British Expat Living in UAE (Dubai) - Interviewing Sam

Published: 24 Sep at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,United Arab Emirates
Sam is a PR and social media consultant from England, who moved to Dubai on her own at the beginning of 2006, promising her family it would only be for two years. Over the many years that followed she has been busy sharing the less well known parts of the UAE - across deserts, mountains, beaches and even underwater - on her blog Footsteps of a Wanderer (see listing here), along with a lot of other useful travel advice.

Meet Sam - British expat living in UAE
Meet Sam - British expat living in UAE

Here's the interview with Sam...

Where are you originally from?
England - I was an army child and moved around a lot, so find it hard to be more specific than that!

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been here for nearly eight years, and I will do at least a couple more - although originally I only planned to come for two!

Why did you move and what do you do?
My dad had been living in Abu Dhabi and I came for a visit and saw a lot of potential. Things were tough in the UK and I had no ties, so I contacted a few PR agencies when I arrived and as an experienced PR and events person with native English, I was in high demand - I came back from the holiday with two offer letters and handed in my notice!

Exploring mountains and wadis
Exploring mountains and wadis
Did you bring family with you?
I joined my dad for a couple of months on arrival but he was living in a different emirate a long way from Dubai, so it wasn't long before I moved to Dubai on my own.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It took a long time to properly settle. I am used to moving around and meeting new people so that was no problem, but it took around 1.5 - 2 years before I really felt settled and found a job and apartment that I really liked and a group of friends who were close, rather than just colleagues and their friends to socialise with. I was homesick a lot at first too, but now with Skype and Facebook it's much easier to keep in touch and keep connected.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It was easy to meet people, everyone is much more relaxed, and it's not unusual to have a business meeting and then be offered a social invitation afterwards, even with people you didn't know before. People are much more sociable than in the UK and strike up conversations with strangers easily, we all realise that everyone is away from home and people are willing to help and support others in the same boat. I love that my friends are from all over the world - it makes life so much more interesting!

Beating the heat - a day canyoning
Beating the heat - a day canyoning
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There are far too many to list! After eight years here I'm still discovering new things. I would say whatever you do, don't get stuck in a cycle of parties, shopping and champagne brunches in luxury hotels because there is so much more to this country than shiny skyscrapers and five star hotels. I like to get out to the Indian Ocean on the East Coast for gorgeous diving, and the mountains, desert and beaches are great for camping, offroading, hiking - there's something for all levels.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The lifestyle - I learned to dive here, something I never would have done at home, and I am much more adventurous and outdoorsy than I ever was in England. At the same time, there are so many more luxuries than in England - most people have a cleaner, even if they live alone, girls go for manicures/pedicures and massages on a regular basis, and we often eat in five star restaurants and bars with spectacular views - we're very lucky to have it all at our fingertips.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
It's hard to compare - the lifestyle expectations are greater so I find it more expensive than at home. A lot of the services are cheaper than at home, and depending on where you want to live the rent varies dramatically, and food/drinks are often more expensive, but again this depends where you eat/drink and shop. However our pay is tax free and petrol is ridiculously cheap so I think it all evens out well and gives us much more freedom.

Lap of luxury
Lap of luxury
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Regulations and laws change often so you have to take note of what's going on around you. There are strict rules about relationships (no public displays of affection, no couples staying or living together without being married), dress codes, and alcohol (it's only allowed in certain places and with a permit) so you need to be sensible and respectful, particularly during Ramadan when the rules get more strict. These are often blown out of all proportion by English media, and to be honest the biggest negative is the distance to family and friends (although I do like that it is close enough to be home in a day if needed)

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Come with an open mind and grab any and every opportunity you come across

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I got sick at the beginning of this year and had to have a lot of brain scans and was told it could be serious, that was very frightening and it was awful not to be home and with my family. Thankfully I have a very supportive network of friends now who were there for me all the way through, and medical care here is fantastic, and luckily I'm fine now.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I've thought about this a lot, I'm not sure where I would go back to now to ensure I can continue the things I like, and am therefore not sure whether England would be the next stop, maybe somewhere in mainland Europe instead where the weather is a bit nicer and I can still do some of the outdoor activities I like, whilst being much closer to home.

Wakeboarding in the marina
Wakeboarding in the marina
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Do your research about the job/company - don't be so keen to come that you take the first thing on offer. Check how long they've been in business, how many staff they have and who the clients are.
  2. Think seriously about where you want to live. Traffic can be a pain in some parts of Dubai so check out what your commute would be everyday and how far you are from all the facilities you need.
  3. Bring your education certificates with you. A lot of companies will ask for these to be attested and submitted in order to get the visa (depending on your role, company)
  4. Pack mostly summer wear (it's only January that feels a little cool) but bring wraps, cardigans, etc as the air conditioning is set on arctic levels in a lot of buildings and it can get really cold all day in an office!
  5. Get yourself out there when you arrive, go out at every opportunity and be open to meeting people in any situation. There are so many groups, clubs and networking events too that you can be as sociable as you want to be, even if you don't know anyone!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started Footsteps of a Wanderer because I love travelling and wanted to share tips, hints and experience to hopefully help others when they are planning their trips. I also wanted to broadcast information about the less explored parts of Dubai, UAE and the region, as some of these off road places and out of the way destinations and events (camel markets anyone?) are amazing to visit but hard to get the details of.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Feel free to comment on my blog, tweet me (see links below) or send me a message on Facebook

About the author

Expat Blog ListingSam is a British expat living in United Arab Emirates. Blog description: Travel and adventure tips, advice and anecdotes that show there's more to the Middle East than sand and shopping. Recommendations and reviews from across the UAE, MIddle East and around the world.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Martin Day wrote 7 years ago:

Thank you - a very informative piece. I have just linked-up in the UK with the London Representatives of a major Dubai-based Property Developer and I am about to begin marketing their developments to UK Clients. My wife and I are visiting Dubai in January to view the various developmnets, so your overview was most helpful to us. Thank you, Martin Day

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