I moved to Dubai in January 2016 to be with my girlfriend who was living there at the time, and I returned back to the UK in May 2017.
This is my personal experience of living in Dubai as a 27-year-old British expat. This of course, doesn’t represent the views of others that live there. So naturally, some may agree with what I have to say, and others may disagree entirely.
I’ve tried to keep this brief and to the point cos ya know we’re all short on time, so if it doesn’t read or flow well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In Dubai the average person (from the UK) can be exposed to a world that would be beyond their reach back home, glamourous hotels, yacht parties, sports cars and swanky bars.
Luxuries are more easily accessible when you have a higher disposable income and they cost less (there’s no tax on income and at the time was there no VAT to pay on goods).
I was fortunate enough to indulge in some of these opportunities that wouldn’t have been afforded back home (for which I am really grateful).
It’s a flash and lavish lifestyle that looks great on social media, and while these fancy activities are more easily accessible for the average Brit expat, it doesn’t make it sustainable. Many pile on up debt on their credit cards or take out loans to keep up their appearances.
I’m a pretty unmaterialistic person, so while I did enjoy parts of this lifestyle that I was exposed to, it was mostly wasted on me. It felt hollow, like I hadn’t achieved it, perhaps it’s because when something becomes seemingly accessible to everyone it losses it’s appeal or the type of people I was sharing these experiences with.
The weather in the winter is fantastic, it only rains for a handful of days per year, which means it’s mostly sunny for the rest of the time. However, there’s a price to pay. From May to September the weather reaches unbearable temperatures of almost 50 degrees Celsius (that’s about 120 Fahrenheit for any Americans reading).
Have you ever tried sitting in a sauna while someone blows a hot hair dryer in your face? Yeah me neither, but that’s what it feels like. So for almost half the year you can’t really venture outside, you spend your whole time indoors doing whatever you can to keep yourself entertained while you wait for winter to come along again. It’s shit, I’d take a dark and cold winter in the UK over a Dubai summer any day. At least if it’s cold you can add a few layers and still venture out.
Dubai’s roads are similar to the U.S. where you have many highways, so if you want to do anything you’ve got to drive there.
There aren’t really any high streets you can wander so everything is sort of centred around shopping malls and hotels (which have bars attached to them where you can drink alcohol).
After living most of my life in the UK I’d just become used to walking around and exploring, the way Dubai is set up kills any sense of adventure or spontaneity.
Once you’ve explored all the touristy bits there doesn’t really feel like there’s an awful lot to do, most people seem to spend their time shopping, going to the cinema or attending brunches (this is where you pay a set amount and you can eat and drink as much as you like until you can’t feel anymore), these all seemed to be forms of escapism to help people forget where they are.
I did meet some lovely people in Dubai, but they were few and far between. In general, I found that Dubai was home to pretentious, self-important and arrogant people who only wanted to know you if you’ve got money or if you can be useful to them in someway.
It can be hard to form bonds romantically or on a friendship level, something that’s made even more difficult due to the transient nature of the place.
I worked in digital marketing, and while I can only share my experience of this one particular industry I’m confident that what I have to say would apply to most other industries in Dubai.
Dubai gives off the impression that it’s a hugely advanced city, it has “the best” this and “the biggest” that, but the reality is it’s really far behind.
To give it it’s due, it’s a young country, so it’s playing catch-up. What this means though is that for a lot of industries there’s either no competition, or any competition you do have likely isn’t very good.
There’s also a lack of talent in the region, this means you can be average Joe back home, and top of your game in the UAE. It’s akin to a university graduate going back to kindergarten, sure it feels great to know all the answers, perhaps even an ego boast, but in the long run you’re only screwing yourself over.
This can create a false sense of career progression, and if you stay in Dubai too long you can run the risk of becoming stale and outdated.
I’m not the right type of person to enjoy living in that kind of environment. I missed walking around, seeing nature and greenery, being around normal people and having freedom of speech.
I’d recommend Dubai as a holiday destination, a stop over for a few nights if you’re heading to or from Asia or a week if you’re looking to chill somewhere with guaranteed sun.
In terms of living there, just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you will too.
If you live in Dubai it would be great to hear your view in the comments section below. I wrote this post to help people understand what it was like living there.