Being an expat in Dubai: our advice for a successful expatriation

Being an expat in Dubai: our advice for a successful expatriation

Dubai has undoubtedly become one of your favourite destinations in recent years. With over 80% of expatriates, the city continues to attract foreign nationals every year. And we understand why! The most populous city in the United Arab Emirates is the new paradise for expats looking for adventure and change. However, you should know that being an expat in Dubai is not something you can improvise. In this article, we give you all the tips and advice you need to prepare your expatriation in this crazy and exciting city!

The best destination for expatriates?

The United Arab Emirates is a so-called federal state, located in the Middle East and composed of 7 states. It is populated by almost 10 million people, most of whom are expatriates and foreign workers! Dubai is the best known and most populous city in the UAE, along with Abu Dhabi, which together are home to almost 5 million people. With a population that is growing by 10.7% every year, Dubai is proving that it still has the wind in its sails and that it intends to continue its success story for several more years.

Why does Dubai attract so many immigrants?

There are many reasons for this. While employment remains one of the fundamental reasons for expatriation to Dubai, some expats simply want a complete change of pace and new experiences in this new city. The city is cosmopolitan and constantly evolving, offering a more than stimulating environment for its inhabitants. It is therefore clear that being an expat in Dubai will prove to be a very rewarding experience for you, no matter what you do there!

Is Dubai really a tax haven?

With its zero tax policy, it certainly looks like one! In the United Arab Emirates, there is no income or corporate tax, and this virtual absence of taxation will remain in force for the next few years. There are, however, some indirect taxes, such as alcohol tax (30%), tolls, rental taxes, etc. VAT is set at 5%. Finally, there are free zones in Dubai, where it is possible to set up a company benefiting from exemptions, which will not be subject to corporate tax. The original aim of this initiative in 1985 was to increase the attractiveness of the urban area of Jebel Ali. Today, investors from all over the world can choose from dozens of free zones in Dubai to start their business

Who are the expatriates in the UAE?

In 2021, the expatriate population in the UAE represents almost 88.5% of the total, represented by the Indian (27.5%) and Pakistani (12.7%) communities, followed by Bangladeshis (7.4%) and Filipinos (5.6%):

living in dubai expat

UAE Population Statistics (2021). Source :

Religion is very important to the people of Dubai. While the Muslim community is the largest in Dubai (you will have the opportunity to admire the city’s beautiful mosques), it is not the only active community as Sikhs, Christians and Hindus also have their own places of worship, which is not the case in the other emirates of the United Arab Emirates.

The benefits of being an expat in Dubai

The list of advantages is long, but here are 5 important and advantageous criteria for those who wish to start a new life project in this city:

Sunshine for good mood

The climate in the United Arab Emirates is one of the biggest advantages of the country. With temperatures that quickly rise above 30°C, you are more likely to get sunburned than to catch a cold! But with shops and transport equipped with air conditioning at all hours, beware of heat shock.

Job market

If you ask an expat in Dubai why they chose to settle in the city, they will most likely say work. With fast-growing sectors such as luxury, high tech and tourism, finding work in Dubai may not be as difficult as it sounds. Note, however, that it is recommended that you have a sufficient level of education to gain access to the most sought-after positions. It is also recommended to be fluent in English, and fluency in Arabic is a real plus. In any case, it is certain that everyone can try their luck in Dubai.

Accommodation in Dubai

Finding accommodation in Dubai is generally relatively easy. The real estate market offers many properties in residential areas (Umm Suqueim, Barsha, Emirates Hills) or in the city centre. Rent prices vary from one area to another, but the average rent for central Dubai is AED 3,500 (about €870). Moving to this city is not impossible, but it does have a cost.

An amazing culture

Despite its large foreign population, its metamorphosis and status as an international city, Dubai has managed to preserve its soul, its culture and its identity. The change of scenery is complete! Daily life is punctuated by local traditions and Muslim festivals, with Islam playing a major role in the lives of Dubai’s citizens. The locals are very welcoming, and you will have no trouble approaching them and forming relationships with them. The food is also excellent, with specialities such as harees and shawarma.

Sense of service and quality

In Dubai, everything is designed to satisfy the customer and his needs, a real example for other countries! Starting with Emirates Airlines, which is renowned for its quality of service. For tourists, the hoteliers are very attentive and pamper their visitors. Daily, it is possible to have your groceries delivered at the click of a button or to call a taxi in a minute. Everything is accessible via the Internet; what is usually a chore turns out to be a disconcerting ease in this city where everything seems possible.

Preparing well before departure

When deciding to become an expat in Dubai or abroad, there are several important generalities and formalities to consider. Here is a short list that will certainly help you in your new life:

Health insurance

The healthcare system in Dubai is renowned for its quality of care and infrastructure. However, if you have opted for a nomadic life or to settle in the country for a longer period, you will certainly need expatriate health insurance or international health insurance. As an expat in Dubai, you will most likely have to pay for unexpected medical expenses or continue your treatment in case of chronic illness. An international health insurance policy will therefore ensure that you are covered, no matter where you are.

Negotiating your employment contract

Negotiating the terms of your employment contract is common in Dubai. Unlike some countries where the practice is frowned upon, it will be important for you to pay attention to the details of your contract and clear up any grey areas before accepting the offer. This will enable you to secure a comfortable salary and benefits package that will allow you to fully meet the cost of living in Dubai.

Moving alone, as a couple or with your family

First, this decision obviously has an impact on your budget and financial situation. It is important to bear in mind that the cost of living in Dubai is quite high, so you need to be sure that you are prepared before moving. Moving with your family and your children means many things: the children’s schooling and the expenses that come with it, the cost of a bigger house, the car and the daily transport… We reassure you; Dubai remains a very welcoming city for families. The quality of services is high, and the level of education is exemplary.

There is strength in numbers

The best way to get accurate information about your expatriation country is simply to ask for advice from people who have been in the same situation as you – other expatriates! They will have already been through the ordeals that await you and will be in the best position to give you recommendations.

On the other hand, once you are there, there is nothing more beneficial for you than to forget your peers and immerse yourself in a new culture, sharing time with the local community.

In conclusion

Dubai is undoubtedly the hot destination for digital nomads and entrepreneurs. However, it also has its share of drawbacks, even under its heaven-on-earth exterior – geopolitics, democracy, climate, high cost of living… It’s ultimately a much more complex destination than the stereotypes it’s been given. Between tradition and modernity, expatriation to Dubai will undoubtedly be a unique experience in your life. Take your time to think about it and get the facts right before you take the plunge. The rest should be a breeze!

If you would need more information on the healthcare system in Dubaï, please visit our dedicated country guide. If the Persian Gulf attracts you but you are still hesitating, you should know that expatriation to Oman is also on the increase

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