There are an awful lot of great reference sites for those thinking of embarking on a new life in a developing market but I write this more as a journal of personal experience rather than advice on how to live here and where to go. I hope for those who read they get at least a flavour of what this awe-inspiring city does offer.
Probably one of the first things you’ll notice about this city, despite its impressive night skyline and its overwhelming futuristic beauty, is how the whole world lives here. When you arrive the best way to see this is visit JBR at the weekend and see how so many cultures from the “bikini clad” westerners to pristine and respectful locals go about their weekend. It’s certainly a very different vibe to that of London.
So here are my top five observations after seven months in:
1. Brave New World
It’s a patriarchal society rather than an egalitarian one, at least for the prospective employee. One characterised by first generation corporations, which means it’s a relationship and conversation market rather than one governed by rules and rights which makes it an interesting business development market, one that is re-defining itself and transforming daily. The best book to help you get your head around this is ‘Don’t they know it’s Friday?’ A cross cultural guide for business and life in the Gulf, by Jeremy Williams. Read this book at least four times on the plane out here.
2. Bring Fresh Eyes to Cultural Differences
Get to know the local culture. In my time here, the locals that I have got to know have shown me such great kindness and a wonderful welcome that I will never forget. I have enjoyed attempting to understand their culture and listening to their stories of watching this great city evolve around them. In Dubai the key word is “respect”. If you want to read more about this culture pick up a book written in the 1920’s called ‘The Road to Mecca’ by Muhammad Asad, the true story of an English journalist who was one of the first people to visit this region and converted to the Muslim faith. It is a beautiful story told well and an incredibly accurate portrayal of the Arab welcome. I dare you not to fall in love with this story.
3. Borrow from Weigel – Unlearn and relearn
You will have a lot to unlearn and relearn.The funniest parody of what it’s like to be a newbie here was neatly summarised by buzzfeed.com
4. To thine own self be true
Make your own way out here, be self-reliant. One thing I have learnt is that you have to make the effort to go out and meet people and make friends. By its very nature Dubai life can seem rather transient and it is so make the most of it by getting out. Time Out Dubai is a must. Go out, make friends, don’t put all your energy into work.
5. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Take your time to really understand the real Dubai. There are places here for everyone and you don’t have to get embroiled too much in the “brunch” culture or ex-pat lifestyle if you don’t want to. Dubai sadly gets stereotyped as being “fake, fickle and fabricated”, I have found there is certainly so much more to it than that. I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for. I have learnt so much from so many different people, it has broadened my horizons, challenged my perceptions for the better and changed some of my preconceptions of what I thought life in Arabia was all about. For all of that I am grateful. It’s been a tremendous journey, one that has made me stronger and more patient and tolerant.