The unexpected reality of being a new Dubai Expat!


So you’ve seen all those amazing brunch photos, beautiful sunsets, traditional souks and wacky food that make up Dubai… Who wouldn’t want to live here right?!

It’s always good to get a reality check – now by this I don’t mean that Dubai isn’t all of those things I mentioned… It really is but there is so much that goes into expat life in Dubai. Dubai is definitely a ‘work hard play hard’ kind of place so while we usually cover the play hard part (lol) we will discuss some of the difficulties we find people encounter here.

work hard

We decided to start with the employment side of things first as you need to have a job in order to live in Dubai and knowing what package you are taking can help you figure out the rest of your finances.

When taking on a job there are a lot of things you need to pay special attention to the offer letter and contract you sign. In particular it is important you clarify anything that doesn’t make sense to you as there are a lot of differences in the way employment in the UAE works, compared to the UK. You have to check out the following

  • Medical insurance coverage (so you’re aware what type of coverage you have and what emergencies will be paid for)
  • When will your visa be processed (some company’s don’t process visas until a probation period has been completed which means you’ll have to do visa runs – click here for more info)
  • How long is your probation period
  • What are the terms and conditions if you want to leave the company
  • Do you get any housing allowance to help with the rent
  • Depending on the position you are doing some pay offer a company car so you can check if petrol is paid for (if you are required to use the car for the position)
  • Will the company put you up in paid accommodation until you find a place to live

Once you are clear on these points it should be easier to settle into Dubai life. Work has such a huge impact on your life here so we would definitely encourage you to research the company fully before accepting any position – maybe connect with current employees on LinkedIn etc to find out first hand. Also do not make the mistake of comparing Dubai salaries with the UK – Dubai company’s tend to offer some kind of package so once you know what the package entails, you can figure out whether the salary will be enough to cover the rest of your lifestyle and bills. E.g. a salary of 10k AED with full medical insurance, company car, mobile phone and housing allowance may work out better for you than a 12k AED salary with no company car or housing allowance.

You really do need to sit down and think sensibly – to be honest we haven’t had to work through finances as much as we have here – it is soooo easy to go out and spend frivolously and be broke at the end of the month lol… trust me we’ve fallen into that trap before! So budgeting in the first few months is KEY! Be realistic about how much you are willing to struggle – we lived on instant noodles, rice crackers and cream cheese and cereal etc the first couple of months as we were stuck in a hotel room with no kitchen and couldn’t afford to go out every day to eat – especially on one salary whilst organising finances for our first home in Dubai. Don’t fall into the trap of getting out loans etc – try to be as self sufficient as possible.


It is hard to settle into work life in Dubai but all change is hard. Not only are you leaving your home country, you’re having to adapt to a whole new way of life, a new way of working and definitely a new way of living. Once you work through those changes, you will learn to love expat life in Dubai.



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