants remain closed during the day and alcohol is not served in restaurants during this month.
While these may seem like major changes, they only last for a short period of time and most people enjoy the fact that they can go home early even if they don’t observe the holiday! As if these timings weren’t great enough, Ramadan ends with the holiday of Eid al Fitr during which everyone gets at least 3 days off from work!
16. Be respectful of local culture
Even though Emiratis make up only a small portion of their country’s population, they are extremely proud of their culture and heritage. After all, they were able to turn a desert into one of the most developed parts of the world today! Keeping this in mind, it’s important to respect the local culture which they represent very prominently.
In most offices, Emirati men and women choose to wear their national dress to work. They observe certain religious customs, such as taking time out of the day to pray, and in most cases they abstain from alcohol. It’s important to keep these differences in mind in order to not say anything that might be considered rude or offensive.
17. Be cautious with social media
For the most part the UAE is a very free country. Women in the UAE are allowed to wear bikinis on the beach, alcohol is served openly, and all religious beliefs are tolerated. Given that there is so much freedom, it’s important to respect the few boundaries that are in place.
One of the most important things is to be slightly cautious when using social media. It’s best not to post anything negative about the ruling families, or local religious and cultural traditions.
While most things on social media go unnoticed as they do in most parts of the world, it never hurts to take precautions. As a guest in a country, it’s important to respect the rules of the local people, especially when there are so few.
18. There’s no postal system
In spite of the UAE’s sophisticated infrastructure in most areas of society, there has never been a full post system. As a result, people don’t really have home addresses. If you are having something delivered, you may have to direct your postman via nearby landmarks or areas on a map. Due to this, online shopping is not as popular as it is in other parts of the world. Yet, why would it need to be when you have you have shopping Nirvana in Dubai?
19. There’s always something going on
Whether it’s a concert, an exhibition, or an event, there’s always something happening in the UAE. In order not to miss out be sure to regularly check websites such as Time Out Dubai for a full list of events that are happening.
In the wintertime, the social calendar tends to pick up with a huge number of events every weekend. As with most things in the UAE, there is something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for an athletic event, outdoor concert, or an art show you’re bound to find something by doing a little bit of online research!
20. Laid back lifestyle
Despite being a major economic hub with big cities, the best thing about the UAE is that the lifestyle is not hectic. There’s plenty of time for people to relax. Vacations are relatively easy to come by in the workplace and the pace of life is slower compared to major cities without being boring.
Where you live in the UAE also makes a huge impact on the lifestyle. Dubai is certainly more fast paced while other Emirates adhere to a slower pace.
21. Connect with expats
It can be lonely moving to any new country if you don’t know the people there. Luckily in the UAE there are hundreds of ways to meet new people. Because there are so many expats in the country, they have formed extensive networks making it easy for people to connect to one another.
You can start making friends in the UAE before you move here by joining one of the many expat forums and groups online. Having a good group of friends from your home country is bound to make your move an infinitely more comfortable experience.
22. Football is king
Locals and expats alike are huge fans of football here in the UAE. There’s bound to be a football game being screened at restaurant or lounge and during the world cup the atmosphere becomes intense and celebratory with anticipation of the games. The UAE is the perfect place for football fans!
23. Rent payments work differently
Unlike other countries where rent payments are made on a monthly basis, in the UAE rents are paid on a quarterly basis or on a yearly basis. Similarly, salaries are paid monthly rather than on a bi-weekly basis like in the States. While it doesn’t make a difference financially it can take a bit of getting used to the new system.
24. Get ready for dates
No, we’re not talking about romantic dates here, we’re talking about the fruit. The UAE is the world’s largest exporter of dates. Date trees line almost every road in the country and you’re bound to come across multiple date farms as soon as you enter the country side.
Dates are a delicious and healthy fruit that are easy to incorporate into a number of dishes. Now is your chance to embrace this Middle Eastern staple.
25. But don’t eat them on the metro
Dubai’s humongous and brand new (it opened in 2009) metro system is the largest driverless public transport system in the world. In its first three months of existence it transported 3 million passengers. The amount of work that went into building this incredible system does mean that travelling on it comes with some rules. For example, eating on the trains is not permitted, and you can be fined up to £25 if you’re caught.