Thinking about living in the UAE?

It’s not all sunshine and skyscrapers.

This article gives you the real deal – the good, the not-so-good, and everything in between.

From the exciting city life to the very hot weather, let’s take a deep dive into what life in the UAE really looks like.

If you decide to move to the UAE, make sure to read all of our guides on this country and then make up your mind.

Let’s dive in!

Pros of living in the UAE

Expat Community

A large percentage of people in the UAE migrate from other countries for a better future in the UAE. The disparity is such that only 10 to 11% of the 10 million people in UAE are actual Emiratis! 

To put that into perspective, only one in ten people in the UAE are indigenous Emiratis or UAE residents.

There is such a large community of expats from different countries that there is a harmless clash of cultures.

Expat communities are very closely knit in the UAE. 

If you are from a South Asian country, you will find a very helpful community here.

It’s always beneficial to have a helpful community wherever you move since the support is critical and much needed to figure out things.

Diversity is essential since it allows you to get more exposure.

Being around people with different backgrounds and ethnicities allows you to think from different perspectives and understand new concepts. 

Warm Weather 

Unlike some European countries that offer good work opportunities and have significant ex-pat populations, the weather isn’t too soothing.

In the UAE, you will encounter warm temperature year around, and it won’t get too cold.

Dubai and the rest of the UAE have many beaches, most of which are pretty fitted with luxurious amenities should you want to go diving into the warm waters to relax.

However, the weather might get a bit hot during the summers for a couple of weeks or days, but it won’t affect you much since there are fantastic air conditioning systems everywhere in the UAE.

In fact, you will forget about the heat if you step inside a building in the UAE. 

Job Opportunities

Several giant corporations and companies have their offices in the UAE due to the ease of their tax systems.

Moreover, there are large mega-factories that also need a lot of workforce to run; hence the ex-pat population from the third world countries are employed here. 

Dubai and Abu Dhabi pull billions of dollars in investments due to them being the financial hubs of the Arab world.

Hence, you will see that opportunities pop up now and then in these cities due to the challenging corporate world here.

In addition, the traditional Emiratis are mostly influential people with connections to oil corporations or some other source of income.

Therefore, the UAE needs the expat population to fill in for the significant roles in their economy. Thus, they happily provide these jobs. 

If you are a skilled worker looking to relocate or move to the UAE for a better future in the corporate world, you should do so since, as we discussed, there will be a lot of opportunities for you here. 

Taxes

The UAE has some of the most flexible tax systems in the world.

Don’t get us wrong; some things have heavy taxation structures on them; however, your income is one area where the UAE government doesn’t stick its nose.

This is one of the biggest and perhaps most important reasons you will see that most aspiring business people start their businesses in the UAE.

The state does not require you to pay income tax on your income or salary; hence, you get to keep all of it.

However, you have to play by their rules when it comes to doing business in the UAE. 

Moreover, some sectors where taxes are not exempted, for example, oil and banking, still face regulatory structures in the UAE.

However, in today’s world, where taxes are looked down on, and inflation is on the rise, the fact that there is no tax on how much you earn is a beautiful aspect, and many people want to move to the UAE solely for this reason. 

Education 

Education is essential if you are young, have a family, and want to settle in the UAE.

This country has some of the best school systems in the world.

These schools and colleges are framed on the British School System and teach their curriculum as well. You should know that they also teach IGCSE, GCSE, and syllabus from other Boards. 

If you are a child who is going to start university, then you should also know that almost all of the best colleges and universities in the world have campuses in the UAE.

Universities like NYU are pretty famous here with international students. 

The state offers generous grants for schools and colleges here; hence you should not worry about your child’s education when settling here.

Schools and colleges are the most vital part of your child’s educational career, however, do not worry because the UAE has the best of them.

Make sure to check out our article about education in the UAE

Travel Accessibility

The world is a global village these days, and with air travel a more popular way to travel than any other, you should know that the UAE is one of the most connected and approachable places in the middle east. 

So much so that Dubai is known for being the top choice for people for a layover when they are traveling from various countries.

The UAE boasts nine international airports, two of which are in Dubai!

The Dubai International Airport is a sight worth seeing. The beautiful airport with its grand infrastructure reminds us of the Emirati Power and Grandeur.

In addition, there are many up-and-coming metro and other railroad projects in the UAE.

Hence, if you are an expat for a skilled worker who regularly visits the UAE, you should know that getting a flight to Dubai in the shortest time possible is not difficult at all.

Almost all significant carriers definitely have a layover in Dubai. 

Language

Many European countries offer employment opportunities, even more so than the UAE.

However, you will see that the expat population in those countries is quite limited and doesn’t grow that much.

The reason for that is the language barrier than has persisted in these countries. 

Almost everyone in the UAE speaks English, and they do not expect you to learn Arabic either, so as an ex-pat and skilled worker, your grip over English would be enough for you to prosper and thrive here in this country.

The signs, most documents, menus, and directions all over the UAE are written in English to accommodate the considerable ex-pat population; hence you should not worry about your communication skills here. 

Check out our article about working in the UAE without speaking Arabic!

High Standard of Living 

This pro comes naturally to Dubai since Dubai is one of the wealthiest cities in the world and houses a decent percentage of the world’s millionaires and billionaires.

You can expect that the standard of living must be high.

Almost all the fashion houses have their luxurious offices and boutiques in Dubai, so you will have access to high-end things, should you wish. 

Everything in the UAE, especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is very well organized and managed due to it being the wealthiest place in the area.

Wildly powerful and influential people live in these cities, so the crime rate is meager.

The police have a lot of powers and are swift to act as the Emiratis are very hard on crime as well. 

With so much wealth usually attracting an abundance of crime and other negative aspects of society, these major cities of the UAE have really revamped themselves and tried their best to give their citizens a high standard of living.

So if you do not like where you are residing right now and want to have a better life, it might be best to move to one of these twin cities in the UAE. 

Check out our article on moving to the UAE!

Low Transport Costs and Public Transport

Transport costs matter a lot when you are living in a metropolitan city, and frequently due to inflation and rising petrol prices, transport is often a hassle.

In these times, owning a car can be pretty tricky for your finances, so people tend to use public transport. 

However, the UAE has dirt-cheap prices when it comes to petrol.

Thus, the rates of taxis and other public transport systems seem negligible versus other countries.

The state is working on the efficient metro bus and train systems around the UAE.

The metro of Dubai is high-speed and efficient when it comes to taking you from point A to B in a safe manner. In addition, low transport costs also mean that the prices of cars are also relatively lower here, partly due to the tax structure. 

However, if you get a resident card in the UAE, things will look even better for you as you can skip the customs check at airports and get cheaper rates.

Religious Tolerance

The UAE is known as one of the most tolerant countries in the middle east.

Therefore, it is one of the significant reasons expats from the west migrate to this place for employment opportunities because the law here does not stop them from preaching or doing something that goes against Islam – which is the official religion in the country.

Islamic Law is applied in the UAE; however, the implementation is not strict at all. 

You will see that western concepts like clubbing, dating, drinking, etc., are widespread in the UAE and are considered normal.

Moreover, you can buy alcoholic drinks pretty quickly in Dubai if you want to, which is a testament to the fact that the Emiratis are not very strict regarding religious rulings and want to make sure that everyone feels accommodated in the country. 

More Liberal 

UAE is very liberal when it comes to the implementation of its laws. 90% of the population of UAE are expats, therefore the ideas of parties and clubbing, which are otherwise prohibited in Islam, are pretty prevalent. 

Moreover, things are much more accessible and raw in this country.

You could say that things are unfiltered.

The Emiratis do not censor TV shows and movies, so you get to see completely uncut and uncensored versions of media content like elsewhere in the world.

However, since the state religion is Islam. It would be best if you avoided public shows of affection or drinking in public spaces since that might cause problems for you with the local police. 

Apart from that, you can live a calm and peaceful life in the UAE, no matter what your religion is; hence, if you plan to move here, you will enjoy it. 

Outdoor Activities

The UAE has plenty of arcade centers, games, and malls where you can enjoy; however, there are plenty of outdoor activities to do here as well. 

A large chunk of the UAE is desert, so there are many activities are centered on sand dunes.

Dubai’s Desert safaris are one the most famous activities in the city, and you should check them out. You can rent huge 4×4 cars, go off-roading on the dunes, and test your skills.

Alternatively, you can also get ATVs and other vehicles, which you can also drive and have fun with.

Also, you can also rent a jet ski and drive around the ocean since many beaches in the UAE are developed and attract tourists. 

Cons

Difficulty Understanding addresses 

The way that the addresses are used in Dubai, and the rest of the UAE are quite different.

You will need a lot of time to understand that the addresses will not always help you reach wherever you want.

They can be a bit confusing for an expat who is new to the country. It would be best if you took your time to learn how addresses and signs are used in Dubai. 

Moreover, the UAE has a vast and complicated road network, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

This road network is not very straightforward and hence takes the drivers a lot of time to judge where they have to go and how to navigate that route on the roads in this country.

However, everything is top quality, and the roads are built well. They are just a bit complicated. 

Partial Censorship 

The censorship laws are very dominant in the middle eastern region, and the TVs shows to movies are often highly censored here.

However, compared to its neighbors, the degree of censorship in the UAE is almost negligible and does not destroy the essence of electronic media. 

So if you do not like your movies censored or other media to not be one hundred percent original, since the censorship laws are not quite strict, you can acquire the original media content without much difficulty.

Public Toilets

Sometimes you are out roaming around Dubai and witnessing the most modern city in the world with beautiful infrastructure and skyscrapers, and you need to hit the toilet

One would assume only naturally that, given the fact that this city is home to the world’s only seven star hotel and has a whole economy based on tourism, the public toilet system would be one of the best if not the best in the world.

Well, you would be proved wrong when you visit such a public toilet as they are primarily a mess and not usable unless you want to get sick from various infections later. 

However, the city administration has recently started paying attention to this issue, has started several cleanup drives of these bathrooms, and deployed a proper system for them so that people don’t ruin them again later.

However, these things take time due to bureaucratic red tape. Hence public toilets are a con according to this list for now. 

The cost of living is high 

The UAE is generally an expensive country, given the tax structure there.

The job packages and business incomes might be friendly here to the lack of income taxes in this country; however, if you are not good at planning your budget and saving up, chances are you will burn through your money very soon. 

The cost of quality education, food, and rent is very high if you live in the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

We have compiled a separate list of affordable places to live in the UAE, which you should check out.

Your daily expenses might be cheap, for example, food, but the prices of other essential commodities are always skyrocketing.

Therefore, managing your money when you are living in the UAE can be challenging. 

Driving Laws

Driving laws in the UAE are there, but they are not implemented to their full extent.

So if you are on the road in the UAE, make sure to stay clear of the heavy traffic and drive responsibly because the lack of implementation of lacks results in horrific accidents on the highways and several close calls. 

Ensure that your license is updated with the authorities so that you can get your money through insurance even if something happens here. Moreover, the high traffic volume can also be very intimidating for new drivers. 

Dubai has a lot of cameras as well, along with other cities in the UAE, and the fines are high as well.

So, you do not want to get caught here and pay heavy fines because they can damage your financial health. 

Real Estate laws

Real Estate laws are also stringent in the UAE, and with land prices soaring in the UAE, buying a property outright is not an option for most people.

With that said, you might be looking for rentals.

However, renting is not so cheap here after all, and you will have to include an agent who will also deduct their fees. This, including the transfer fees when pills are up, can be much more than what you initially had. 

Moreover, rules and regulations in the UAE protect the owner and not the tenant, so you will have to pay the total charges in advance to the property owner.

These things make it difficult for one to settle anywhere in the UAE, let alone in the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 

Make sure to check out our full article on buying and renting in the UAE.

Rent

The issue of soaring rents is real in the UAE, and if you come from a similarly developed country, you will find that the prices of commodities and rents are considerably higher.

This makes up for the fact that the UAE does not deduct many taxes, and there are no taxes on income so that one can bear these rents.

However, they can be financially crushing at times as well if you are looking to get a property in one of the affluent areas in the city. 

If you’re looking to cut down on your expenses then we would recommend you not to live in the twin cities of Dubai or Abu Dhabi due to the soaring rents and live elsewhere and visit these cities for recreational purposes only.

Paying higher rents will eventually take its toll on you, and in a country like the UAE, where the owners’ rights are more protected than the tenants, this might not end well for you. 

Heat

The heat and the weather can simultaneously be a blessing and an issue for you.

The UAE experiences dry and warm weather during the day for most months of the year. A cool breeze in the evening helps keep the temperatures in check. 

However, if you are someone who is sensitive to heat and susceptible to heat strokes, you might not want to consider the UAE to live in.

The temperatures are pretty high due to the presence of deserts all over this country and the position of this country near the equator.

The winters are, however, pleasant and bearable, thus attracting many people from colder regions who like to spend time here during the colder months of the year!

So, make sure you are comfortable with spending a lot of time indoors with the AC in the summers when you move here! 

Economy 

Dubai is one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential cities in the world, being a central hub of trade and tourism.

However, due to recent times, the political landscape in the region has changed, and there is an ongoing power tussle going on with its rival city Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi is the more powerful and wealthier neighbor; hence the power struggle is something that Dubai has been dealing with for a long time. 

This also affects the economy and other aspects of Dubai. However, the region’s more conservative rival Abu Dhabi has been much more robust.

The financial problems of Dubai are also not unknown to the world after the cancellation of EXPO 2020, which was guaranteed to generate millions in revenue. 

Hence, if you plan on coming to this city, make sure you always have a backup option in mind or are just coming here temporarily.

The political landscape is constantly changing, which affects the living conditions in the country as well! 

Conclusion

Living in the UAE is a mix of different things – it can be great, but it can also be challenging.

The weather can get really hot, and the politics can be hard to understand.

But overall, you can live peacefully, no matter your religion, and enjoy a unique lifestyle.

Deciding to live in the UAE means you’re ready to take on a new and interesting adventure.

Remember, your experience in the UAE is what you make it.