The driver was the first of many foreign workers I would meet here. I arrived at a well known hotel, checked in, and noted the well kept appearance of the lobby. I had visited Abu Dhabi the previous summer, so I was already acquainted with the luxurious hotels.
Everything was great until I entered my hotel room to see furniture that looked like the 1970s. There were weird fabric colors and decorations that I had not seen before, making the room look dark and dim. In more discomfort, I opened the curtains looking for a more promising view outside. It was a dark field. “Oh my God!”, I thought to myself.
Self Doubt in a Foreign Country
Many questions were running through my mind. Did I just make the worst decision of my life? What am I doing here? I left my home country for this? Should I go back home? I knew nobody here and that first night would be so difficult for me. I called my sister who was living in Beirut and the rest of my family in California to calm me down. They persuaded me to give it one more week, and I reluctantly agreed.
The next morning would prove to be a breath of fresh air, albeit in hot and humid 120 degree weather. The previous night’s dark field turned out to be a beautifully landscaped park with children’s play areas, lined with benches and lush green trees. It turned out that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are rich in parks which cater to families and children.
I had a week to get familiar with the city and complete medical exams and paperwork which the government required prior to starting work. Early on, I was fortunate to find a group of Arab expats that were like a family. They introduced me to the popular places around town from the police stations and hospitals to the best restaurants and hang-outs. My three month company-paid hotel stay seemed to end quickly. But, by that time, I had assimilated into the new culture.
The UAE is Full of Opportunity for Druze
The UAE is a beautiful country with so much to offer. For expats coming from the US or Canada, it provides an attractive tax free salary, one month annual vacation, great medical benefits, shorter workdays, and a comfortable lifestyle. For expats coming from the neighboring countries, it not only provides great opportunity but also stability and safety.
Finding a job in Dubai or Abu Dhabi is much easier than landing a similar position in Lebanon. Unlike Lebanon, you don’t even need a ‘wasta’ (favor from an influential person). The hiring process is fair and generous bonus packages can be expected. However, the lavish salaries of the past have been reduced due to the global economy. Most salaries are now quoted in lump sums made up of a base salary and added allowances for housing, furniture, education, and transportation. Of the things to consider when budgeting for your new move are school tuition fees and apartment rents which can be expensive.
Millions of Expats Work in the UAE
Based on statistics from the World Bank, the UAE population in 2018 was 9.54 million. The main competition when applying for work is from Indian nationals because of their high level of education and lower wage cost. In reality, the Emirati population is approximately 1.1 million and the remaining residents are expats primarily from India, Pakistan, Philippines, and Egypt. It is also, to a lesser extent, a popular work destination for Europeans, Westerners, and neighboring countries.
In the UAE, the actual time from accepting the offer to actually joining your new employer may take anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Due care is taken on background and police checks as well as standard visa processing times. Patience is important during this time.
The saying goes, “work hard, play hard”, and the UAE is no exception. There’s something here for everyone: beaches, water sports, and a bustling nightlife. Whether you’re single or have a family with kids, you’ll never run out of things to keep you busy.
So, if you’re hungry for change or looking for better work, the UAE is a great choice. It’s much safer than neighboring countries, has many opportunities, and can provide for a luxurious yet affordable lifestyle.