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Living in Dubai, the Expat City

Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, is extremely popular with the expat community. Whether you’re in it for the sun, the culture, or just a working adventure, if you’re moving to Dubai, you’ll be joining the other 2.3 million expats in the city. These expats make up roughly 92% of the population of Dubai – a stark difference to the 0.2 million Emiratis in the city.

Interestingly, three out of four people in Dubai are male, with two thirds of the population aging between 20 and 39. This shows just how stark the pull is for expat workers is in the city, with young males constantly being driven towards the stereotypically male construction industry. It often comes as a surprise to many people that construction is Dubai’s largest industry. Many people assume that oil is Dubai’s largest money maker, and while oil has helped build the local economy over the last few decades, construction, tourism and financial services are the industries which really bring the money in, attracting skilled expat workers from around the world.

Since Dubai is the largest city in a strictly Muslim country, you may be wondering what life for expats here. As long as you’re not moving to Dubai as a young bachelor looking for love, it’s clear that life in Dubai as an expat worker is an attractive one. The UAE is a tax-free country and Dubai has no shortage of entertainment complexes, water parks, beaches and malls where you can spend your time and hard-earned cash. It’s home to some of the best infrastructure in the world, which is growing at the same impressive rate that the city is, and it’s home to one of the most multicultural populations in the world. The intrepid explorer can experience old Dubai at dawn, modern Dubai at work, and the Bedouin lifestyle over a sunset dinner – it’s clear that life for an expat in Dubai can be incredibly easy.

That’s not to say that life in Dubai is a non-stop party. Dubai places great emphasis on its Islamic culture and its accompanying traditions. While some of these laws are relaxed for expats – such as the laws surrounding the consumption of alcohol – it’s expected that expats in Dubai behave in a certain way. As with any city around the world, it behoves expats to respect and follow local laws and customs. Ramadan is a good example of this – the Holy Month of Ramadan is a time of fasting which is extremely important to practicing Muslims. While you aren’t expected to follow the fast yourself, you are expected to refrain from eating, smoking or drinking in public. You’d be allowed to eat in the comfort of your own home, or in a given room at the office, but eating in a room full of people trying to fast is simply insensitive and disrespectful. As long as you can abide by local customs however, you shouldn’t have any problems settling into expat life in Dubai.

There are other areas where life in Dubai may differ from your life in the West. As previously mentioned, the UAE is a tax-free country. While this may seem like a great pull to the country, it’s worth noting that public services like healthcare are traditionally paid for using tax dollars. Make sure you factor in the price of private healthcare when moving to Dubai, as this may not be immediately obvious to people who are used to relying on state-sponsored healthcare.

All in all, expat life in Dubai is second to none when in the Arabian Peninsula. Ranked 75th on Mercer’s Quality of Living Reports, Dubai is on a par with the likes of Seoul and Budapest. If you’re looking for a city where you can make the most of your time as an expat worker, making money while soaking in the sights and sounds of a foreign culture, Dubai may just be the city for you.

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