Expat Advice on Making the Move - 5 Tips for Adjusting to Life in Dubai

By: Samantha Dancy

After eight years of life in Dubai, I can highly recommend it. There have been highs and lows of course, but the overall journey has been an incredible experience that has helped me to kickstart my career and shape me as a person. For anyone looking to make the move, there are plenty of experts, forums and websites (such as Expat Echo and ExpatWoman) that can give you advice on how and what to prepare; meanwhile I wanted to share some suggestions that may help to prevent the common pain points for new arrivals to the city:

1. Rest up

Life in Dubai is hectic, both professionally and socially; there are so many opportunities to grasp - if you have the energy! Moving overseas can be incredibly stressful, so don't give yourself additional pressure by agreeing to start work the minute you step off the plane. You need time to settle your body clock, adjust to the change in temperature and environment, and get your bearings at home and at your workplace. If you're finishing up a stressful job before you move, make sure you give yourself additional time to recover before throwing yourself in again head first.

2. Keep an eye on the scales

One of the most common complaints from new arrivals is the weight gain. Unnoticeable for the first few months, the additional pounds creep on as people are confronted for the first time by brunch buffet tables groaning under the weight of decadent chocolate fountains and overflowing mojitos. The infamous 'Dubai Stone' is generally detected after the first six months when (hopefully) the novelty of such indulgence starts to wear off, enabling the not-so-newbies to exercise a little more restraint!

3. Break open the piggy bank

Contrary to popular belief, money does not actually grow on the palm trees here! The cost of living is difficult to compare, depending on the products/services in question, but is generally in line with any major city in the world (i.e. expensive). A tax-free salary does go a long way to meeting these additional costs, but cash flow can be a problem initially, especially with many property owners and rental agencies asking for the entire year's rent up front, or to be split across two or three cheques for the year. Whilst there are companies who support employees at this stage, these are few and far between, and it's much better if you have access to a sizable sum of your own.

4. Develop your patience

Time has its own pace in Dubai and people therefore find it very difficult to commit to any solid deliverables. Take up yoga, meditation, or any other way of channeling your inner peace - you may well need it when you hear 'Insh'Allah' ('God willing') for the hundredth time during your visa application process/bank account set up/phone and internet installation. These processes are tedious and long-winded but hopefully not a situation you will be in often, just close your eyes and count to ten.

5. Expect the unexpected

In this city of opportunity, curve balls are the regular state of play. Be flexible and allow yourself to take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way, even if it may not be exactly what you originally had in mind. Arriving fresh in Dubai with a head full of expectations is guaranteed to result in frustration and disappointment; by all means have a plan, just don't expect to stick to it verbatim!

Overall the UAE is a very safe and welcoming country, and with such a huge expat population in Dubai itself, people are sympathetic to the plight of newcomers and keen to extend the adopted Arabian hospitality and help whenever they can - just don't be afraid to ask!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingSamantha Dancy 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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Contest Comments » There are 52 comments

Greg Andrew wrote 5 years ago:

What Sam doesn't know about this subject isn't worth knowing and she is ALWAYS the first to know! She is my go to person for this without doubt

Alan Wheatley wrote 5 years ago:

Some very wise words that are as relevant today as would have been over 15 years ago when I landed in Dubai

Scott wrote 5 years ago:

Great to see that you are writing about travel, your passion. I have a few journeys we can co-author in the future. S

Ebru wrote 5 years ago:

I love following her journey, across the world. Every article is a new discovery that takes me to so many interesting and colorful worlds.

Jason Moore wrote 5 years ago:

Great advice Sam. You make an excellent travel blogger...look forward to seeing you roar over the coming years

Rod Lancaster wrote 5 years ago:

...and tread lightly leaving not too many 'footsteps' in the sand...try and be somewhat culturally aware

Maria Pearson wrote 5 years ago:

Nice post Sam, the point about developing patience is so valid. Dubai has a pace all of its own. Look forward to reading more from you on the web. M

Carine Chamekh wrote 5 years ago:

I absolutely LOVE Sam's blog and am always looking forward to the next useful, well-researched and well-written post!

Virginia wrote 5 years ago:

Great advice and the perfect summary of what one should expect - I wish this had been written before I made my move!

Alex wrote 5 years ago:

i've also been in dubai for 8 years and its refreshing to hear from someone who understands the many local cultures at work. thanks sam

Lisa Buchanan wrote 5 years ago:

Some great tips/advice as usual definitely helpful to those who are yet to experience life in Dubai and knowing what to expect and how to adjust! Look forward to reading some more of your blogs...

Lisa Buchanan wrote 5 years ago:

Some great tips/advice as usual, definitely helpful to those who are yet to experience life in Dubai! Look forward to reading some more of your blogs...

Pete H wrote 5 years ago:

Never a truer word spoken. Especially about the "Dubai stone" Now, where's the cross trainer....

Chris wrote 5 years ago:

Thank you, this information will prove invaluable. You have highlighted some points I wasn't aware of and given me a bit more confidence prior to my move!

Nourhan wrote 5 years ago:

I love ur blog!, i always find it very useful and full of productive information. many thanks. Nourhan

Elaine wrote 5 years ago:

I am a big fan of your travel blogs Sam and this article makes perfect sense for those moving to the UAE.

Mazen Nahawi wrote 5 years ago:

I read Expatsblog.com regularly; Sam's posts are fun, thoughtful and show a connection to the people and places she visits in a way that makes you feel you are there with her.

Hani Wassim Philobbos wrote 5 years ago:

probably there are plenty of guides in dubai, but Sam, your advice is sharp to the point and very accurate and helpful. Expect the unexpected is reality!!

Hani Wassim Philobbos wrote 5 years ago:

probably there are plenty of guides in dubai, but Sam, your advice is sharp to the point and very accurate and helpful. Expect the unexpected is reality!!

Gemma Kellard wrote 5 years ago:

I wish I had read this when I arrived, particularly the 'Rest Up' section....I started working the morning after I landed, and I arrived in the evening!! Its that slave driver boss of mine! Some wise words...the Dubai stone, oops! Exercise starts in January after I am back from Christmas!

Brett Buchanan wrote 5 years ago:

Wow great article and so, so true! (Although speaking as a parent I believe we ARE taxed in the UAE, school fees aren't cheap!)

Karen Morrison wrote 5 years ago:

Well written and informative article by Sam Dancy, tells the 'real' story from first hand experience about what it can be like moving to Dubai. Very enjoyable read. Thanks, Karen

Barry wrote 5 years ago:

Great article and I think the last point is so true. Aside from expecting the unexpected, I think you also have to say YES to the unexpected. Those journeys, in life and travel that aren't planned for, ofen yield the most rewarding experiences. Love the blog Sam, keep it up :-)

Faysal wrote 5 years ago:

Sam is 'THE CONNECTOR' when it comes to the nitty gritty of life in Dubai..good points and sound advice, I should know after 20 years in this fabulously evolving city :)

Mark Coady wrote 5 years ago:

Great advice and some very truthful tips, wish I had read it when I arrived! I will be emailing this article to any of my friends that move out here.

Maja wrote 5 years ago:

Thank you, Samantha! I hope I'll be moving to Dubai in a couple of months, so this post is very useful, I'll definitely keep it!

Eleanor Joslin wrote 5 years ago:

I moved to Dubai last month and wish I'd known these five top tips beforehand! They are all very true and insightful - six weeks later I've definitely put on weight and my patience has been tested. I will take up Sam's advice of yoga and turn down the next brunch!

Marianna Wisden wrote 5 years ago:

Great blog, lovely and professional blogger - look forward to upcoming posts!

Guy wrote 5 years ago:

All so very true, Sam! The good thing about the slow service and Insh Allah approach is it makes normal standards look great here!

Joe wrote 5 years ago:

Spot on! The patience factor is certainly key - don't come to the Middle East and expect things to happen instantly. '5 minutes' (read anything from 30 minutes to 2 days) is another very common phrase which you need to get used to!

Natalie Jones wrote 5 years ago:

Dubai is a country I haven't had the chance to visit but with your blog it has given me a real insight into what I would need to know if I ever came. Really descriptive and nice to hear your experience too. It sounds like your having a wonderful time.

Peter S wrote 5 years ago:

a very well written blog with lots of first hand experience, a riveting read, it never fails to entertain and enlighten.

Lesley wrote 5 years ago:

Great advice, well said. I wish I had seen this 9 years ago! I'd be a stone lighter, well rested, richer and with fewer grey hairs if I had. Keep writing!!

NICOLA wrote 5 years ago:

As always an incredibly insightful and accurate blog which will help and inform future expats, thank you Sam, keep blogging xx

Joe wrote 5 years ago:

Patience indeed! The other phrase you need to condition yourself to is '5 minutes', which in reality can mean anything from 5 minutes to 2 days hence!

Rima Youssef wrote 5 years ago:

Loved Point 4. lol. I dont have much of it! Dealing with different people from so many different backgrounds is not easy, but you develop a knack for it.. 10 years later in my case! Thanks for the info Sam.

Camilla Way wrote 5 years ago:

Spot on! Sam is right, Dubai takes getting to know and adjusting to but it is full of great opportunities. Her advice on taking up yoga is excellent..mind you I am slightly biased on that one!

Andrew Oldfield wrote 5 years ago:

This is a fantastic piece Sam. This will definitely be my go to link for when i get the " I have a friend moving to Dubai" email . Well written and brava!

Gabriela wrote 5 years ago:

This is brilliant - I've recently moved to Dubai and this is just spot on. A great read!

Reem Alghanim wrote 5 years ago:

I know i can count on Sam whenever i find myself having to visit dubai. Blog has got a lot of insight. Totally love it

Kate wrote 5 years ago:

As someone who's lived in the UAE for more than two decades, these sage little nuggets should be handed to everyone collecting their first visa stamp. Blog on...

James Cissel wrote 5 years ago:

Awesome! This is the best expat blog site in and on Dubai.

Julian wrote 5 years ago:

As always it's a pleasure to read one of Sam's blogs.. Insightful, upbeat and always full of good honest tips!!

Irum wrote 5 years ago:

I love following Sam's journeys and she makes sure that with her blog she takes you along with her on her interesting trips and adventures! A very practical and useful blog with insights and insider advice.

Beckie wrote 5 years ago:

Fab advice from a wonderful lady! Must move there myself one day!

Waly wrote 5 years ago:

Agree, feel like we all experienced the same thing... Great job Sami, this is exactly the steps to follow. Sam should be on a big advertising board on SZR, we can everything on the blog from travel to sport,restaurant etc... keep up Sami, tu fais du bon boulot!!!

Amanda Murrell wrote 5 years ago:

Great blog Sam and very insightful for someone who will be visiting on a regular basis. Its always good to read a truthful article.

Expat Explorers wrote 5 years ago:

As a follow expat who has gone through the Dubai pain barrier and out the other side, I'd follow this advice if I were you.

Irish Harmon wrote 5 years ago:

Yes, and yes again to all of these - especially the one about having patience. I have to say, I've had some of the most frustrating situations with sales people in the UAE and oh, those queues in Carrefour, but then, I guess this happens everywhere, and in a place with so many different language speakers, it's a miracle we get any business done at all, really. Nice post.

Sarah wrote 5 years ago:

So true Sam! You've said it all in a nutshell Perfect :-)

Andy Holmes wrote 5 years ago:

Whether you live in Dubai, planning to visit Dubai or planning to move to Dubai...Sam always provides useful, unbiased and truthful information, with her articles building into being a valuable database resource and must check item! Keep it up :)

Faysal KHAN wrote 5 years ago:

After 20 years in Dubai, Sam you've hit the nails on their respective heads. Your blog makes for easy ready yet is packed with pertinent information which is as valid today as it was 20 years ago. Just the traffic is worse now..LOL.

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