Expats In The Gulf – The Continuing Appeal Of The UAE
Traditional expat centres changing?
It’s little wonder that, France is the adopted home for many UK nationals. After all, it is the country next door. And the expatriation is mutual – the UK is home to so many French people that they have their own representative in the French parliament.
But as the world becomes more globalised and new markets open up, the spread of UK expatriates now goes far beyond Europe – with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) becoming increasingly popular. UK expats have always had a bit of a thing for sunshine, which is
evidenced by Australia and Spain being the top 2 countries for UK expats.But the traditional top expat centres are now having to make way for a new kid on the block: according to a recent survey, the UAE’s popularity as an expat destination is on the up. Australia – with its amazing beaches, easy-going attitudes and strong economy, remains in pole expat position, but the UAE has made its way up to third place in the expat quality of living stakes.
So what are the attractions of the UAE for people from the UK? The country’s population is made up of somewhere around 9 expats for every one local – so there’s undoubtedly a cosmopolitan, worldly feel to the emirate. On top of that there is the ubiquitous sunshine – which provides a welcome contrast to the often rainy skies of home.
And then there’s the employment situation, with three quarters of the quality of life survey respondents saying that the opportunities for careers in the UAE were an attracting factor. A lot of expat discussion on the UAE mentions that there’s no income tax on salaries in the country – which to anyone from a country where the tax share is sizeable is going to be a very strong plus.
Cost of living plays in a big part in many people’s view of what constitutes quality of life – and despite stories of a beer in the hotel being pretty dear in Dubai, the city doesn’t figure in the latest top 20 list of expat cities by the consulting firm Mercer, which publishes an annual list, which this year was topped by Luanda, Angola. No doubt the cost of living in Dubai and the rest of the emirates is driven down by the low cost of petrol.
Interestingly, according to the survey, a majority of the people who were consulted said that Dubai was a better place to work now than it had been during the boom times which, ended spectacularly in 2008, with stories of sports cars being abandoned at the airport and so on. Dubai is now growing at a pace which is the fastest since the downturn, and appears to have weathered the economic storms very well indeed, although there are concerns that the economy could again ‘overheat’.
Another draw for many is the healthcare in the country. According to expat health insurance provider AXA PPP International, standards of healthcare are “high and continuing to improve” while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guide to the country states that while the healthcare facilities are good, visitors may not be able to make use of them without either health cover or the means to pay the fees. There is also the risk in some countries of being turned away at the airport if you’re uninsured –
according to the AXA PPP International blog, “expats will need to evidence they have appropriate medical cover in order to satisfy very strict visa requirements”.
For more info and general chat on a variety of topics about expat life in the AEA there are a number of really good blogs and websites – English language newspaper The National is available online and covers a lot of sports and culture stuff as well as news, while UK broadsheet the Telegraph has a frequently updated expat section on its site, with a dedicated Dubai correspondent who covers life in the city very much from an ordinary expat perspective, going into detail about what it’s like to drive there, shop there, and bring up children there too.
If you get a taste for expat blogs in the Gulf area it’s also worth checking out the Expat Blog site, which is actually a community site and forum – although it does contain a directory of individual blogs within it, listing plenty of UAE titles, and nearly 90 in Dubai alone. Well worth investigation for research and general interest posts around Gulf based subjects.