It’s officially been 5 days, and I finally feel like I’m somewhat settling in. I’ve lived in many, many places but Dubai is obviously quite different. It reminds me a lot of the wealthy areas of Miami or LA – sprawling, tropical, lots of money, even more traffic.
Dubai is a really young city and as a result it is super organized. Businesses are grouped together in districts and are appropriately named after the industry or category they fall into – Media City, Knowledge City, TeCom, DIFC, Dubai Marina, etc. The area I live in – Jumeirah Beach Residence (or as us locals call it, JBR *wink*) – is the perfect area to start off in if you are new to Dubai. Everyone in my building is like me – young, unattached to comfort zones, and living life to the fullest. JBR is on the beach side of Dubai Marina which is overflowing with hotels, restaurants, cafes and boutiques. It’s roughly 20 minutes away from the downtown area known as DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) where most of my friends live; however, it’s quite close to Media City, which the majority of the companies that I’ve applied for and am interviewing with are located.
The major difference between Dubai and the aforementioned American cities I compared it to is that Dubai has easily 15x (if not more) the number of immigrants. And I’m not talking about the immigrants who leave Latin America and the Caribbean for the American Dream. I’m talking about the ones who live on less than a dollar a day and are basically one step up from slavery. There are tons of stories of employers holding onto the passports of many of these workers. It’s something that you could easily ignore amidst the glitz and glamour. In fact, the severity of the situation only really hit me when I tipped a delivery man $5 USD and he almost cried as he thanked me. That’s another thing, not many people tip here; but for me personally, it’s pretty impossible not to.
On the other hand of the spectrum, are the expats (of which I am now a part of). The expats are a really fun group. Almost all of them are super well travelled which makes for really fun conversations. I’ve only met a handful of them because I’ve been catching up with the fairly decent sized network of friends of mine who live here. So far I’ve learnt that you can pretty much tell what industry someone is in based on where they are from. Most of the Europeans are in fairly streamlined professions, like engineering, medicine, and risk management. The Brits are a tad random and range from jobs as club promotors to tour guides to construction workers to advertising. The North Americans seem to be the most creative – most are in fashion, graphic design, PR, marketing, music, and so on.
Another thing that has stuck out for me is the lack of pollution. I haven’t seen anything on the ground ever! Everything is perfectly in order. There’s even a guy who stands on the boardwalk of the beach and sweeps off the sand that people trek onto it. I’ve seen him two days in a row and it seems to be a permanent job. Also, anything you could ever want in life can be delivered to you. Groceries? Check. Cold medicine? Check. Burger King? Check. Everyone is also extremely polite and respectful – slowly getting used to being called Madam on an hourly basis.
I’ve received a lot of messages asking me how I’m dealing with the alleged ‘culture shock.’ For the first day I was hyper aware of what I chose to wear, where I went, and to a certain extent how I behaved. But that’s something I would do in any new city; it’s not Middle East specific. The culture here is a really neat juxtaposition between modern and traditional life. It’s normal to see camels on the beach with some of the tallest buildings as the backdrop behind them. So to be honest, I don’t think I’ve really experienced it yet but who knows – maybe it is yet to come). I’ll keep you posted!