Living in the UAE
With 80% of the UAE’s population being foreign born, the country is often considered an expat’s paradise. Indeed, you’ll find that many aspects of living in the UAE combine to make settling in fairly easy for expats. Our InterNations Guide gives you a detailed overview of expat life in the UAE.
As you settle down in the UAE, you get to enjoy amenities which some expats may not have in their home countries. The mobile phone system is excellent, and many of the modern buildings are equipped with air-conditioning. All these things help create a comfortable life in the UAE. The UAE has a subtropical-arid climate, with a balmy 30°C in winter and up to a sweltering 50°C in summer.
Newspapers, radio stations, and TV broadcasts are available in Arabic, English, Urdu, and several other languages to cater to the needs of expats living in the UAE. There are four monthly and weekly English-language newspapers: the Khaleej Times, Gulf News, Gulf Today, and Emirates Today.
Despite its progressive flair, modern infrastructure, and strong economy, religious traditions are an essential aspect of life in the UAE. For expats, life in the UAE means that they may have to adhere to a different etiquette, dress more modestly and deal with some limitations in their daily lives.
It is advisable for expats to be sensitive and respectful towards religious traditions. Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and one of the five pillars of Islam, is taken very seriously in the Emirates. Non-Muslims living in the UAE may be surprised when they experience reduced office hours, closed restaurants, and other disruptions of their daily routine during Ramadan.
The rich traditions of the seven emirates are a big part of life in the UAE. The country remains proud of its history of fishing, boating, and trading, which used to dominate life in the UAE for centuries.
The souqs, traditional markets which were once the center of everyday life, are an essential place to visit. Many of them have been preserved in their original state, giving a picturesque impression of what life used to be like. Dates, camels, Arabian horses, and falconry are still important aspects of life in the UAE today.
Foreigners who are interested in buying property in the UAE will have to deal with a great amount of nontransparent legislation. In general, you can expect the rules for purchasing to be wildly different, depending on the emirate you are living in.
The real estate market started to open up to expats living in the UAE in 2002, allowing them to buy property within selected housing projects. Soon, other emirates such as Ajman followed.
In mid-2011, the government of the UAE introduced a change in real estate legislation for expats living in the UAE. Individuals purchasing property for more than 1,000,000 AED can obtain a “Property Holders Visa”, which is valid for six months.
Beginning in December 2013, the UAE Central Bank introduced new regulations concerning property loans for both nationals of the UAE and for expats. The point of these regulations is to decrease cases of uncontrolled lending and to reduce the amount of borrowed money in these investments.
In 2013, the average price for apartments in Abu Dhabi was USD 3,867 (14,200 AED) per square meter, and the average price for villas was USD 2,860 (10,500 AED) per square meter.
During the last few years, rental prices have decreased, thereby increasing the competitiveness of the market. The price of living in the UAE depends on the location and size of the accommodation. Dubai has the highest rates in the country, with mostly unfurnished housing, making life in the UAE still a rather costly endeavor.
Apartments and houses usually offer a high standard of living in comparison to many Western and European countries. Due to the temperatures and humidity in the summer months, air-conditioning is a must. Moreover, houses and villas often come with a maintenance service as well.
Running water and electricity supplies are widely available in the UAE. Due to the increased power consumption during summer, of which 65% is due to air-conditioning, occasional power outages can occur every now and then. However, these problems are usually solved very quickly. Water supplies are provided by desalination of ocean water to ensure drinking water is always available to Emiratis and expats alike.
When looking for a place to rent, you should double check that your agent is registered. In Dubai, a RERA card will confirm that the agent is legal and not freelancing (which is illegal in the UAE). You should expect a fee of about 5% to the agent. The legal contract must be registered through Ejair, while in Abu Dhabi it must be registered through the Tawtheeq system. You will be asked to provide proof of residency and a copy of your passport, as well as a deposit once you have settled on a place to live.