Emily Crutcher is a southern belle sounding off in hot and humid Dubai. She joined the ranks of the up-and-coming young professionals who relocated to Dubai to experience a more cosmopolitan lifestyle and to find out if expat life in the Middle East is all it’s chalked up to be.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I’m from the United States, and my hometown is Charlotte, North Carolina. Named after Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III of Britain, Charlotte is known as the Queen City. Although the city is considered "small" (estimated 2010 population of 750,000) by global standards, Charlotte is very important in the global economy. The city is a major financial hub, with Bank of America headquartered in the city’s central business district.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: I’m now living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in the Dubai Marina district. Dubai Marina is one of the most popular areas for expatriates to live and for tourists to visit. The area is known for its laid-back lifestyle, with marinas and public beaches. The area comprises high-rise residential towers (G+20), several hotels, and a shopping centre. Dubai Marina is served by various forms of public transit, including two Dubai Metro stations.
Q: How long have you lived in Dubai?
A: I’ve lived in Dubai for about 3.5 years.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I work for a commercial real estate firm.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Dubai? How’s the quality of life?
A: I love the cosmopolitan, multicultural vibe of Dubai and the fact that my friends come from all over the world. I love that I live right across the street from the beach. And I love that my apartment overlooks Palm Jumeirah, the island shaped like a palm tree.
I love being able to go down to the art galleries in the restored homes in Bastakiya, the oldest part of Dubai along the Dubai Creek, and I love meeting up with my friends at Barasti, a bar right on the beach, for sundowners and live music.
Q: Any negatives about Dubai? What do you miss most about home?
A: Of course I miss my family and friends, but there are a few other things I really miss too! I miss the live music festivals. The only bands/musicians/DJs that come to Dubai tend to be pop/hip-hop. I miss the greenery! My hometown is known for all of its old oak trees, which create a verdant canopy in the summer.
Q: Is Dubai safe?
A: Yes, Dubai is a very safe place to live. The most dangerous thing about Dubai is the high speeds people drive on Sheikh Zayed Road.
About living in Dubai
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A: Dubai Marina is the best place to live as an expat. But for those expats with families or those expats who want to live in a villa, Jumeirah or Umm Sequim are more suitable areas.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A: The accommodation, for the most part, is modern and spacious because many of the residential developments were built over the past five years.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Dubai compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Rents have fallen in Dubai, so finding affordable accommodation much easier than it was two years ago.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: In general, Emiratis socialize with other Emiratis. I socialize with other expats – Arabs, Indians, Europeans, Australians, British and other Americans. Dubai is a very cosmopolitan city!
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Yes! Because most people living in Dubai are not from Dubai, everyone is willing to get out, socialize, and meet new people.
About working in Dubai
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: No, your company must secure a work visa for you.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Dubai? Is there plenty of work?
A: While the official statistics may paint a different picture, it seems like the city is still shedding jobs. Many expats in Dubai who have lost their jobs over the past two years have sought out work in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: The corporate workplace in Dubai is much more multicultural than the corporate workplace in Charlotte, North Carolina. I have colleagues from all over the world, which creates a unique environment.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare?
A: In general, I think Europeans find the healthcare subpar. I had a major surgery in Dubai, and I was satisfied, but not overly impressed, with the level of care.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Come check out Dubai!
► Interviewed November 2010