Arriving in...Dubai

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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 penultimate installment will look at Dubai, still the most popular destination with expat medics seeking a better life overseas..

Getting there: Getting to Dubai could hardly be any easier. There are 24 flights to the Emirate from the UK every single day, all of which are direct.

Emirates, Qantas, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Royal Brunei Airlines all offer flights from London, whilst Emirates also offer direct routes from Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Newcastle.

The journey time is around seven hours, and with so many flights available good deals are easy to find.

Getting to your accommodation from the vast Dubai International Airport itself won’t be an issue, with plenty of taxis and the Metro available to get you to the major residential areas in under an hour.

Accommodation: Throughout the Emirates accommodation is often provided by employers, usually within secure compounds. This is a case for most of the major employers in Dubai too, who will offer high quality, modern homes and apartments to employees.

As always we’d urge you to visit these first, and do some research into the area to make sure it will suit your needs. Throughout the Emirate the standard of living is high however, so you’re unlikely to face any major issues.

Keeping in contact: Staying in touch with those back home when you’re in Dubai is unlikely to be an issue. Throughout the Emirate the mobile phone signal is strong, with Etisalat being the country’s most popular network.

Voice over internet protocol (VOIP) calling however has recently been made 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 outwith the compounds. This is less of an issue than it is in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, however should still be adhered to in Dubai.
  • Eating, drinking or smoking in public during Ramadan is forbidden
  • Sharing living accommodation with an unmarried non-relative is illegal, and something we’d strongly advise you avoid. Laws are less strict in compounds, however issues can (and do) still arise.

Getting around: Exploring Dubai is easy. As a city built on a strong expat community, and worldwide tourism there are plenty of quick, cheap, easy ways to get around.

Taxis are popular and, with plenty available and the seriously low cost of fuel, they are one of the cheapest ways to get around. Dubai also has a fully automated Metro system, regarded as one of the world’s most modern and technically advanced. 

There are also plenty of buses (with air-conditioned shelters), ferries and even an increasingly advanced cycle-network in the Emirate.

People can take to the roads themselves too, however with the standard of driving somewhat lower than in most of Europe we’d recommend waiting a while before venturing out of the compounds!

Things to see: As a hugely popular tourism destination, Dubai has plenty to see and do, so we’ve compiled a quick list of five things not to miss out on:

  • Burj Khalifa. 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!
  • Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping centre caters for all tastes, with plenty of the planet’s biggest brands represented.
  • Al Bastakiya District, in amongst a sea of modern architecture, this hidden gem hints at what life used to be like.
  • Dubai Creek, a saltwater creek perfect for evening meals or quiet walks out with the busy city centre.
  • Ski Dubai. Yes. Really. You can actually go skiing in Dubai on real snow in the Middle East’s first indoor ski slope!

The working environment: Working in Dubai can be a unique experience, so we’ve compiled a quick list of things to expect:

  • A multinational environment. The Emirate is home to a diverse population. Expect to work with people from all over the world - even in the 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?