Cormandré is a South African expat. She moved to Dubai in 2015 and hasn’t regretted it once. She currently works as a teacher and recently got married.
Read more about expat life in Dubai in our Expat Arrivals Dubai city guide.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I’m originally from Cape Town, South Africa.
Q: Where are you currently living?
A: In Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Q: When did you move here?
A: I moved here four years ago, in August of 2015.
Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: Yes, this is my first time working in another country except South Africa.
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I moved here alone initially, but I recently got married, and my husband moved here as well in April.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved to Dubai because it gives you much better opportunities and benefits than South Africa, especially for teachers. You receive a basic salary including medical aid, annual flights back home and fully furnished accommodation. You also get a better salary here, and the quality of life is better. I also don’t feel unsafe in Dubai.
Living in Dubai
Q: What do you enjoy most about Dubai? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
A: There are so many different things to do here in Dubai. There is something for every age group or person with different interests. I enjoy the fact that Dubai is such an open, multi-racial country that hosts people from all over the world. You can literally find people from every country living in Dubai. What I enjoy most about Dubai is the culture and the food. I learned to love the food, and whenever I am back home, I miss it so much.
Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about home?
A: I won’t say that there have been any negative experiences that I’ve had, but I miss the natural beauty South Africa has to offer and the roads. Dubai’s traffic is horrendous, and you can sit in traffic for an hour.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: I adjust pretty easily to any situation, and I am very open-minded, so I didn’t really have to adjust to anything. The only thing I had to make peace with is that sometimes things take longer than you would like or you have to ask more than once, but this is not the case for everyone. I loved the fact that the malls and some restaurants are open till 12am or even later. The weather is extremely hot here, and you sometimes feel like you’re stepping into a sauna. This was my biggest adjustment, although everything here has air conditioning.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in your host country?
A: The cost of living compared to back home is less. If you can manage your salary well, you will be able to save a lot or travel. Technology is more affordable here than back home, but accommodation (if I convert it to ZAR) is very expensive. Luckily for teachers and other employees, most companies provide you with accommodation.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Dubai?
A: It is amazing! You can literally just walk outside your building and find a taxi or use Uber and get picked up in a fancy car like a Lexus. The public transportation like the bus and train is very good. You have a train coming every few minutes. The buses and trains are clean, modern and easily accessible for everyone.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Dubai? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: The healthcare here is good, I would say. I would recommend City Hospital or the Medi-Clinic.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Dubai? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Dubai is a very safe country. I do not feel scared or concerned regarding safety at all. The police are also very helpful if you would need them, and they are very supportive.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city? What different options are available for expats?
A: Amazing. Most expats live in apartment buildings or villas. The accommodation differs from standard (older buildings) to very modern. My apartment is big, and I have two bedrooms with their own bathrooms, a guest toilet, a washing room and a balcony. The building has its own gym for tenants to use, along with a sauna and steam room. The rooftop offers a big swimming pool with a smaller one separately for children (knee-deep) and a jacuzzi. On the ground floor, we have a salon, laundry, paid gym, supermarket and barber, and next to the building a pharmacy. The best part is that every place in Dubai delivers whatever you need. No need to even leave the apartment. This works for things from food to medicine.
Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Jumeirah, Mirdiff, Silicon Oasis, Media City. There are so many nice new developments.
Making friends in Dubai
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular group? Have you ever experienced discrimination in your host city?
A: Some companies do prefer employing locals, but I fell in love with the Emirati culture. They are so welcoming and friendly. I have never experienced discrimination in the UAE. The theme of the UAE was actually tolerance previously, and this year, it’s kindness. I can honestly say that Dubai is tolerant and kind.
Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: It was easy but also difficult as I tend to put a lot of time into my job. There are opportunities if you make time for it.
Q: Have you made friends with locals, or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals?
A: I have friends from Dubai as well as other countries. My advice would be that you shouldn’t be afraid to approach people because sometimes they are too shy to approach you first.
Working in Dubai
Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: For me, it was a very simple process, as my school did everything for me.
Q: What are the schools like in Dubai?
A: Schools are very good here. Schools are rated according to certain criteria, and you are able to see which schools are acceptable, good, very good or outstanding.
Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Dubai?
A: Do as many things as you can while you are here. Live life while you still have the chance and opportunity.
► Interviewed September 2019