inside stories: why DO people move to Dubai?
People move to Dubai for a reason. Apart from the locals who are born here (and make up a very small percentage of the population), everyone else is here for a specific purpose. It could be paying off debt, making money, travel, chasing a relationship. It’s one of the things that makes this place so interesting – finding out the inside stories.
When we first moved, I assumed, quite naively I might add, that everyone was basically here to make money: the zero tax economy; cheap labour; well-paid expat jobs. But once I started to meet a few people and engaged in some conversation (often over a glass of truth serum or 10) it doesn’t take long to learn the inside story and that there are many things that drive human beings in their pursuit of happiness.
Check out some inside stories…
Dubai has a healthy quotient of people ‘finding themselves’. Like many places in the world, for some reason this seems to mean having to wear Birkenstocks, dress in organic cotton and spend an insane amount of time and money hanging out at the Organic Store.
I find it a little bit ironic that you find any of them here, given that it’s generally too hot to be outside grounding with the earth, and the amount of re-circulated air we have to breathe pretty much negates any positives organic food can provide. But there is a healthy culture of being seen to be on the search for your lost soul.
I can only assume that many of the lost soul maps seem to point towards the Marina and Jumeirah Beach, as this seems to be where most of the quotient hang out with their yoga mats. It’s quite fascinating to see them mingling with the Emiratis whilst dressed in their lycra as well. No-one bats an eyelid – it’s as though there’s a special tolerance for lost souls given how much they contribute to the economy…
There’s an interesting proportion of people here who seem to think that living in another country is something they are ‘supposed to do’. Often, they have left reasonably happy, settled lives with a steady job in a country they love and they give it all up to take a massive risk and move completely out of their comfort zone. You get the feeling it’s often because somehow they feel it’s a requirement.
Sadly, if they weren’t truly ready to make that move and step away from everything they love, they are often the most unhappy of the Dubaians. They spend a lot of time making comparisons with their home town, they refer constantly to ‘home’, being the country they are from, and they get very upset by simple things like not being able to find the brand of cereal or biscuit that was their favourite. They are the ones you see storming around in the government waiting rooms pointing fingers and slamming fists yelling”this wouldn’t happen back in ….’.
Out of everyone here, I feel the most sorry for these guys and many a time I have had to stop myself from saying something completely unhelpful like “why don’t you just go home then?” I do admire that they stick it out, many times with the crutch of a bottomless bottle of grapes and a Dubai brunch every weekend, but they make the most of things. I only hope that all the pain is worth it when they do inevitably pull up stumps and make the long journey home having firmly ticked the ‘MENA Experience’ box on the job application forms.
There are a number of people who come to Dubai in search of love, for whatever reason. They might feel that they have been through the available talent in their home town or that they have a better chance of finding their true love in a place where they know no-one and no-one knows them. Theoretically, the mix of cultures, money and jobs in Dubai should surely provide some better relationship fodder?
Whilst you meet the odd person who finds someone here for a every Happy Ever After story, there are 50 tales of woe in singledom.
There’s the dodgy on-line daters who lull you into a false sense of happiness only to hit you up for a loan after some months of warm fuzzy bliss. There’s the great conversation person you meet out one night who ends up stalking you for the next month as they want to honour the ‘unbreakable connection’. Or how about the visa seekers who pledge their undying love immediately upon finding out you have a EU passport.
To quote a lovely girl I met recently, “men in Dubai are only looking for fun”and “this place is full of desperate old men” says another. I have to concur on both points from my limited experience so far. Whenever I have been out, I see groups of beautiful girls everywhere, and there’s always at least one or two crusty old men hovering within their vicinity. They especially seem prevalent anywhere a brunch has recently finished.
Or, there’s those delightful specimens who will be standing with their posse, arm around a lovely girl, and as you walk past they take no shame in looking you up and down with a little turned up smile, almost bordering on a wink. It’s as though their attention spans can’t even finish the drink they have in hand let alone the conversation/evening with the girl they are already out with.
So watch out single ladies – I don’t know Dubai is your town. Of course it depends what you’re looking for but if bling on the left hand is one of your goals, ‘move on immediately’ seems to be the cautionary tale from those blazing a trail before you…
There are some people here who purposefully come to run away from something or because they can leave all the judgement and hassle of their old life behind.
Failed relationships, law suits, bad debts, stalkers, children you don’t want to support. The list is long! The Dubai officials only care what you bring into the country that is of a tangible nature. They don’t interrogate what emotional or psychological baggage you could be bringing with you, which does make this place somewhat of a melting pot of slightly questionable characters.
The other day I met a girl seeking to escape her former identity in a different way. She was telling me she wants to practice as a Muslim but she knows that her family would dis-own her if she converts. As the conversion process includes announcing in the local media of your home town that you have converted, she didn’t want to take that step and risk her relationship with her family. A sad tale and possibly one of the more believable ones, or so I thought,
I had a slight suspicion there was more to her story when it was Ramadan and she went to leave work early, as per the reduced hours policy. When stopped, given she is not actually a Muslim, she expressed such profound outrage and disappointment, little alarm bells started ringing. She hasn’t realised that simply saying you belong to a particular faith does not cut it with the amount of evidence of identity you have to provide to get residency here. My suspicions were confirmed when shortly after, she announced that she didn’t feel that drinking water was breaking fast… nor was eating nuts or fruit.
I have met a number of people who are purely here to tick off as many parts of the world map as they possibly can.
One guy I met the other day literally turns up to the airport, looks at the next flight going on the board and buys a ticket for the weekend. He thinks nothing of flying 10 hours each way, even if it means he only gets 12 hours in his destination. He will forgo sleep for 24 hours if it means he can tick somewhere else off his never-ending list. He has been to some of the most random places, had some near misses and lucky escapes and he has the best travel stories of anyone I’ve come across.
Not to that degree of course, but I would certainly put our little family in this category. Australia is simply too far away from the rest of the world to get anywhere without serious planning and saving. Being in Dubai gives you the key to travelling to places that would otherwise be too hard or too expensive. It’s worth putting up with some of the nonsense and crazies here for the awesome travel pay-offs!
climbing the ladder
When I started my job here and saw how the area I landed in worked, I pretty quickly dismissed the idea of learning a whole lot from my immediate manager. And whilst I have learnt a lot about how to operate in an overly political environment, I still don’t feel that I’m making any great career moves.
I just assumed that everyone else was the same.
However, it seems that people do actually move here to further their careers.I have met a number of people who do feel that they are taking leaps they wouldn’t otherwise be able to back home. And when you look around, there are some pretty important companies here who can provide good opportunities to people willing to move here.
Are they always the best people for the job? I’m not yet convinced this to always be the case. I’m sure that sometimes, it is the willingness to pick up your whole life and move half way around the world that rates higher than the skills you actually have for the job. It’s amazing how simply being in this location can knock out a huge percentage of your normal competition.
Now of course I’m not implying anything bad about the career oriented workforce here. This is a hard place to work and if you can get anything significant done without driving your head through a wall or jumping off one of the world’s tallest buildings, then you deserve that promotion immediately!
There you go – a short and succinct list of some of the most recognisable Dubaians. There are of course many more out there I’m sure but I’m still trying to learn their stories and will have to add to the list down the track.
For any expats out there, can you identify with any of these types? Or can you add a few more? I am always on the lookout for more interesting psychological fodder so please do share you story with us! Or, do you recognise anyone on this list? I love any feedback good or bad so add comment, share or leave feedback if you can.
For now, I’m off to plan our next mileage adventure….