Tell me again exactly how Dubai has hurt you?

Too many people focus on what the emirate is not, rather than what it is.

Home sweet home: Instead of criticising a city, recognise its benefits.

Home sweet home: Instead of criticising a city, recognise its benefits.

I fail to understand the glee some UAE residents take in running down Dubai.

Unlike where I was born (Montreal) or where I grew up (Toronto) or where I lived in the 1990s (Tokyo) or where my wife and I raised our children (Al Ain) or where I now reside (Abu Dhabi), Dubai invokes a visceral reaction. Mentioning the city demands a response, and not just an offhanded remark, but a passionate rebuttal, a detailed argument about the emirate.

For good or for bad, Dubai tries to be the biggest and the best, which means it sometimes comes across as slightly artificial, and that leaves it open to criticism.

In the 2016 Global Liveability Ranking by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Dubai placed 74 out of 140 cities, and finished ahead of Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, San Paulo, Bangkok and Mexico City.

Simply being a livable city, however, isn’t enough for Dubai. It must boast the world’s tallest building, the largest glow in the dark painting, the largest human sentence, the largest origami mosaic, the tallest chocolate sculpture and the largest gathering of people dressed as nurses. (These are all Dubai records according to

Dubai is also one of the safest cities in the world (ranked number three in the 2015 World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report). It offers residents the chance to buy property, build a career and raise a family.

Where I previously worked, there was a British gentleman who took great satisfaction in trying to point out the inconsistencies of a new decree or a government announcement. It didn’t matter if it was the most ambitious of plans with the best of intentions. This former colleague would use every opportunity to take a shot at Dubai.

There were occasionally legitimate issues he raised during his diatribe, but the spirit of his criticism was never constructive. He never spoke from the position of a friend.

When I hear people complain about Dubai, I call them out. This city you are highly critical of, I say, has hurt you how? With that great job, with that wonderful salary, with that tax-free lifestyle? is a database that gathers what people think and say about a city’s crime rate and cost of living, among other statistical information. While it has no third-party moderator, it is – certainly from an anecdotal perspective – interesting to consider. Using my former British colleague’s city of London, (which was created by an ex-Google engineer) finds Dubai to be safer and less expensive than London.

The history of London, the culture, the entertainment, the people – they all make it one of the greatest cities in the world. It has few equals. But my former British colleague hasn’t lived there in nine years. So while London may be the city where he wants to reside, it is in the UAE where he actually lives.

Pointing out a city’s short-comings is understandable, but doing it with cynicism defeats the argument, especially when you take advantage on a daily basis of all the benefits that the city provides.

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Posted by: Tony Gray

"Ask not what Dubai can do for you, ask what you can do for Dubai" (with apologies to JFK)

Posted by: Telcoguy

@MT3 essentially yes, at least from an expat perspective (someone working in Dubai)
From a business owner perspective the shortcomings are even more apparent. It is really a pity as things could have been done very differently instead of wasting the opportunity, but I guess you could say that of essentially every country.

Posted by: MT3

The actual quote was; "Ask not what your country can do for you..." For me that illuminates one of the biggest issues in the UAE. This is not our country, never will be and we are reminded of this regularly. Lose your job, one month to leave. We know the deal so there can be no complaints but it fosters the short-term mercenary attitude a lot of people have in Dubai, something that permeates most aspects of our lives. We want it now - it's no good talking about nation-building and how great it's going to be in the future; we might not be here. I want my money, I want my lifestyle and I want money in the bank as fast as possible - anything that limits that is a bad thing. Few of us sign up to an emotional or social contract with this country. Perhaps if we did we might be happier but I can see why people don't. Until you can encourage a feeling of genuine collectivity then the country will get the ex-pats it pays for, perhaps not the ones it wants.

Posted by: WHJ

Today, CNBC published a report on the world's most expensive cities to live in ( The ten most expensive cities are as follows:

2-Hong Kong
3- Zurich
4- Tokyo
6- Seoul
7- Geneva
8-New York
9- Copenhagen

I think we expats living in Dubai have a lot to be grateful for.

Posted by: Telcoguy

@WHJ funnily enough my lifestyle is roughly the same wherever I live.

My consumption basket may change to exploit local opportunities but no, there have been no big differences for me between living in London (where I was also tax free mind you), Dubai, Zurich, Sao Paulo, Paris or Madrid. I realize that this is linked to my lifestyle, with heavy travel and limited time in the base city.

Where I see a difference, a brutal one, is on the quality of the business ecosystem from banking services, ability to enforce a contract (essentially getting paid) and as discussed on a previos thread the ability to attract top talent. Plus other critical aspects that we can not discuss.

Until this place offers a proper legal and regulatory environment it will not play in the big league.

Posted by: WHJ

@Omar. Thanks, I'll take that as a compliment.
@Nick. You asked me to correct you, so I will:
1) I'm not from the UK, or any other English speaking country for that matter. 2) The majority of expats who work in the DIFC are generally well paid in relation to other locations. 3) The DIFC has a plethora of affordable cafes and restaurants.
You see Nick, the question expats should ask themselves is not whether they are rich or not, the question should be where would they be better off: in Dubai or in their home countries. Expats who think they would be better off in their home countries should waste no time in leaving.
Try living in Singapore, Zurich or Geneva and then tell me about what expats can and cannot afford.

Posted by: OmarF

i think you should work for a PR agency or Donald Trump.

Posted by: Ed B

I think Dubai is a great place to live as long you have a secure and well paying job, an employer that pays school and housing fees, and as long you do not need to move houses every year. I am in that position, and have nothing but good words about my living experience here.

But looking around, I think for expats with lower incomes that need to support a family here, Dubai is not a good place to live. Housing and school fees are far out of proportion of mid-range salaries, and will put a high financial pressure on these families, and lets not forget that in this country that is a big risk: debt repayment issues will land you in jail.

Posted by: WHJ

@Ivan Radchenko. What is truly regretful is that many expats come to Dubai with unrealistic expectations and a certain sense of entitlement thinking they can make the grade and hit the jackpot in a short period of time. Then when reality sets in, they start blaming the city.
If you come to Dubai thinking you can live in expensive apartments and own expensive cars without having the right amount of cashflow, that's your fault. If you can't pay a year's rent in advance, then rent an apartment that you can afford or find an owner who will accept multiple cheques (by the way, plenty of landlords now accept two and three cheques).
According to you, a person who is realistic, knows his budget limits and has learnt how to balance his books is living in an "ivory tower ". Well, that's where you are wrong. This person could be living quite happily with a much lower income than yours. He's just better than you at math.

Posted by: Andy

Let people be. Opinion is a personal perspective. I've been here for ten years because. We all have ups and downs, good times and bad and whilst I agree with your article, I fail to see your point. Are you defending Dubai? Are you attacking those who have an opinion? And do you even live in the Emirate?!
Yes it's safe, it's tax free, it can give an amazing lifestyle and it is enjoyable... But it can also be expensive, lonely, artificial to some.
If you choose to live here, great! Come, welcome. If you don't like it, pack up and go somewhere else.

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