Dubai is becoming one of the most popular destinations to move to these days. With the large economic boom, there are more and more jobs created. It is such an interesting place that attracts many for a few years or the rest of their life. I lived there for six months in 2018 and learned much about that place. Here are some things to know before moving to Dubai, so you are prepared for the experience.
Weekends are Friday and Saturday
Since in the Muslim religion, Friday is the holy day, the weekend is Friday and Saturday. This is very strange at the beginning, but after a while, it does not make a difference. You get two days off, so which two days doesn't matter. Although many people in Dubai work six days or one week five one week six. Just make sure you double-check this on your contract before signing it. The only reason to keep this in mind is to call home. When you have a day off on Friday and want to call home, everyone else might be working.
No income tax, but you pay VAT
This is something that is very strange. Dubai is trying to attract foreign workers by not collecting income tax. This can make a big difference in pay from your home country. However, since January 2018, the UAE charges VAT on products. By now they are used to it, but when I was there working in finance, it was really new and everyone was very confused. As a European, it was normal to me but to the locals, it was very confusing. You will not even notice it if you are used to VAT, but just something to keep in mind.
It feels more like India than an Arab country
When you think of the UAE, people think of it as part of the Arab peninsula and as a Muslim country. That was my image as well, but I was very surprised at what I found. Since most people working in there are foreigners, you will see Europeans, Africans, Arabs, and Asians on the street and in the office. However, you will quickly notice that there is an extremely large group of Indians and Pakistanis. There are more Indian restaurants, clothing stores, services, and everything else. This is something you need to be prepared for when moving to Dubai.
While this can be amazing if you like Indian food, it can also be irritating if you are not used to the culture. They have a very different sense of personal space and politeness as we do in the West. It is not as much catcalling as you get it in the West, it is mostly staring which is just as uncomfortable. You can avoid it relatively well by wearing modest clothing and sticking to the women-only sections of public transport.
Be aware that you are living in a desert
While Dubai may be a modern city with skyscrapers and luxury, it is still located in the middle of a desert. The weather is brutal. Starting in May it is about 30 degrees and it only gets hotter from there. In July and August, it can be 40 degrees or hotter and you don't want to spend a minute walking around outside. There is almost no rain throughout the year, which is something I missed very much. I was surprised how much I missed rain and green. Outside of the Mirance Garden, there is almost no green anywhere in the city. I missed seeing trees, grass, and bushes. I actually missed it so much that I went on a weekend trip to Colombo, Sri Lanka, during rainy season just so I could see some rain and green.
Lady's night is every night if you know where to go
This is true in most cities in the UAE. Since it is a Muslim country, there are mostly men going out drinking. To get women to come most bars and restaurants have a Lady's night once a week. That could mean anything from a discount on drinks to three free drinks to free margaritas all night. You can find most of these promotions on Facebook or many sights that collect these promotions. You can probably also ask some of your friends from work or otherwise. So moving to Dubai may not be good for your alcohol intake.
Now if you are a man do not threat there is still a chance. Aside from lady's nights, there are other promotions as well. There are discounts for teachers and hospitality specialists. There is a promotion for almost anything as long as you know where to go. Asking your colleagues is a great way to go about it especially if they have been living there a while.
Getting around the city is simple
Public transport in Dubai has been developed very well. There are only a few metro lines, but they run throughout the city and can be easily used. There are also buses to get you to the other places. The system is simple with the metro cards that you can pay per ride or weekly or monthly passes. For women, there are separate compartments both on buses and metros to make you feel more comfortable. I took the metro all the time during my time in Dubai and never had any issue. It is one of the fastest ways to get around the city.
You can also get a car which most people do. It is realively cheap and most accommodations have a parking spot connected to it. The driving in the city is a bit crazy, but can be managed. The main issue is the trafic. Since most people own a car and drive to work, there are so many trafic jams and it takes you hours to get from A to B.
It is very safe
Dubai is one of the safest places I have lived in. Because most people are expats and can have their work permit taken away at the smaller infraction, they do not want to risk it. I used to walk around in the evening or walk home from going out. You can also take a taxi without any fear of something happening. It is really comfortable and reassuring.
Those are some of the things to know before moving to Dubai that helps you feel a bit less shocked. I know I would have liked to learn about all these before going. Dubai is one of the places that you will either love or hate, but it will not leave you not thinking about it. If you need any tips during your first weeks in Dubai, here are a few guides with things to do.
Are there any tips that you would give someone moving to Dubai? Share them with me here in the comments or on social media.