The money isn’t bad. But brace for a financial fondling.
This part is no joke right the same jobs in the UAE pay 2x, 3x as much in a lot of cases. The income is tax free so you keep more of it the day you get it but ultimately I think this is a patchy covering of the dearth of hidden expenses that are so in-twined with normal daily life it basically constitute income tax.
It takes a certain degree of mental gymnastics to hang onto your dirhams in this country, simple pleasures are expensive and everything comes with a price, a fee, a service charge, city tax, a slap on the nuts and a tip.
If you want to rent a decent apartment in the city be prepared to part with close to a 1/3 of your salary for it. Its basically London prices but with the life quality of well.. a shopping mall in the desert. Of course your earning potential is comparatively high so you can offset your losses against that but its worth noting.
I had no idea how much money I wasted on my apartment until I started making friends my own age and watching their faces screw up with disgust when I mention the number. If you hustle you can find something cheaper, like anywhere I’ve lived in the world, theres always a way through if you are prepared to dig for it.
For transport you have two options — buy a car or go fuck yourself.
Cars are not expensive on their own but in terms of registration, taxation, road costs, and licencing no cost is spared and every single tiny opportunity to bleed you dry is taken.
I bought a Toyota 86 from another emirate and in total spent probably 1500 pounds just to register it with new ownership and get it home to Abu Dhabi. The invoice was an arms length of illogical and overpriced line items that made no sense and that no one is willing to explain. You will be utterly nickel and dimed at every corner and turn of the UAE and honestly after awhile you realize sometimes its easier just to bend over.
Theres always something new on its way — Recently it was announced there will be a new bridge tax which will start in Abu Dhabi — great news when you live on an island and work on another island. There goes probably another 15 pounds a day on transport, but that is just the way it works around here. You get used to being fleeced relentlessly day and night.
When I went to swap out my drivers liscence my boss told me the process was smooth and easy, no need to drive anywhere just a straight swap. The days activities eventually included 3 different self service kiosks, 2 sit down appointments with service attendants including an eye test, 1 language translation service, and 1 complete application for a single use credit card which was apparently the only kind compatible with their payment gateway. Of course the user interface for the payment gateway mentioned no such obligation resulting in a perpetual swarm of disgruntled users cursing at their respective ipads as they try every single credit and debit card they own before the grumpy assistant referred them to the prezzi card company. Sometimes you just look at how shit things are and laugh like “how can this actually be a functional society”.
Parking in the city is a nightmare unless you know your spots. Abu Dhabi is now officially one giant paid parking zone with pay machines popping up out of the ground like mushrooms. Even putting the expense and hassle aside — the machines work about 50% of the time and most of the time only with coins, the fine for failing to conjure legitimate parking is about 200 dirhams (about 40 pounds). Of course as a resident you can apply for a parking permit which will exemplify this situation but the application for non nationals costs 1200+ dirhams per person which works out to be not worth the trouble and involves even further ball achingly slow and inefficient bureaucracy.
Its not just parking and registration procedures that fail but really anything that involves the meeting of technology and organisation. Paying bills can be done through online banking, at self service kiosks or online — on the surface that sounds very reasonable right? But online banking is a nightmare, self service kiosks take only cash and dont give change (without warning) the first time I went to pay 130 dirham bill with a 500 dirham note I unintentionally ended up paying my next 3 months in credit through no choice of my own. Paying for the bills directly online is often through gateways and websites that look and function like they were made by a bunch of stoned first year college students.
Honestly I dont know what this is about because it is generally irrespective of gender or race but if you’ve ever called the front desk someplace and asked to make an appointment or schedule a call back you will find that it is truly a grating exercise in patience.
I’ve generally got a lot of time and respect for customer service reps and I go out of my way to show gratitude for effort and job well done. But its genuinely pushed to its limits here, whenever a company says they will call you back — forget about it. They wont. You will call back after waiting a week and they will say they cancelled your appointment and never called you back because they cant help you anymore so they didn’t see the point. Everyone is generally unreliable, standoffish and unhelpful or a total moron.
If you ever get something delivered or have repair people or servicemen visit your house, prepare to be amazed at just how completely retarded people can be. Once I had a delivery guy call me yelling in broken English that he had my address but didn’t know where he was, I told him I can only provide my address I cant tell him where he is because I dont know. He continued to call asking for my location on whatsapp which means saving his phone number to chat in the app so I saved his number as “pain in the ass c**t”. When he delivered the package I noticed it had the address clearly written on the front.. This place is absolutely overrun by incompetence. Its not to say any particular sub genre of people are uneducated or unfortunate but rather that ineptitude itself thrives in this environment.
More recently I called for the fourth time about a malfunctioning A/C unit and asked specifically that engineers be sent (rather than usual of building maintenance and cleaners with 0 technical knowledge). I waited 45 minutes and eventually two cleaners knock on the door with hard hats on, no tools between them but their dim witted gormless expressions and of all things a plunger in one hand.
In the UAE if you give a toilet cleaner a hard hat that makes him an engineer.
70% of expats lose the game and end up leaving with less or the same money despite the big salaries. Everyone gets a little cocky on arrival, hire purchase their dream car and rent a building with an infinity Jacuzzi. The thing thats easily overlooked with the tax free income is that its all a machine designed to boost the UAE economy rather than benefit you personally. Of course you can still come out on top but it takes real effort and planning. If you arent careful you will join that 70% statistic before you can say khalas.
Most of the country are expats but without any culture or night life its hard to get things going without the help of digital cupid. Only in this case the system is flipped on its head since all the girls are looking for sex and its the guys feeling gross and unmatching. Because its for money. Tinder is not exactly a hot spot for genuine inquiry at the best of times but in Abu Dhabi it seems like more than half of users are either prostitutes or look like they should be.
A lot of the country are the lower class workers who barely make enough to get by. Theres a lot of people from the Philippines who are lovely but old school religious. Arabs can be from younger more western thinking families but still commonly think of expats as transient scenery and not well suited for taking home to Mom and Dad.
Somehow you get by — probably with some lotion and the help of your trusty VPN.
The number of times I’ve been in the car with a friendly taxi driver and been told that he has worked for months at a time without a single day off really bothers me. Its not only disgusting abuse of workers rights but also disturbing that its grown into such a norm that no one really cares a toss about it anymore.
The drivers come from around India and also parts of Africa hoping to make money to send home for their families. The scheme is commission based and designed to keep drivers clawing for every scrap they can find, there is a threshold for ride spend they must hit within a given period or their wages drop below levels that make it worthwhile to sustain life there.
So the idea is that they are rewarded for their extra hours thats a good incentive for work — only its become the only way to survive and frequently drivers have told me they sleep in their cars to continue working on a long run. They can generally wrangle a day off if they go to the doctor and are able to produce a certificate proving the legitimacy. I had one driver who told me he was coming up to the end of a one year shift as in working 365 days on the clock 7 days a week back to back without taking rest — he did have a 3 week holiday planned coming up which he was looking forward to. But its still mental.
This might be a slight over artistic embellishment on my part but theres definitely some proof in the pudding. Only one person from my work has gone completely bonkers but theres a certain sense of glowing discomfort and lameness that lingers around. Its hard to separate from the feeling that you are only here for the money because well.. If you took the money away none of them would stay. But we all work up some kind of romantic support logic that holds that statement in place.
Everyone has a responsibility to get their own shit together and make a life work where you can depend on certain standards of life contentment. I’ll admit even after more than 3 years living in different places around the world I’m still getting the hang of it. I had a breakdown not too long ago where I worked myself into such an emotional state I had to leave the office rather dramatically and unannounced mid day and go drive away and cry somewhere in peace. Thats not normal right and I’m probably just a nutter so I decided to go to a shrink recommended by my neighbor who’s experienced in the realm of Abu Dhabi mental health outlets.
Upon visiting I discovered the scale of the problem, it was like a factory for crazy people, probably the busiest clinic I’ve ever seen with more than 6 receptionists. My first appointment took 3 weeks to arrange and lasted for 20 minutes. The prognosis was that I’ve always suffered from undiagnosed ADHD which has finally caused levels of anxiety that I am physically struggling to cope with. After a heavy invoice for doing the same multi choice quiz I had already found and completed online they told me to come back in 2–3 week. Yes as you might have guessed it took about 2 and a half months and ended up costing over 4000 dirhams (830 british pounds). I’ve never paid that much for amphetamines before, I think I’ll stick to regular drug dealers.
This needs its own post because Melatonin is f**ked but it will knock you out in a way thats a lot more natural and less damaging than traditional sleeping pills. It sells itself off the shelves in droves in Abu Dhabi and when you find it somewhere you text everyone you know if they need stock before you buy up their supply and distribute. A lot of pharmacies say its become a controlled substance and that you wont find it in the UAE anymore but thats BS because I still find it all the time and buy in bulk.
I have an ex girlfriend who escaped being attacked by a taxi driver on her first visit to Dubai and this was in my head when I made the decision of whether to come here. Upon arriving I found I’ve never felt more safe anywhere and I generally leave my shit hanging around for people to steal all the time and have never had any problems.. Because I’m a guy.
I have now a few friends with rape stories in the UAE some of them more horrific than others but overall I would say its the same problem we have everywhere in the world — predatory psychopaths who think they can get away with being worthless pieces of garbage. But here we have something of an incubator since the consequences of reporting are likely to be worse for the victim and the aggressors know that.
Again this is not an attack in any way directed towards nationals since these incidents are provoked by humans and most of the humans who make up the UAE are not nationals. But that does not mean it is not a UAE problem, its real and it exists here.
Well given all the above this one seems like a bit of no brainer — not many of your friends and family are going to be super pumped to make a trip to the UAE from new zealand to go see a bunch of shopping malls and hang out on a man made beach surrounded by the same kind of people they ignore at home.
The good part about no one coming to see you is that no one comes to see you so at least you can focus on yourself or do other things. Living in Budapest was the polar opposite and I did find showing people around all summer gets pretty old after awhile.
You can actually apply for a “licence to drink” but no one really does it and none of the bars or alcohol vendors stick to holding up this principle. You go wherever you want and drink and as long as you taxi home and dont vomit into the open mouth of a local or police officer you will not have problems.
Genuinely its real cheap. Petrol heads are welcome.
You can still chill outside on a 45 degree day in the sun as long as theres a pool nearby it feels fine and I think I burn worse back home in New Zealand.