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Living & working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Why live in the UAE?
The UAE is the most cosmopolitan and Westernised country in the Middle East. While Dubai is the bustling centre for the Gulf, both commercially and as a holiday destination, the region as a whole has a lot to offer in terms of lifestyle and career development.
With its long history of political and social stability, a large, highly-educated, multilingual and multicultural workforce of skilled professionals has chosen to put down roots here. The UAE has an un-bureaucratic approach to business, with some of the best tax and financial incentives on offer anywhere in the world. The sophisticated lifestyle and safe living conditions also make it popular with business executives and their families.
One of the major differences living in the UAE is the restriction on alcohol. Generally, only hotels have licenses to sell alcohol, so you are likely to find that the majority of bars, restaurants and clubs aimed at Westerners will be attached to hotels.
The month of Ramadan is a feature of life in the Middle East. During this month, eating, drinking and smoking are not permitted in public, from sunrise to sunset. This is strictly adhered to and even as a non-Muslim it is unacceptable to partake in any of the above.
While drinking might be frowned upon, shopaholics are more than welcome in the UAE; it’s a retail paradise with breathtaking malls and department stores, selling everything from Blu-ray players to designer clothes, all tax free.
For the sports lover there are championship golf courses and opportunities to try your hand at fishing, horse riding, water sports, skating and even skiing. Dubai is world famous for its horse racing, but don’t forget that gambling is illegal. Desert driving is also popular – what could be more exciting than taking a 4-wheel drive over the sand dunes?
Budding socialites will be at home among the thriving expat community; relax around the pool at one of the social clubs or sample the cuisine at restaurants serving Arabic, European, American and Asian cuisine. If you’re feeling particularly resilient, there is a handful of bars that stay open until 3am.
We recommend that you be covered for healthcare at all times. There are a number of international companies that specialize in private health insurance – comprehensive, regional cover costs around £35 per month. Long waiting lists are almost unheard of, with every city and major town having at least one or several modern hospital. They are listed in telephone directories, yellow pages and tourist publications. When choosing a hospital, your best bet is to seek advice from colleagues and friends.
The term ‘clinic’ is used to denote a general practitioner’s surgery. There’s a high ratio of doctors to patients and a routine first diagnostic visit costs about £40, with additional costs for any tests. The majority of dentists are from Scandinavia, Britain and Russia – embassies keep details of nationals practicing dentistry here. Dentists and orthodontists also advertise in telephone directories, expatriate magazines and tourist guides.
Several of the world’s leading banks and their subsidiaries have branches in the UAE. Setting up an account is easy, as is transferring money home. You’ll be given a cash card to withdraw money from ATM machines and credit cards are accepted throughout the country.
In the UAE, expats can opt to buy or rent. A variety of accommodation is available, from unfurnished apartments to fully furnished villas. Many apartment blocks include facilities such as satellite TV, a swimming pool, tennis courts and covered parking. Self-contained compound villas are common and many retain staff.
Rental and property prices have increased a lot in recent years, but have now been capped to prevent things getting out of hand. To find an accommodation, contact real estate agents, scour the newspapers or ask friends and colleagues.
Dubai International airport is 5km south-east of Dubai and is a major hub at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Gulf Air, British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa and KLM regularly fly in and out of Dubai.
You’ll need to acquire an International Driving Permit before entering the country. Many people purchase a car for the duration of their stay. A word of caution: when driving on the main roads, the junction numbers are often not in numerical order!
Public buses are clean and cheap, but infrequent. The bus system is most useful for getting between different areas of central Dubai, or between the various suburbs. The main bus stations are Gold Souq Market and Al Ghubaiba bus station, which also runs a service to the other Emirates. Clear route maps and time-tables are placed inside a few bus stands.. The front seats are reserved for women.
Alternative transportation is essentially limited to taxis, which are metered, although you might discover the meter is ‘broken’ and you have to haggle. The RTA (Roads Transport Authority) has embarked on an ambitious project to introduce a Metro Rail system. The first phase has beencompleted by late 2009 and there will eventually be a network of 6 metro linesin the future.
Cost of Living
The overall cost of living in the UAE is comparable to that in the majority of European countries.
Living & working in Saudi Arabia
Pay & Benefits
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula. As the world’s leading petroleum producer and exporter, oil accounts for more than 90% of exports and 75% of government revenue, with Saudi oil reserves the largest in the world.
Roughly six million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, in a variety of sectors. Most expat employment opportunities have traditionally been in the oil and gas industry, but the boom in the retail and construction sectors has provided many new jobs.
Saudi Arabia’s goal is to become as self sufficient as possible in terms of its work force. For a candidate to be employed from overseas they must have experience and skills that cannot be found locally. For those candidates with skills in demand, a move to Saudi could be life changing; remuneration and benefits packages are among the best in the world.
A major incentive to move to Saudi Arabia is its status as a free economic zone. You don’t pay income tax here.
To obtain a driving licence, bank account or health insurance you need a Residence Visa. Your employer will act as your sponsor during your stay and it will be their responsibility to organise your Residence Visa.
Why live in Saudi Arabia?
The life led in Saudi, especially by Western women, is starkly contrasted inside and outside living compounds. Outside the compound, women are required to wear the long black cloak of the Abaya, strictly enforced by the Mutawa’a – religious policemen. Women are also restricted on visits to leisure facilities as they must be accompanied by a male relative or husband.
Inside the compounds there are spacious, furnished and air-conditioned villas, Western dress codes, unisex swimming and gymnasium, satellite TV and internet access. Saudi is a very family oriented culture and their indulgent approach to children ensures that parents never need worry about their whereabouts. As a parent in Saudi, your status is automatically elevated.
Theatres, cinemas and clubs can be found in the private compounds. If you’re an active person, the Saudis are obsessed with sport, especially football, hiking, diving and golf.
We recommend that you be covered for healthcare at all times. There are a number of international companies that specialise in private health insurance – comprehensive, regional cover costs around £35 per month. Long waiting lists are almost unheard of, with every city and major town having at least one modern hospital. They are listed in telephone directories, yellow pages and tourist publications. When choosing a hospital, your best bet is to seek advice from colleagues and friends. The term ‘clinic’ is used to denote a general practitioner’s surgery. There’s a high ratio of doctors to patients and a routine first diagnostic visit costs about £40, with additional costs for any tests. The majority of dentists are from Scandinavia, Britain and Russia – embassies keep details of nationals practising dentistry here. Dentists and orthodontists also advertise in telephone directories, expatriate magazines and tourist guides.
Several of the world’s leading banks and their subsidiaries have branches in Saudi Arabia. A number of foreign banks, including the British Bank of the Middle East, Citibank and Standard Chartered have a major presence here. Setting up an account is easy, as is transferring money home. You’ll be given a cash card to withdraw money from ATM machines and credit cards are widely accepted.
In Saudi Arabia expats only have the option to rent. There’s a variety of accommodation available, from unfurnished apartments to fully furnished villas. Executive apartments provide additional amenities such as a swimming pool, tennis court, gym or sauna. Flats and houses can be rented for any length of period, from a day to a decade and beyond. The longer the rental period, the better the deal. Prices vary depending on size and location: one-bedroom apartments start around 2800 SAR; 2 and 3 bedroom apartments cost upwards of 3750 SAR and villas can go for anything up to 11200 SAR per month. To find accommodation, contact real estate agents, scour the newspapers or ask friends and colleagues.
There are three international airports in Saudi Arabia, located in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. Regional flights within the Middle East are easily available.
Roads within Saudi are well maintained, although driving styles can be erratic. Cars can be leased or bought, but only driven by men. Women must be driven by their husband, a male relative or one of the taxi companies licensed to take women. Most compounds offer bus services to and from popular local destinations such as shopping malls.
Cost of Living
Saudi Arabia is not a cheap place, but it’s possible to live relatively inexpensively if you put your mind to it. The price of almost anything is negotiable. In Bedouin markets you can haggle incessantly…
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