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Living in the UAE?

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Peter B. Krehmer

Living in UAE, from Switzerland

"There are so many expats in the UAE, but the InterNations Dubai Ramadan dinners brought some wonderful guests together. "

Suzanne Payne

Living in UAE, from Great Britain

"Dubai is such an overwhelming mixture of tradition and modernity that I was very grateful for all the support from other expats. "

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The UAE at a Glance

Living in the UAE

With 80% of the UAE’s population being foreign born, the country is often considered an expat’s paradise. Indeed, you’ll find that many aspects of living in the UAE combine to make settling in fairly easy for expats. Our InterNations guide gives you a detailed overview of expat life in the UAE.

As you settle down in the UAE, you get to enjoy amenities which some expats may not have in their home countries. The mobile phone system is excellent, and many of the modern buildings are equipped with air conditioning. All these things make for a comfortable life in the UAE. The UAE has a subtropical-arid climate, with balmy 30°C in winter and up to a sweltering 50°C in summer.

Newspapers, radio stations and TV broadcasts are available in Arabic, English, Urdu and several other languages to cater to the needs of expats living in the UAE. There are four monthly and weekly English-language newspapers concerning expat life in the UAE: the Khaleej Times, Gulf News, Gulf Today, and Emirates Today.


Despite its progressive flair, modern infrastructure and strong economy, religious traditions are an essential aspect of life in the UAE. For expats, life in the UAE means that they may have to adhere to a different etiquette, dress more modestly and deal with some limitations in their daily lives.

It is advisable for expats to be sensitive and respectful towards religious traditions. Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and one of the five pillars of Islam, is taken very seriously in the Emirates. Non-Muslims living in the UAE may be surprised when they experience reduced office hours, closed restaurants, and other disruptions of their daily routine during Ramadan.

Local Traditions

The rich traditions of the Emirates are a big part of life in the UAE. The country remains proud of its history of fishing, boating and trading, which used to dominate life in the UAE for centuries.

The souqs, traditional markets which were once the centre of life in the UAE, are an essential place to visit. Many of them have been preserved in their original state, giving a picturesque impression of what life in the UAE used to be like. Dates, camels, Arabian horses and falconry are still important aspects of life in the UAE today.

Buying Property

Foreigners who are interested in buying property in the UAE will have to deal with a great deal of nontransparent legislation. In general, you can expect the rules for buying property to be wildly different, depending on the emirate you are living in.

In many cases, expats living in the UAE can only “lend” property from the ruler of their emirate. People living in the UAE’s northern emirates of Dubai and Sharjah benefit from exceptions to this rule. The real estate markets in these emirates started to open up to expats living in the UAE in 2002, allowing them to buy property within selected housing projects. Soon, other emirates such as Ajman followed.

In mid-2011, the government of the UAE introduced a change in real estate legislation for expats living in the UAE. Now, investments in real estate exceeding Dh1.000.000 automatically grant the investor a three-year temporary residence permit.

One-bedroom apartments can be purchased from 75000 US$. Houses cost 177000 US$ or more. Foreigners who buy property often receive a resident permit for living in the UAE after their property is fully paid off.

Renting Accommodation

Although the availability of rental property has increased, living in the UAE comes at a price. Rents are high, and it is common to pay one year’s rent in advance. The price of living in the UAE depends on the location and size of the accommodation. Dubai has the highest rates in the country, with mostly unfurnished housing, making life in the UAE a costly endeavor.

Apartments and houses usually offer a high standard of living in comparison to many Western and European countries. Due to the high temperatures and humidity in the summer months, air conditioning is a must. Moreover, houses and villas often come with a maintenance service as well.

Running water and electricity supplies are widely available in the UAE. Due to the high power consumption during summer, occasional power outages can occur every now and then. However, these problems are usually solved very quickly. Water supplies are provided by desalination of ocean water to make sure drinking water is always available to Emiratis and expats alike.

InterNations Expat Magazine