Dubai is fun, just not all of it

Why the emirate's upsides can be its biggest downside, says Beatrice Thomas.

After almost a year in the sandpit my time here is up. I’m moving on to new adventures outside of the UAE, so forgive me for a slightly indulgent final AB Café.

My stay has maybe not been long enough to pass any expert judgment on this city, but as a reporter and general observer of life it has allowed me to form some firm opinions on a few things.

Coming to Dubai, a lot of people told me that “you either love it, or hate”. That’s true, and I’d like to think my view of the place is a combination of the two.

What Dubai has in spades is also what has made it the tourist and expat draw card of today: ambition, opportunity, year-round warm weather and a happening social scene.

There is always something to do, someone to be seen with and a new project or business to be launched, promoted and admired.

The government has encouraged this through the UAE’s tax-free status, free-zone business precincts and, as a result, anyone with an idea and a dream and, certainly, the goal of making big bucks, is drawn out here.

The thing is, I believe some of those lures are also Dubai’s biggest downside.

I’m by no means an idealist, but I do think some people’s attitudes, skewed by a money-making drive, could do with a reality check.

It’s not that I would deny anyone the chance to make a success of themselves, but there’s a lot to be said for humility, and common courtesy.

For example, the lack of courtesy on the roads is amongst the worst I have experienced, including in bigger, busier cities, in the world. You’re not that important, and surely your hurriedness doesn’t justify risking other people’s lives.

Likewise, the attitude towards shop assistants, restaurant workers, taxi drivers and any other lower-income worker could for a lot of people also do with a serious manners upgrade.

These workers probably earn less than you, but that doesn’t mean you get to treat them poorly.

The boom-bust cycle that seems to have emerged in Dubai is likely to be its biggest challenge, not only as the property market dips and dives, but in the spin-off effect this has on retaining and attracting foreigners to its shores.

Higher rents, for the inflated sake of it and without adequate reason, does nothing for building up Dubai’s name.

Just yesterday, a long-term expat remarked that he and his wife were considering buying into the Dubai property market after six years here. But, after experiencing the 2008 property crash, they still had their doubts.

What if something happens and we have to all leave? What recourse do we have as non-citizens and the lack of access to permanent residency were among the chief concerns. It’s a debate Dubai is starting to have and with it comes the question of whether permanency equals the need to pay tax – my first point about what brings many expats out here to begin with.

That said, it’s been a fun ride, with fantastic experiences and firm friendships made. Would I return? Who knows, but I do know for certain it’s bye for now.

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Posted by: Edward

i am an expat and i lived in the UK before i live in dubai. Some of the points raised are valid like the fluctations in the property market prices. i dont think all people here treat low end labour in a harsh way it all depends on the individuals. i have never lived in a place or seen a place that has roads and services and treatment equally as the UAE and dubai in particular. if you look at the safe environment and the facilities that is provided in this city that even the big cities in the world cannot match. there are negative points in the city but i believe the positive points outweighs them. i hope you have a good life in the new place you live in.


Posted by: M A Khan

It is common decency to point out the negatives in a way that does not offend anyone and very nicely done here. Most of what is said is true, nonetheless, the treatment of sales staff by the customers is, in my opinion, directly proportional to the level of service provided. However, one has to admit that two wrongs don't make a right.

Posted by: James Riley

There is much to criticize about UAE, but on the whole it is a rare success story in a troubled region. Dubai may not compare favorably to London, Paris, or New York in some respects, but the fact that it is compared to such cities to begin with, rather than to Riyadh, Cairo, Damascus, or Tehran, speaks volumes.

Also, I've always found it curious that many westerners residing in Dubai refer to themselves as "expats" and profess sympathy with south Asian and other laborers in Dubai, yet fail to recognize that those laborers are "expats" too!

Posted by: Simon

While some points are valid, a lot of them depend on the author's somewhat negative way of looking at things. You can complain about the roads and courtesy, but similarly one can say the UK has awful weather and a pessimistic approach to life, while Europe has high taxes and crime.
Dubai has a positive can do attitude, nothing is impossible in Dubai and it is because of this progressive mentality that Dubai is excelling in so many ways.
You talk about high rents, which simply reflects a vibrant property market which has been the best performing in the entire world in recent times.
Dubai is not perfect but the vision of its leader means that it is far far better than the UK or the US or pretty much anywhere else in the world for an expat to live in.

Posted by: Chalky6766

Been here 11 years and totally agree with her, I would say that far more rudeness, crass behaviour and selfish attitudes now seem to be the norm whereas I remember it in a more civil and less hurried manner some years back. There is definitely an irresponsible me me me culture that is developing which I want no part of. I saw a guy the other day shovelling sand outside a villa, he was distressed, hot and obviously very thirsty as it was peak sun. I fetched him a bottle of water and told him to sit in the garage of his slave driver boss for an hour to recover and if he was ordered to start again to come and see me as I live across the way. It beggars belief how some people here treat others now...anyway good luck.

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