Earlier this month, my Emirates ID and UAE Residence Visa expired after my first three years in the country. It seemed like a natural prompt to reflect on my experience of living in this wonderful, mad city. This article follows one I wrote a year into my time in the UAE where I reflected on the reality of being an expat here versus my expectations.
The reasons I moved to Dubai were both personal and professional and that seems a sensible way to break down my experiences. So, what’s changed and what have I learned?
When I first moved here, I wrote that “I understand the weather is certainly an upgrade on London and being able to travel to a wide variety of places in and around a 4-hour flight is a definite perk.”
The weather has certainly been a huge upgrade on London, although as I write this it actually feels a touch chilly. Given it’s 24 degrees at the moment I fear living in the normally sunny warmth of Dubai has made me what my fellow northerners would call ‘nesh’! That said, the weather is wonderful here at least nine months of the year, although I’m not sure anyone ever gets used to summer temperatures that go past 45 degrees regularly (thank goodness for air conditioning).
That weather also leads to an excellent work/life balance and a very enjoyable lifestyle. Most of the year you can eat outside and spend evenings and weekends by the pool or at the beach. There are some brilliant restaurants at a range of price points and plenty of opportunities to swim/run/paddleboard off the calories.
As for travelling, Dubai has one of the world’s largest airports and it is a fantastic hub for travelling across Asia, Africa, Europe and Eurasia. We’ve ticked off so many incredible destinations over the numerous public holidays in the last few years whilst being able to fly with one of the world’s best airlines is also a perk.
I say ‘we’ because one personal result of moving to the UAE is that I met my fiancée and in less than two months we were getting married on The Palm. I didn’t expect that when I decided to relocate but I am certainly very happy it happened.
So - from a personal perspective - moving to the Middle East has been a huge success.
So, what did I expect professionally when I moved here? In my previous article I said, “A deeper understanding of how different cultures do business and experience in a less saturated market”.
On the first point I have definitely learned a lot. I work in a team of 5 who speak 6 languages and come from 4 different countries. Our clients are headquartered all over the world and have truly global teams. People from outside of the Middle East often think of it as homogeneous but in fact the different cultures and countries form a kaleidoscope of beliefs, cultural norms, rules and regulations. This means that recruiting in the region is full of interesting challenges. One thing that I have found is universal though is that if you focus on doing the right thing your reputation will be your most valuable asset.
I’ve also taken over as Head of MENA for Carter Murray and grown the team to five, each of my colleagues has experience in the industries they recruit for and a track record of delivering excellence for customers. This opportunity to manage and lead a diverse team of stand-out recruiters is certainly one of the highlights of my time in the region. As is the opportunity to travel across the GCC meeting fascinating people who are changing the landscape of Financial and Professional Services.
So both personally and professionally the move has also been a success, but there must be some challenges, right? Well, yes. Being further away from family can be difficult, although modern technology is making this easier every day. The weather here in the summer can also be challenging as mentioned at the start of this piece. Generally however, the move to Dubai has been a massive success and an experience I’d encourage other people to try.