As an expat, we do have choice of where to go, however, it is still not always deliberate. As I am a Russian passport holder and I needed to find a job urgently as I was unemployed for a couple of months, I went for the easiest option. I applied to the UAE. In a short time I have joined. The thoughts of leaving that place started visiting me quite fast. After a month I think. I stuck thought one year and went back to Asia.
Disclaimer: I mean no offense by posting this article. I think everyone has a place that suits them better. I found the UAE uncomfortable for me, while China is treating me well. You might not agree with me and I will understand that.
If in my post Working in China vs. Working in Indonesia, China seemed like an easiest option, the UAE is much easier. Firstly, any foreigners are welcome to join and work there. The process is also extremely easy.
I have sent a few applications to the hotels in Dubai, couple of interviews and I suddenly signed a contract in less than 10 days. Health check, diploma and reference letters are the only documents that are required for a visa application. Other 10 days and there I was, joining a hotel in Ajman. When I arrived, it took around 2 weeks to get my Emirates ID after visiting the Security Office and undergo another health check.
China took 6 months of my time for the same pre-arrival process. If you are not patient or you have no reason to wait for this long for China, the UAE will be an easy place to go.
Working hours and week.
The UAE was the first place where I experienced a 6 days working week. It is extremely tiring. It can seem to be acceptable but when you start working and you are faced with physical work it is not.
Also, as most of the people working in the UAE are foreigners, the labor bureau protects them , but not as much. Therefore, working hours are insanely long. I remember days when I would start at 7.30 and finish at 11pm with a lunch break of 10 minutes. There were days it just would not stop.
In China regardless you have your 5 days working week with 9 hours per day. All the other time is supposed to be paid or compensated. As most of the people do not mind doing that 1 hour of overtime per day, it is acceptable.
Salary and benefits.
As an expat in the UAE until the moment you reach the top management level, you package is pretty basic as most of the workforce is foreign anyways. In China as a foreigner you are entitled for more.
Here in China we still get expat benefits such as accommodation and dining allowance and, depending on the company profile, other entitlements. Most of the companies will also be willing to accommodate you on a family package as family is highly valued in the culture.
It might seem that the salaries in the Middle East (particularly, the UAE) are higher, however, if you compare it to the cost of living, they are not.
As I mentioned in my earlier posts, it is extremely important for me to have entertaining things to do outside my working hours.
The UAE for that I would say is not in the top lists. What can you do when you are there? Go to the beach? – Too expensive as you public beach you can’t use wearing bikini, and hotel beach access will cost you AED 200-300 (CNY 500+) on average per day. Also it is either too hot or too cold, the comfortable season is not too long.
Shopping? Well, if your salary is good enough, then maybe. But how soon would you get tired?
Sightseeing? Hmm, Burj Khalifa, the Mall of Emirates, Deira Spice Market in Dubai, Emirates Palace and the Mosque of Abu Dhabi and you’re done. In comparison to Beijing, it Is almost nothing.
Traveling? Dubai’s location is convenient for travel. You can go to Asia, Africa or Europe easily.However, 6 days working week makes it more complicated.
There is not much to do around here. Keep that in mind.
PS. Clubbing and going out in Dubai might be better. If you are a party person, this place might actually suit you well. As I am not, I haven’t been to any Dubai’s nightclubs.
In China or Indonesia, you are normally the only foreign person (maybe 2-3 if you are lucky) so you purely work with Chinese people. In the UAE in my team I had 13-15 different nationalities in different points of time. You need to learn how to be flexible but also but not forget to be yourself. You have to adjust your behavioral patterns depending on the person’s background. It is not always easy.
Also, coming again to the point of being a female manager, it is again more challenging than in China. How do you explain that you are a female in your early 20s of the height of 152 cm are there to give orders to a 50 year old Pakistani/Egyptian/other Arabic male? That is not an easy part. You will be constantly challenged.
Ramadan is a Muslim fasting period, when no one can eat (expect for elderly, pregnant and travelers) in the day time. It was the first time I have experienced going through it. Well, of course we still can eat however, it is more challenging… You can’t get food outside, you can only eat/drink/smoke in the private area where no one can see you. In the afternoon when you are out and it is 40 degrees you can’t even take a sip of water.
During that time, most of the places are just closed. It is more relaxed during in terms of working, but as for the life it is challenging.
For me living in the UAE was a huge challenge. Physically and mentally I had to go through many obstacles. When I left, I felt like I need a long break. For now I think it is not likely that I would come back to the UAE for work.
UAE seemed to me to be a perfect place for a relaxing sea & sun vacation but not for life and work. I know there are many people out there who love the Middle East, unfortunately, it was not a fit for me.
What do you think about working in the Middle East? Where would you prefer to go?