Is leaving Dubai really harder than arriving?
Leaving Dubai can be a tricky experience.
Dubai is full of people who have been here for most of their adult lives. It’s the kind of place that seems to attract long-termers.
I’ve always assumed that’s because people just love the place.
I have discovered in the last couple of months that the real reason might be that the act of extracting yourself from Dubai is so exhausting, most people don’t bother.
We arrived in Dubai over 18 months ago, ready for adventure. It was a bit of a tough transition with an extraordinary amount of paperwork. However, we already knew a bunch of people and we were feeling like we’d found a cool new niche for our little family.
Since then, a large majority of those people have uprooted themselves and moved on. We are starting to feel like we’ve arrived at the party late.
What’s been interesting though is that we’ve been able to see first hand just how hard it is to get out of this place. Let me share a couple of particularly amusing stories from one of our recently departing friends.
Leaving Dubai apartments
Our friend is in the process of moving back to the UK. He has lived here for 5 years, in the same apartment.
For most of that time, the guards in the lobby of his apartment have also been the same. So you could say there’s a level of familiarity there.
When the day comes for him to move out he sees no problem with asking his favourite guard if he can use the service lift to get some of his moving boxes downstairs.
The guard looks at him like he’s never seen him before and asks him if he has a ‘moving out permit’. Somewhat surprised, our friend explains that he doesn’t know that’s the procedure and asks what he needs to do to get this permit.
The guard tells him he needs to show his ‘moving in permit’ along with a copy of his lease.
Our friend, somewhat confused explains that he never got a ‘moving in permit’. He reasons that as he’s lived here for five years, it probably isn’t that relevant.
Ah the absurdity…
For those of you who haven’t lived here, this may seem like a completely absurd response. For those of you who have lived here, you will just sigh and nod your head.
Rules are applied to the letter with no regard for common sense.
All this guard understands is that there is a rule on permits, and this man standing before him doesn’t have one. And, if he lets him move out, he’ll get in trouble from his employer.
That’s it. End of story. Any other details or perceived familiarity is completely irrelevant.
And so ensues a long and convoluted process involving permissions, discussions, arguments and copies of documents to eventually allow our lovely friend to finally use the damn service lift.
Other official ‘leaving Dubai’ business
He follows this up with another extraordinary incident when trying to close his bank accounts.
He knows how this place works, so he cleverly waits for a period of time after ceasing to use his credit cards before he attempts to close the account.
Perhaps not so cleverly, he forgets to factor in transaction fees and therefore by the time they attempt to close his account he owes an amount of 7 fils in fees.
7 fils is equivalent to approx 2.5 US cents. It’s also an amount that has no corresponding hard currency. The lowest coin amount here is 25 fils.
So naturally, he phones the bank, assuming this 7 fils debt will be written off when the account is closed.
Strike 2 – “I’m very sorry sir but you must have a zero balance to close your account”.
Are you joking right now?
Another ludicrous conversation ensues about how he can pay an amount that doesn’t actually exist. He’s advised of all kinds of options including:
- deposit 5 AED via the ATM and then go out and spend 4.93AED to get the balance to zero – not an option of course as no-one charges amounts there is no denomination for
- use a credit card to pay the 7 fils – not an option when you’re in the process of trying to close all of your accounts
- come into the bank at a taxi charge of approx 40 AED each way to pay the 7 fils with a 25 fils coin – really??
So, at wit’s end, he does what all good customers do when they’re irritated with bureaucracy. He pays the taxi fares to go to the bank and proceeds to give the teller a 1000 AED note in payment for his 7 fils. A teeny tiny victory and point well and truly made for the poor person on shift that day!
The Cargo trail
The final step is sending cargo.
As with most people, now that he’s leaving Dubai he realises that he has accumulated more stuff than he ever thought he would. He arrived with two suitcases and he’s leaving with over 300kg of cargo.
For any Dubai resident, the prospect of dealing with organisations such as shipping companies, freight companies and any other such organisation can be a bit exhausting. You can’t put your finger on what’s going to suck about the whole experience, but you definitely know there’s going to be something.
So, ready for the experience to suck, he heads out to the cargo place with his many boxes of stuff.
He personally has a 300kg limit, and his partner has a 100kg limit. Together, the actual amount of cargo they have totals 375kg which, in theory means they are under their total limit.
When he gets to the sheds, they try to charge him excess fees as they assume it’s all his stuff and he has gone over his cargo limit. He attempts to explain to the officer that, as all the items are going to the same address, he would like to pool the allowances with his partner to avoid any excess.
This is just way too hard.
This blows the cargo agent’s mind.
They make him divide up the boxes, pick which boxes would add up to 100kg, put different names on some and then they head off to do the official weighing.
They come back with a breakdown. His total weight is under his allowance by 50kg but she owes a total fee of 750 AED for her excess of 25kg??
The exhausting conversation begins.
After much hand-waving, yelling, gesturing and confusion, he eventually gets them to re-sort the boxes into the right amounts and ‘waive’ the fee as a ‘favour’.
More yelling and gesturing before they finally give in and take him to an empty space in the warehouse.
After loading everything into the bay, he breathes a sign of relief and looks up, only to see the sign directly above his boxes – “HUMAN REMAINS ONLY” just as an ambulance pulls up….
And so, we choose to stay
Perhaps it’s karma for the 1000AED note? Maybe the Dubai universe can pool expat karma but not baggage allowances? Or it could be a clever way of ensuring that once people move here, they are too scared to leave.
Whatever the reason for it all, we have managed to convince ourselves that we’re pretty happy here for a bit longer. And perhaps this helps explain to our family and friends why leaving Dubai is such a huge decision.
Because much as Dubai is an amazing, easy place to live, leaving Dubai can be tricky.
Anyway, I’m just off to check on our moving in permit to make sure when we do move out, that we have actually moved in first! 🙂
Have a great week!