Mrs Dubai is a seasoned expat in the UAE, having lived in Dubai for the past 14 years. Originally from the UK, she came to the emirate with her husband in search of a better quality of life. They certainly found it here, and she enjoys the sunshine and outdoor lifestyle. Read more about her life as Dubai’s desperate housewife on her blog, mrsdubai.wordpress.com.
About Mrs Dubai
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: London, UK
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Dubai, UAE
Q: How long have you lived in Dubai?
A: 14 years
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: Yes, I moved with a spouse, but no children at that point.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: We moved to improve our quality of life and, for me, for a life in the sunshine.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Dubai? How’s the quality of life?
A: The UAE is very, very safe – with hardly any street crime, it’s a great place to bring up young children. They have a wonderful outdoor life with every opportunity you can think of, from snow-skiing (albeit in a mall) to indoor sky-diving and playing polo. I also love the wall-to-wall sunshine; I can’t explain how happy it makes me to see the blue sky every day. The quality of life is a million times better than it was for me in the UK.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Obviously friends and family, although that’s easier these days with social media. Otherwise, nothing I can’t fit in during a summer trip back: Gastro pub lunches, good shopping, inhaling the fresh, clean air of the British countryside, showing the children cows and sheep, and quirky architecture, as the houses can look a bit "same-same" in Dubai.
Q: Is Dubai safe?
A: Quite possibly one of the safest cities in the world in terms of personal crime.
About living in Dubai
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Dubai as an expat?
A: Popular areas for families are developments such as Arabian Ranches and Emirates Living areas such as The Meadows, The Springs and The Lakes, as well as the Palm Jumeirah. For traditional-style villas close to all amenities, Jumeirah and Umm Suqueim are popular. For apartments, Dubai Marina, The Greens and the area around Old Town, close to Burj Khalifa.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Dubai?
A: Very high. Almost all bedrooms have en suite bathrooms. Houses and apartments tend to be bigger than in Europe and generally much newer. Many come with servants’ quarters. Apartments tend to come with shared facilities such as a gym, sauna and swimming pool, while compound villas often share a pool and maybe even a small gym with others on the compound.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: It’s hard to say, as you can live on any level in Dubai. But to live an average "Western expat" lifestyle, it’s probably not too dissimilar from London. Accommodation, food and school fees are expensive, but petrol, cars and home help are cheap.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: Only about 15 percent of the population in the UAE consists of UAE nationals, so, to be honest, it’s quite difficult to meet them, and there isn’t that much interaction. If you do manage to make friends with an Emirati, though, I think you’d have a friend for life.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Dubai?
A: Very, very easy. Expats in Dubai are a friendly, outgoing bunch, and there’s always something happening. Whether it’s through your work, children, or attending social events, it’s always easy to meet new people.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Dubai?
A: Excellent, but expensive. A government health card is available for use in government clinics and hospitals, but private health insurance is strongly advised and possibly even mandatory. Most expat job packages will include private health insurance for the employee and usually for the spouse and children, too.
About working in Dubai
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Dubai?
A: No. Your company will sort all this out for you, though you will need to supply plenty of passport copies and passport photos for all the red tape.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Dubai? Is there plenty of work?
A: I believe Dubai is very much on the up again after the crash of 2009. Obviously some industries are faring better than others, though. There’s a definite feeling of optimism here right now.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: The hours are much longer – I don’t know anyone who does a nine-to-five day. It’s more common to work eight till six or longer. Like many expat cities, there’s a work-hard, play-hard mentality. It’s also a very multicultural workplace, so you have to learn to get along with others from many different cultures who might be coming to the job with completely different expectations and experiences than your own.
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: Not at all.
Q: What are the schools like? Do you have any particular suggestions?
A: Schools are all private. They vary massively in terms of cost, quality, language and curriculum (British, American, Indian, Arabic or international). A starting point would be to read the KHDA (a little like Ofsted) school reports, which are available on the KHDA website and will give some indication, or to talk to other parents. Online expat forums are invaluable for this.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Say yes to every invitation, get out there, meet people, use the online expat forums for information, and, ultimately, forget what you’ve read in the British press about Dubai – come with an open mind.
► Interviewed June 2012