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Expat talk – what the expatriates say about living in Dubai

27 July, 2009 12:07  EasyExpat EasyExpat

Buj Al Arab - DubaiDubai has a huge expat population. While a lot of foreigners have been packing bags and heading home in recent times, the city still plays host to people from all over the world. I caught up with a couple of expats calling Dubai home and here’s what they say about life in the city.

Amar Singh, a 32 year old Indian consultant weaves his way through the dancing crowd and tells me… “I love Dubai! Look at this place… where else can you have this kind of a lifestyle in the Middle East?” We are in Barasti, a favourite watering hole for Dubai’s expatriate crowd. This could have been any bar in South East Asia… the usual 80% - 20% ratio of white men to Asian girls, loud music and free flowing drinks. “That’s the problem with this place” says Hitaru, a Japanese friend who’s recently moved to the city as well and obviously not having as great a time as Amar. “This could be anywhere in the world, everything seems so artificial. This is supposed to be a desert but it could just as well be New York.” 

A snapshot of that conversation captures the many conflicting emotions about living in Dubai. Every time I ask someone what they like about the city, the answer I almost always hear is ‘The lifestyle.” So what is this lifestyle that has attracted people from around the world? I asked my American friend Helen who’s here with her husband to explain further. “See… it’s about enjoying life… about dressing up, partying and being seen. I used to be the kind of person who cut my own hair yet here I have my hairstylist on speed dial. It’s also about shopping. I have a group of friends and we catch up every other week for lunch and a day of shopping. And of course, there’s a maid to take care of the cleaning. I can’t even dream of  living like that back home.” ‘Jumeirah Jane’ quips another friend as I tell him about her lifestyle – Jumeriah is a posh part of the city where a number of women like Helen can be found. There are so many women with luxurious lifestyles similar to Helen that there’s even a name given to the trend!

Funnily enough, the biggest complaint I get about living in Dubai is also ‘The lifestyle”. A German friend who previously lived in Saudi Arabia and recently moved to Dubai had a pretty interesting view. He and his wife preferred their stay in Saudi Arabia than Dubai. The reason? Since there are much fewer options to socialize in Saudi, they managed to forge much closer friendships within the expat community. In Dubai however, despite the fact that there are so many things to do and opportunities for entertainment, the couple feels like they have a smaller chance of building real friendships.

As for working in the city, this is one area there’s a lot of consensus in… most of the people I spoke to enjoy working in Dubai. It’s a multicultural environment and since the city has major ambitions, there’s much opportunity for people who enjoy a challenge. And of course the tax free salary doesn't hurt either. As Hitaru put it, “The work’s great, it’s the lifestyle I need to adjust to.”

StarRead the article about a get-together with expats in Dubai. And see the photos.

StarFind more information about expat life in Dubai on Easy Expat.


Sidd Lobo
Freelance copywriter 



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LIfestyle Building [Reply]

The question begs to be asked... how long can someone spend partying and socialising without depth before they get bored of the shallowness of it? There is a desire for culture and substance that might not be there.

Reminds me of Las Vegas where people love to go for a while but few consider living there long term. Not that I am comparing the Las Vegas lifestyle with Dubai, but simply stating that luxurious isn't usually enough for the soul.

  Insureme4     03 Aug 2009, 15:27

Good One [Reply]

Really interesting topic going on here...Thanks alot for this usefull information really learnt alot from it and a good contribution by you on the web. Keep it up with good blogs like this.

  Annneocy     15 Aug 2009, 11:15

Good article [Reply]

Really good article - and nice to read both points of view. I was in Dubai myself and must say it is a land with many contradictions, captured well by your article.

Tom Heyden     17 Aug 2009, 11:28