Moving to Dubai can be both exciting and stressful. The more you prepare the easier the transition will be. If you are moving to Dubai with children, this preparation is even more essential.
Leave Your Particulars in Good Order
What does this mean? It means different things in different countries. However, if you are leaving a family home vacant, check that you have the correct insurance. If it is to be tenanted, check that you have followed procedures for your country and adjusted the insurance accordingly.
It may be in your interests to declare yourself non-resident for tax purposes, but get advice first. Such a declaration may impact any medical or pension arrangements currently in place.
Setting up internet banking, if you are leaving a bank account active and have property to maintain, is useful.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Dubai can be high due to the cost of housing and private schooling. So, although it is a tax free environment, make sure you have the salary to cover your costs. It is possible to cut costs and economize in your home country where you know the system. However, living in a new country on an inadequate salary will be a misery, and this would be particularly so in Dubai where there is so much to enjoy, if you have the money, and so few ways to reduce costs. You cannot decide to walk places, ride a bike to work to save transport because of the heat at least six months of the year, nor can you send the children to a government school. Some costs just cannot be avoided.
Prepare to Experience Culture Shock
A new country even when, like Dubai, the language of daily communication is English will have some surprises for you. You will experience culture shock to some extent. Culture shock is that feeling that things are WRONG. You can expect to experience culture shock in stages: after three days, three weeks, three months and three years. Now this is not going to happen exactly like this, but people tend to marvel at how different everything is for a few days and then get an attack of the blues. After three weeks, you will have faced some hurdles and you will have begun to realize that you are here for the long haul. That is when the first serious attack of culture shock generally hits. Overcoming culture shock is learning to see that things are DIFFERENT rather than WRONG.
Reduce Culture Shock through Knowledge
The more you know, the better you can anticipate and prepare for the little niggles that can precipitate a bout of culture shock.
Dubai is a Muslim country. There are mosques dotted all over the city, and they all have minarets from which the call to pray can be heard five times a day. Because the call is amplified, it can be surprisingly loud especially in the early morning. In the summer, as the pray call begins before dawn, it can be very early. Most westerners get used to the call and are able to sleep through it, but it takes time for light sleepers. Eventually, it becomes part of the life in Dubai.
Almost from the moment you arrive in Dubai, you will see men immaculately dressed in white dishdasha or khandoura (rather like a floor length shirt) and women in abaya and hajab (black gown and head scarf). This is national dress. There are small variations within the GCC, but it is all variations on a theme. Emiratis are very proud to wear their national dress. The women may have expensive designer outfits on under their black gowns, but they present a perfectly groomed and modest appearance to the world. Very few women wear the niqab (full face covering), but it is worn by the more conservative Muslims.
Along with traditional Arab clothing you will see various different traditional Indian and Pakistani outfits, men wearing identifiably Afghani dress and very occasionally, different types of African dress. This is all part of the richness of living in a multi-cultural country. Unfortunately, it has become commonplace for me. I would love to experience it all again as a newcomer will, with surprise and wonder.
Apart from visual differences, there is the weather. Get used to being hot all the time in the summer. Of course air-conditioning takes the sting out of the summer, but it is lurking outside heating up your car even when parked in an underground car park. The upside is that the winter is like a six month long summer in most other countries. So do not despair.
Bureaucracy is a beast in all countries and Dubai is no different, but it is trying harder to minimize the issue. Nevertheless, get used to needing copies of a few standard items to do or apply for almost anything. Almost nothing can be done in Dubai without a swatch of photos – get 24 passport photos before you leave home and you will always have plenty; of course, if you have a family, they will need at least 12 photos each, too. The other top requirements are a photocopy of your passport, your residence visa (once you have one), your salary certificate, and your Emirates ID card (once you have that). Clearly, getting your residence visa and then your ID card are the first hurdles and cannot be done without the help of your employer.
While it is possible for a couple to both have work visas if both are working, the way it usually works is that one has the residence visa and the other has a spousal visa. It is possible for someone on a spousal visa to work, but that person will need a letter of no objection from the resident.
Find the fun in the unexpected and avoid culture shock.
Bringing pets to another country is never easy. It may be wiser to get yourself installed before you bring the pets. This is because, to bring a pet into the country one of the things you need is to prove that you have a residence visa or have a letter from your employer stating that the application is in process.
You will also need a permit to import your pet. This can be complicated but there is help available. Dubai Kennels and Cattery specialize in pet imports.
Cats and dogs in Dubai have to be registered and micro-chipped. Your pets will need to be in good health and have up-to-date inoculation certificates.
You might like to consider that there are plenty of cats and dogs in the UAE looking for good homes. If you would like to get a pet on arrival, contact the local agencies.
It is possible to come to the UAE, make contact with prospective employers, secure a job, fly home and sort things out only to return in a few weeks or months. Some people come to specific conferences and engage in this process. For example, the annual TESOL Arabia Conference is a great place for teachers to make contact with future employers. The hotel industry regularly holds conferences where networking opportunities are vast.
Also, there are employment agencies.
As mentioned above, if you already have a job offer, your employer will take most of the strain when it comes to getting you a residence visa. It is a complicated process. You biggest task will be making sure you have the original documents that your employer requires – birth certificates for all, marriage license, divorce license if applicable, and qualification certificates. If you have had a tertiary education, your employer may require you to get your university to send them a transcript of your degrees. This needs to come directly from the university because some people have presented themselves for employment on the basis of bogus qualifications.
Do make sure you ask whether or not your documents have to be attested in your home country or anywhere else. The rules for this seem to be flexible. But getting documents attested once you are in the UAE can be expensive if courier charges are added to the cost of having some dignitary stamp something. Wielding a stamp in an official capacity, especially if attached to an embassy, is a lucrative business.