8 tips for Living in Dubai as an Expat


Moving to a different city can be daunting even in your home country. Relocating to an international, cosmopolitan city like Dubai can be downright scary unless you prepare well and learn all you can beforehand. Here are the top tips for expats living in Dubai.

  1. Find a job

It might be more difficult to find a job in Dubai than is the common perception – many people think that because of the range of opportunities here you can walk into a job overnight. It may not be as simple as that, but there are certainly a number of great opportunities available. Furthermore, many jobs in Dubai include visa costs, flights, medical insurance and housing benefits.

  1. Get your paperwork in order

The process to obtain a residency visa in Dubai requires extensive documentation – most of which must be attested by your country of origin. These documents typically include all degree certificates,  professional qualifications, a marriage certificate, divorce certificate (if applicable), an original passport with 6 months validity and a full empty page for the entire family and also birth certificates, drivers licences, school records for school-going children and sometimes medical certificates. It is also advisable to keep passport size photos with you and photocopies of all these It will also make life easier if you can get an international driver’s license.

  1. Do some serious financial planning

Dubai is “not a backpacker kind of place.” Those considering relocation should make sure that they have at least one to three months of living expenses put by before relocating here, and make sure you are familiar with the cost of living locally, which is not the cheapest in the world. It is very difficult to set up a bank account without a residence visa. However, money can be brought into the country in different ways, and you will practically find an ATM on every corner, from a number of different banks.

  1. Learn Arabic

While not strictly needed, it would be beneficial to learn a few Arabic words – at least making sure that you can say hello, thank you, please and goodbye. As English is a common denominator for expats and globally-minded Emiratis it is not difficult at all to get around using English. However, in other parts of the country you will find that Arabic is predominantly used and in some cases the only language spoken. Furthermore, it is polite to speak at least a handful of words from the local language when living in a foreign country.

  1. Dress appropriately

While covering your shoulders is not an absolute must in a multi-cultural city like Dubai, it is always good to know how to dress appropriately. Swimwear is absolutely fine on any of the city’s beaches, but it is recommended to wear modest clothing when heading around the city. And you should be aware that Dubai has a zero tolerance to topless and nude sunbathing. Additionally, it is important to remember that in the historical parts of the city and places of religious worship dressing conservatively is appreciated. When visiting a mosque, covering shoulders, arms, and legs are necessary and women are required to wear headscarves.

  1. Learn the rules around alcohol

There is a common misconception that alcohol is forbidden in Dubai. This is not true, but to be able to buy alcohol you will officially need a license. This is not strictly necessary as alcohol is on sale in hotels, bars and clubs. However, alcohol should strictly not be consumed in public and also there is very little tolerance for drunken behaviour in public, so it is wise to be conscious of this.

  1. Understand the culture and religion

When relocating to the UAE, expect a degree of culture shock, but also to come to Dubai with as much knowledge as possible. There are a number of books, movies and forums which will help you understand the local culture and religion. The main thing to remember is that the UAE is a Muslim country, and the influence of religion is reflected in all parts of life here – from outdoor activities to dress code and social norms.

Emirati people are said to be “proud of their culture, proud of their city and proud of their leaders, and rightfully so, as any nationals are of their homeland.” Being respectful of religious and cultural differences will go a long way in easing your assimilation into Dubai life. This includes knowing the importance of religious days like Ramadan and Eid. Expats would do well to take part in the activities on these days enjoying meals and celebrations with their community. UAE National Day, celebrated every year on 2nd December, is another important day, marked with celebrations around the city.

  1. Get plugged into local social media and news apps

It would also be well worth the trouble to build up a solid social media network to find out what is going on in the city and to discover the best spots. Dubai, like many modern, cosmopolitan cities, has a strong and active presence on social media, so be sure to plug into groups, pages and connections to keep up to date with the latest news and events.