Letter from Dubai
LOIS Ackerley has swapped the cliffs of Saltburn for the sand dunes of Dubai. It may be spotlessly clean, tax free and have never-ending sunshine but there’s nothing like the greenery of home – or a good pork pie.
What prompted you to move abroad?
My partner, Guy, was working for a business in Leeds and got asked if he would move to Dubai to set up a new office for the company. It was an opportunity he had patiently been waiting for for some time and I couldn’t have been happier to join him on this new ‘adventure’ – it was all very exciting.
When did you leave and how long have you been there?
I left the UK in November 2013 so it’s coming up for two years.
How easily did you make friends?
Guy knew a couple of people who already lived here, which was really handy as they introduced us to their friends and so on. We moved straight to the Marina in Dubai, which is a popular area for expats to live. We soon realised that living in such an area you soon meet people – everyone seems to know everyone in Dubai. Lots of people are living here for the same reason and, as they are away from their family and friends back home in the UK, Dubai is such a social place and really easy to make friends.
Did you feel homesick?
When I first moved here I felt terribly homesick but it was never going to be easy moving away, I’ve never spent more than a month away form my parents for a start. Spending Christmas in a strange country, at that point not knowing many people, was difficult but we really tried to make the most of it. Luckily, the lavish Christmas Brunch we went to was so much fun, we soon cheered up.
How hard was it to find work? The first role I landed in Dubai unfortunately didn’t work out– I gained a job working in PR for an advertising and branding agency, but after only a week with the business I realised it wasn’t what I thought it would be and after only a few further weeks I decided I needed to get out. In 2014 I was much more settled and saw Dubai as a home from home. I continued to speak to my family regularly over skype and facetime – Mum and Dad even came to visit me last October and absolutely loved Dubai, they were planning their next visit the moment their plane home hit the runway.
What have you achieved that you wouldn’t have done back home?
The salaries here are a little higher than the UK, it’s also tax free for Brits to work in Dubai, which has meant I’ve been able to save money quicker. That said, other than fuel and taxi fares, everything else here is so expensive, especially alcohol. Rent costs are essentially London prices – so for someone like me, who had been used to renting in Leeds for the past five years, I was shocked when I found the rent here was more than double.
One thing about Dubai I love is that it is so multi-cultured, there are people here from all over the world and there is so much peace and harmony everywhere, it really does set a great example.
What have you learnt about yourself?
I think moving to Dubai has made me grow up a lot; I’ve had to just dig in and get on with things. I’ve become much, much more confident – I think this has a lot to do with my job which is a lot of meeting senior level professionals and networking, but also just being here and the responsibilities that it has – paying for six months rent up front, learning to drive on the wrong side of the road, learning to save money. Even though it’s tax free, Dubai is a very expensive place to live and unless you are able to spend responsibly, your pockets can dry up as quickly as they fill.
Does the English accent get you far?
Having a British Passport is a godsend in Dubai. The UAE law is a strange thing to get your head around, especially coming from somewhere like England, which is massive on equal pay, equal rights and intolerant to racism. Dubai is still learning but luckily for me, Brits have it very good and in that sense I guess an English accent/ UK Passport has made living in Dubai much easier.
What do you miss about home (excluding family and friends)?
The greenery – the fields, the woodlands, the moors and the cliff tops. The North-East of England is such an amazing place and we really do take it for granted and we having the best of both worlds, the countryside, the seaside and access to major cities all within an hour’s drive.
What should be imported from the North-East to where you are?
Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of things that you cant get in Dubai – I thought when I moved here that there would be lots of food and drink brands I wouldn’t be able to get hold of, but actually there is a Waitrose just a 10 minute drive away where you can pretty much find anything you fancy, though its not the cheapest. You can’t get a good pork pie or ‘parmo’ here – I think they would be top of my list to import! It hardly rains here and I actually really miss the seasons – having the sunshine all year round is great, but in all honesty it does get boring after a while, especially in the summer when the temperature reaches 50+ degrees C. Summer in Dubai is a very depressing time of year, its just too hot to do anything!
What would you export from where you are to make the North-East a better place?
One thing would be the cleanliness for sure – everywhere in Dubai seems to sparkle from the floor in the metro station to the public toilets down by the beaches, Dubai really prides itself on how clean and quite frankly ‘perfect’ looking everywhere is – you really notice how used to it you get when you visit home.
Bar the roads, which are just horrendous to drive on, everywhere in Dubai is so peaceful and easy going – the malls play out classical music and are subtly fragranced with Arabic spice aroma and everyone seems to just glide around without a care in the world, especially the locals.
It’s illegal to be drunk in Dubai outside a hotel or outside your home – this is one thing I think the North-East could look up to. In Dubai, believe me, people know how to have a good time, but everyone knows the rules and once you’re ready to go home you’re out the club and straight into a cab – there’s no roaming the streets or hanging around. It’s a good balance to have and allows different cultures to enjoy the same areas without anyone getting offended.
Anyone who makes the move to Dubai has to be prepared to respect the culture of the country and know what the boundaries are, its what keeps Dubai so authentic – a country very much tied to its religious routes.