Now that I have left Dubai nearly four months ago, I am honestly SO grateful that I have documented many of my experiences on my YouTube channel. Although it has been a wonderfully beneficial zeitgeist for my followers, it has served as a diary for me to look back on and cherish all the good times.
During my time in Dubai I definitely highlighted the high points of life there in comparison to the low points. As I mentioned before, I think there is a general consensus that if you mention anything remotely negative about Dubai you will have the ‘Dubai worshipers’ after you – “Oh My GOD! You are so negative!” or “UGH! Just leave Dubai. We won’t miss you here!” After living nearly three years in one country, I think it is normal to miss certain aspects about your previous life. Here is what I have been missing lately (Prepare yourself for the superficial too) :
Everything is accessible in Dubai and you only truly realise this once you leave – No one will judge you for ordering a smoothie to your apartment door, cinema popcorn or even ordering someone over to your house to wash the kids (an April Fools joke but so plausible, I believe many were disappointed that it wasn’t legit!). Need a bottle of alcohol? Pretty much everyone has a ‘milk man’ on standby, ready to deliver a bottle of white to your door on a Friday night. The worst outcome of this inevitable laziness is weight gain – it happens so easily, trust me!
One Thursday evening I decided to be really productive (by Dubai standards, of course); scrubbed the kitchen clean, washed all my clothes and hung them out to dry (clothes can dry in one hour, if you hang them outside), and dusted off my bedroom. How productive am I?
One thing I cannot seem to be able to do is iron clothes, because every stitch I own, I somehow burn and my persuasive argument to everyone was that it was saving me more money for someone to iron my clothes rather than myself. Conveniently, I was living right under a convenience store, launderette, Indian restaurant and just a few doors away from a small grocery store. With each business that I visited that evening, everyone told me, “Ma’am, we know which apartment you live in. I will drop it up.” It is very easy to involuntarily become a full blown hermit in Dubai. Customer service in the city is phenomenal and usually it can be the extreme heat that prevents you from leaving the house unless it is absolutely necessary.
2. Location and Spontaneity
Located in a prime position where the West meets East, Dubai is an international hub for all air traffic going either way, meaning your choices are endless. There are definitely a few destinations that every resident in the UAE appears to visit – Bali and Sri Lanka immediately come to mind. As I mentioned before in my video, there are plenty of websites such as Skyscanner, which will show you the cheapest flights around the world from your current location.
Due to many of the Islamic holidays determined by the moon, a long weekend might be granted at a moments notice, which means spontaneity is vital, if you want to take advantage of these extra days off work. There are plenty of airlines that offer very cheap flights to nearby destinations and sometimes a weekend away can be cheaper than hanging around Dubai. I once heard a story of a couple who became so intoxicated at brunch that they booked flights to Thailand. Now that is what I call spontaneity Dubai style!
This is probably one of the best things about Dubai and although the level of crime isn’t zero, the comparison to other highly populated cities around the world is incredibly low. Since moving back to Europe, Spain to be exact, I have really come to realise just how lucky I was to live in the cotton wool bubble of Dubai. There are many times when I was out for lunch that I left my bag, laptop, phone and wallet all unattended at my table and when I returned everything was still in exactly the same place. I mentioned before on my YouTube channel that one day I left my apartment door wide open all day with the keys in the door. I had cash and valuables in the living room but during that time frame, nothing was even touched when I returned home. There are extremely strict laws when it comes to criminal activity – fines, imprisonment, deportation or even the death penalty.
When I was 19-years-old, I was living in Milano, Italy for one year in 2011. When I was there it was on the cusp of the Arab Spring and slowly but surely a steady army presence began to appear. However, the streets were always incredibly safe and I often walked home at 4AM after a night out. I recently returned during the summer of 2016 and I felt very unsafe at 8PM. In Dubai there is never one day that I felt unsafe walking the streets in Dubai, daytime or nighttime. In saying this though, the city isn’t totally immune to crime, so always be aware of your surroundings.
4. Arabic and the Culture
Everyone talks about French as being the most romantic or desirable language to hear/learn. I totally disagree! I think Arabic is quite possibly the most beautiful language in the world. During my the time in the Middle East, I always made it my mission to be surrounded by Arabs during my work and socialising hours. I think with the negative spin that the media broadcast to the West inflicts many generalisations and stereotypes that in turn causes people like me to be shy about asking questions. Ask all the questions because Arabs are very happy to educate you on their culture and traditions to eliminate any myths. For example, I genuinely thought all Arabs were Muslim prior to moving to Dubai! I have found Arabs to be the most generous and welcoming people I have ever encountered.
English is very basic in terms of meaning, however with Arabic translations, they are nearly poetic and philosophical. Many Arabs are like the Italians, they speak with their hands and there is so much emotion attached to each word. I loved the culture of shisha and drinking tea because so much of the time in Ireland, everything is centred around alcohol. I have no issues with drinking alcohol but it’s also nice to mix it up!
By the way – I MISS FALAFEL AND HUMMUS SO DAMN MUCH! The best falafel and hummus in Dubai is without a doubt Foul W Hummus in Barsha 1.
5. High Salary and Low Tax –
I think there is a huge misconception about salaries and tax in Dubai. If I had a Euro for every time someone messaged me about planning to save 90% of their salary each month, i’d be a rich woman! There is absolutely no way you can do this or else you will be living a very miserable existence. I often tell people to consider Saudi Arabia if their goal is to save as much as possible because there isn’t as much temptation there to spend (but YAY they have permitted cinemas in the Kingdom after a 35 year ban). Dubai used to be an incredible destination for saving, however over the years and from speaking with others who have lived in the city for over 20 years, this is soon becoming a thing of the past. Dubai’s economy is based on tourism which means they want you to spend.
Yes, your salary will be noticeably higher in comparison to your country but do remember that the cost of living is VERY high. This is a very touchy subject that people don’t like to discuss too openly but it is an important aspect to take into consideration, if you want to be aware of the realities (nobody likes a shock). The majority of products are imported into the region meaning there is already a hike in prices, regardless of the tax-free status ( 5% VAT was introduced in 2018).
With all that being said, if you are a single male/female, Dubai is an amazing location to experience a lifestyle I can often compare to The Great Gatsby. Everyone is constantly working but playing just as hard. You aren’t paying income tax, maybe your company is paying your rent and bills (this is not a regular thing as many believe it to be), and your only responsibility is to have a good time. When I moved back to Spain I was offered a full-time job and nearly burst out crying when I heard the salary they were offering and of course tax on top of it. I guess it is time to move on from here..
You will meet so, so SO many people during your time in Dubai. There will of course be the people you won’t click with, but when you do find friends with similar interests, views and ideas, grab onto them with all your strength.
The friends you make in Dubai will become your family away from family. I made so many incredible friends in Dubai and I cannot stress how much I miss them. There are so many people in the city who will gladly step all over you to rise above (obviously this happens everywhere) but I honestly feel the competition to succeed is fierce so it is vital to surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart. You need friends who will be there to cheer you on when things are going well and be a shoulder to cry on when you need advice. Most importantly though, I think a true friend will give you that kick in the booty, if you need to reevaluate yourself and any potential bad choices.