Arriving in...Sharjah


Fraser Clarke

Making a career move overseas can be a daunting prospect, however we’re hopeful that we can be of help. In our latest Odyssey Exclusive series, ‘Arriving in…’ we’re going to take a look at your journey to a new life abroad.

We’ll aim to cover all the basics to make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be for the move, and get the most out of life in your new home.

Our first installment will look at Sharjah, an Emirate that is fast becoming the home of healthcare in the UAE.

Getting there: Sharjah does have its own airport, however there are no direct flights to it from London. You can catch an EgyptAir with a lengthy layover in Cairo, however most people will fly into Dubai International. 23 flights leave the UK for Dubai every day: 15 from London (Emirates, Qantas, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Royal Brunei Airlines) three from Manchester, two from Glasgow and one from Newcastle (all Emirates).

Sharjah is approximately half an hour’s drive from Dubai International Airport, with plenty of cheap taxis available. Most employers will sort out flights and transfers for their employees - however it’s always best to ensure this before boarding.

Accommodation: Throughout the Emirates accomodation is often provided by employers, usually within secure compounds. Sharjah is no exception, however for those looking for something different, housing allowances can go further than they would in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Rent in Sharjah is typically 55% lower than it is in Dubai, however many buildings are older - making it important that you view before committing to anything.

Keeping in contact: Staying in touch with those back home when you’re in Sharjah shouldn’t be an issue. Throughout the Emirates mobile phone signal is strong, with Etisalat being the country’s most popular network.

Voice over internet protocol (VOIP) calling is illegal, meaning that Apple’s FaceTime and WhatsApp voice calling cannot be used - however Skype remains popular with those looking to video call friends and relatives.

Basic rules: Despite its Westernised image, the UAE remains an Islamic country, and so there are certain rules and customs that should be followed by those living there. Here are five you should know about in advance:

  • It is illegal to purchase and drink alcohol in your home without a liquor license. There is zero tolerance to drink driving, or being caught drunk in public.
  • Showing affection in public could land you in prison. Holding hands with your husband/wife will be accepted, however anything beyond this won’t be tolerated.
  • Dress conservatively. This is especially the case in Sharjah which is more of a traditional Emirati area than Dubai.
  • Eating, drinking or smoking in public during Ramadan is forbidden
  • Sharing living accomodation with an unmarried non-relative is illegal, and something we’d strongly advise that is avoided. Laws are less strict in compounds, however issues can (and do) still arise.

Getting around: There are plenty of ways to explore the UAE, and the rest of the Gulf from Sharjah. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, whilst public buses and the Dubai Metro also offer good value travel.

Driving in a private car is obviously an option too, however the roads can be dangerous with many drivers showing scant regard for the rules. We’d recommend spending time in Taxis before venturing out yourself, as it can be quite a shock.

For those looking for longer distance travel there are plenty of boat trips available in Dubai, whilst the airport is one of the world’s busiest - offering flights to everywhere from Baku to Zanzibar!

Things to see: The UAE has plenty to see and do, and so we’ve compiled a list of five things not to miss out on:

  • Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation - One of the Gulf’s greatest museums, this charts the history of Islam giving you a greater understanding of how it shaped the region.
  • Sharjah Classic Car Museum - A must for any car enthusiast, this small museum has a great collection of cars right from the early 20th century through to the early 1980s.
  • Souq Al Jubail, Sharjah, an unusually modern marketplace, where you can pick up plenty of fresh, local produce.
  • Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi. Located XY away from Sharjah covers more than 12 hectares. Its beauty and size make it a must-visit.
  • Burj Khalifa, Dubai. Of course you couldn’t possibly visit the UAE and not take a trip to the top of the world’s tallest building. Offering stunning views this engineering wonder will leave you speechless - and breathless if you attempt to use the stairs!

The working environment: Working in Sharjah can be a unique experience, so we’ve came up with a quick list of things to expect:

  • A multinational environment. Despite being smaller than Dubai, Sharjah is home to a diverse population. Expect to work with people from all over the world - even in smaller hospitals and clinics.
  • Be prepared to be patient, as administrative tasks can often take a great deal of time.
  • Discrimination is widespread. If an employer is looking for a native English speaking member of staff it usually means a white British/American/Canadian/Australian/Kiwi.
  • Being late is accepted. In fact it’s something that is the case regionwide. It’s rare for meetings to start or end on time as a result.
  • Ramadan will have an impact on your life, Muslim or not. Be prepared for this, and be respectful to the wishes of your colleagues and patients during the month.

Don’t forget:

  • Organise your finances before making the move, have you converted enough money, do you have an overseas bank account, should you be paying any tax at home?
  • Will your credit/debit cards work abroad?
  • Is your airport pickup sorted, and do you know where you’re staying when you arrive?
  • Do you have a phone that will work in your new location?
  • When is your official start date?