An Indian expat tells us some of the pros and cons of living in Dubai, UAE

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"Woke"

August 09 2006

-Where were you born?
India

-In which country and city are you living now?
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

-Are you living alone or with your family?
Alone

-How long have you been living in Dubai?
Just over three years

-What is your age?
30

-When did you come up with the idea of living in Dubai?
As a Pink Floyd song goes - 'A walk-on part in a war or a lead role in a cage.' I chose the latter for the sole reason of making money. So I guess the cynicism came along with the choice.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Only as hard as getting a job. After that it is the company's responsibility to process the visa and permit.

-How do you make your living in Dubai? Do you have any type of income generated?
I work for a company based in Dubai exclusively on their corporate and project branding and my sole source of income is the salary. I was offered a job in Dubai after I registered with a recruiting agency while I was on a visit visa here.

But wait, it is illegal to search for a job while you are on a visit visa. Dubai has so many 'unwritten' rules.

-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I believe for any expat in any country, speaking the local language and understanding the local culture is important. I have to admit, I have not taken any sincere efforts to learn the local language, but I have tried to understand the history, architecture and culture of the region. Locals are a minority here and you don't get to interact with them on a regular basis - so it is not an absolute necessity. But an overall awareness and respect for their culture is what I recommend.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Yes I do miss my family, friends and the sense of belonging that I get back home. I can't think of many activities here in Dubai apart from mall-hopping and visiting some beaches. There are a few adventure sports activities like desert safari or water sports which I am not too keen on. Libraries and museums are very limited, but I think they should get better in the near future.

-Do you have other plans for the future?
I seldom make any plans for the future and even if I make some, I don't stick to them. But yes, I would love to visit some countries with a rich architectural heritage.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I am renting a one-bedroom apartment which costs me around 37,000 Dhs (around $10,000) annually. Apartments are quite expensive at this stage, but as the availability will rise substantially in the next 2-3 years, the prices are bound to come down. But as of now, for someone looking for a job in Dubai, accommodation is a major concern, and I recommend you negotiate with the company for an accommodation allowance before you sign the job contract.

-What is the cost of living in Dubai?
If you are not supporting a family back in your home country, the cost of living is bearable in Dubai. The lower-middle class will find it extremely difficult, especially if they are living as family or if they incur medical expenses. Food is relatively cheap and a variety of cuisines is available.

-What do you think about the local population?
Interaction with locals is limited to a few times when you have to go a government office or if you have colleagues who are locals. Most of them are friendly and professional. But don't be surprised if you come across someone who is arrogant and exploits foreign workers.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Dubai?
Positives:
Safe and secure living atmosphere, especially for people like me from a far less developed country where the government has less control in ensuring the safety and security of the citizens.

Excellent infrastructure - in terms of water, electricity and transport. But they do come at an expense.

Booming industries - Most of the industries in Dubai are enjoying a positive phase - especially real-estate, advertising etc. So in that sense you get to be involved in a large number of high-profile projects if you are working at the right place.

Negatives:
Racism, prejudice and discrimination are very much prevalent in the UAE - especially at the work place. Strangely, most of the residents here seem to have accepted it as a part of life.

Lack of democracy and participation - Safety and security come at a price and I guess everyone who comes to Dubai is aware of this before they come here. There are limited ways in which you can express yourself and all you can do is to maximize them.

Censorship and media control - Newspapers and other media seldom publish articles against government policies or plans because of the tight media control. Internet access is controlled too and websites are blocked as deemed suitable by the sole internet service provider in the UAE.

Traffic - Despite the existing infrastructure, traffic congestion is out of control. But it is being addressed in the long term, I hear.

The justice system - always ambiguous and conflicting.

I have to stop somewhere, shouldn't I?

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Dubai?
It's a comfortable place to live, if you don't expect to be welcomed with a smile and you can find your way around.

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Dubai?

Aqoul
Some excellent articles that are relevant to the region.

Secret Dubai diary
SD has mastered the art of making her point in a line or two and making a platform for often thought-provoking, sometimes chaotic, but always interesting discussions.

One Big Construction Site
Sam covers a wide variety of topics and makes sincere efforts to do a background study before making a post. Most topics are within my line of interest too.

My Blog - Bol Dubai!
It is what I do best. Whine about what is happening or rather not happening in Dubai.