“I came for a two year contract, but ended up staying…..10 (number varies)” – Almost everyone in Dubai who has been here at least two years
A question has come up a lot lately: How long do you plan to stay in Dubai? Before getting married Rocket and I agreed to give Dubai a shot for 2 years. He knew that it was a big change for me and a long way from family, so we agreed on a timeline that would get me through a transition period and enough time to see how I liked it. This past June officially marked our two year anniversary in Dubai and we are still here with no immediate plans to move back. At the end of last year, Rocket and I casually discussed our updated time frame since two years was quickly approaching. Surprising both of us, I told him I was not in a rush to move back.
I like living in Dubai because it’s convenient, safe, diverse, and there is a large community of active young married couples and new families. Compared to back home, restaurants, malls, beauty parlors, and more are generally welcoming to kids of all ages. Also we’ve noticed that parents tend to have more time for social engagements here compared to the United States. Since we planned on starting a family soon, I don’t have an immediate rush to move back to the US and am comfortable with a less than clear timeline.
Despite my usual complaints about the summer heat, design flaws, lack of rain, and air quality, there are actually a lot of things I would miss when we do move back home.
After living here two years, these are the things I love about Dubai.
- Diversity – Dubai welcomes diversity in a way few other countries do. As you walk the malls, you will see people from all over the world in different styles of dress who speak multiple languages. These differences are not viewed negatively as you aren’t expected to assimilate to Emirati culture, just respect it. In Dubai, no one would get mad at you if you didn’t speak Arabic, in fact they would most likely switch to a language that you understand (probably English) or find someone who could translate (so many people are multilingual here!).
- Authentic Food Choices – I keep telling my friends and family back home that you haven’t tasted hummus until you have been to the region. There is a plethora of authentic food options that Rocket and I love: North and South Indian, Thai, Peruvian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Uzbek, Lebanese, Korean, Ethiopian, Afghan, Italian, French, and Indonesian are just a few of the options we visit regularly.
- Convenience – It’s safe to say that almost every restaurant in Dubai has a delivery option. Some of them require a small fee for delivery, although the majority offer it for free. Even McDonald’s delivers, and you can order groceries with free delivery (a convenience I use regularly!).
- Services: Services from dry cleaning to babysitting in Dubai tend to be less expensive than the United States. In fact, it is culturally acceptable to have a live in nanny who helps the family with chores and babysitting services. Laundry can be picked up and dropped off as a free service included with the price of dry cleaning. It is much easier and affordable to hire someone for a quick one off job in Dubai than in the United States. This enables parents to have more of a social life and career outside of the home in comparison to the United States because many chores can be outsourced without breaking the bank.
- Spices – I have a love hate relationship with the spice aisle here. The grocery stores have a wide variety of spices that are used in cuisines catering to the diverse origins of Dubai’s residents. I never have to worry about finding kashmiri chili or garam marsala at any grocery store here unlike in the US. However, some common spices used in American cuisines are hard to come by (Americans are a small minority here) and I typically bring them back with me when I travel home. For example, pepper here is very finely ground unlike our pepper back home, so I always like to get some from home when possible!
- Bathrooms – I’ll preface this by saying that not all bathrooms I’ve come across are amazing. However, in most malls and hotels, bathrooms are 5-star. Each stall is regularly cleaned after use and are far cleaner and brighter than a lot of bathrooms back home. When I first moved here, I was amazed at the immaculate condition of some of the public restrooms. Now, I’m a little spoiled and expect it. Haha!
- Pumping Gas – I know in the US there are some states that have attendants at gas stations which I used to think was strange. However, in Dubai you can’t pump your own gas. Every gas station has numerous attendants to pump it for you. It is a nice touch when the weather is extremely hot in the summer. It took me a few months to get used to a full service gas station, but now when I travel home I sometimes forget that I actually have to do it myself.
- Elevators – Have you ever been in an elevator with a bad kid who loves to press all the buttons? In most elevators here, you don’t have to get out to catch another. Instead just double press it or hold the button to deselect the floor. It’s a small convenience, but one that I enjoy when the wrong floor is accidentally pressed.
- Metro – Anybody who knows me well, knows that I’m not a big fan of public transportation. However, the Dubai metro is amazing and I never complain if I have to take it. It is extremely clean and simple (only two main lines, for now) with no complex schedules. They run so frequently that I rarely have to wait more than 5 minutes after a departure for the next train to come.
- Travel – Dubai is centrally located which makes it easy to travel around the world. Flights to Africa are about 4-8 hours, Europe 6-7 hours, and India 2-4 hours. Rocket and I love being able to travel to different countries so quickly, and we plan on traveling as much as possible while on this side of the world. The one downside is that visiting home takes us 15 hours by plane. 😦
I have enjoyed the last 2 years in Dubai and I can’t wait to see what our next adventure will be!