I’m here! I did it, I moved abroad.
Sorry, just a shout out to ten-year-old me, who wondered if she’d ever see the world. You can and you will baby D!
Anyway, it’s the end of day three in Dubai and I thought I’d share my adventures thus far. Could be useful if you’re planning your own move to Dubai, or just want to nose at how one spends their first three days living in the emirate.
Moving to Dubai: the first few days
On Monday, I packed my ridiculously heavy suitcase and flew to Dubai from Newcastle airport with a puffy face and butterflies in my stomach. Goodbyes are always horrible, but this one was heartbreaking. However, I am off to ‘be the best me’ for a while with my new dream job in the UAE and you didn’t come here to read about how much I miss my boyfriend, so I’ll breeze over that bit.
Unfortunately I didn’t get bumped up to Business Class like I did when my company flew me out for the interview (woe is me) – but flying with Emirates is always a pleasure, regardless of where you’re seated. I still get excited about the twinkly ceiling lights.
I watched ‘Room’ and sobbed my heart out. I don’t even know if they were tears of nerves or it was just a hideously emotional film, but I had to watch something happy afterwards to cheer myself up. I LOVE watching sad films on the plane, I don’t know why! I’ve been sat next to people who are laughing out loud at a lighthearted rom-com while I’m sat there looking distraught, like someone just told me Beyonce is retiring.
There were some drunk Geordie lads in front of me and the air hostesses had to threaten them with a police welcoming committee and give them a booze ban, so that provided some extra in-flight entertainment.
On arrival I was escorted through the airport by no less than THREE different people, thanks to my new company. At one point they all walked in a triangle formation around me and it was like having an actual posse. I thanked my greeter, porter and chauffeur profusely, feeling totally out of my depth and cursing myself for not having worn a chicer outfit for this parade of importance.
It was after midnight when I checked into my hotel, where I’ll be living for a few weeks while I find accommodation. I’m staying at Flora Grand in Deira, which is east of the Creek. It’s not a bad landing pad, while I find somewhere to live. There’s a huge Indian and Pakistani population in Deira and very few Emirates or British expatriates. I’m hoping to find more permanent accommodation in the Downtown area or somewhere near the Marina, but this is cool for now.
My first day in Dubai
When I was here for my interview two months back, I had a day to spare so I saw as much of Downtown Dubai and Dubai Creek as possible (you can read my One Day in Dubai post if you want some travel inspo). This time I’m a resident, and decided to get to grips with my new surroundings. I had tuesday free to recover from my flight so I used it to do some further exploring.
First though, the task that strikes fear into my heart: sussing out the Dubai metro. I’m hopeless with public transport, and this is worsened by the fact that I don’t drive – yep, a travel blogger who can’t navigate a city on wheels. These feet were made for walking.
I got myself a nol card after much umming and ahhing over the (really quite straightforward) ticket machine and jumped on the Metro at Al Rigga Station, heading towards the Marina. The station for Dubai Marina is called DAMAC Properties, which they should totally make clearer in my opinion.
Armed with my Lonely Planet Dubai Guide book, it was time to see the sights – but first, food. I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours! I sat at an outdoor table at the first waterfront eatery I laid eyes on and devoured a huge club sandwich. Set up for the day, I meandered along the Marina, marvelling at the towering apartment blocks clustered around the manmade river. I love how spacious and well designed Dubai is – I keep getting this feeling that I’ve been beamed into The Sims. The Marina is going to be my new favourite place to go for moonlit walks. I might even start jogging.
Probably not though.
A spot of window shopping at Dubai Yacht Club, then I kind of accidentally stumbled onto The Walk at Jumeirah beach. I’ll do a full blog post with a guide to Dubai’s beaches once I’ve visited them all – because that’s definitely my main goal while I’m here.
The Marina had been really quiet and I wondered where all the people were – and then I found out.
The Walk is a hive of activity, with an outdoor gym on the beach (why?) and a temptingly placed hot dog van looking far more appealing next to it.
I hopped back on the Metro and ended my first day in Dubai with a walk around Deira, which had come alive after the sun set. It seems everyone does their socialising in the streets here, at roadside Iraqi restaurants and in the gentlemen’s barber shop.
My first day at work in Dubai
After a sleepless night, I rose at 6am and rocked up at the office at 7.30, where I listened to an induction speech and was given my starter pack – including a local sim card. I had to hand over my passport while my employer applies for my Dubai visa on my behalf. They said I’ll get my passport back in a fortnight, so I guess that will stop me freaking out and trying to board a plane when I get homesick until then.
The induction was over by 10am and I was free to leave! It seems I won’t actually be in my own department for at least five working days, while I undergo the intensive joining formalities. I was at a loss, as I’d presumed I’d be doing fancy paper shuffling all day long. Then I remembered that I’m in Dubai now and can totally just hit the beach when I have free time, so that’s what I did.
I got ACTUAL TAN LINES. In Winter! I also got a selfie with some camels, so I reckon that makes me a real Middle East resident now. Right?
Not a bad first day at work!
Visa applications and medical tests
My second day at work was consumed by the endless bureaucracy that comes with gaining your Dubai visa. Thinking of moving to Dubai? Prepare to take a number and have a seat; you’re going to be doing a lot of waiting around. All of the new starters were bused to a government building (where we had to be covered up and I accidentally sat down in the men’s section), and there we had our fingerprints taken. Should have been simple, but it turned into quite the stressful task because I couldn’t get my hand to relax enough and the lady kept shouting, “LOOSE, LOOSE”, and everyone stared which of course made me even more tense.
On the bus I sat next to a girl from Kyrgyzstan who was probably the most elegant person that’s ever actually spoken to me. She carried a little umbrella to protect her porcelain complexion from the sun and kept asking me questions about my skincare routine and Princess Diana.
Then came the bit I’d been dreading: blood tests. I was practically drenched in terrified sweat (eww) by the time they called my number. Pricked and prodded, I donned a blue gown and had a chest X-ray then went back to the hotel and lay in bed looking at Dubizzle, where flat hunters go to make themselves suicidal. I arranged a few viewings, declined the estate agent who wanted to pick me up and drive me to an apartment in his pervert porsche, and got the metro back into the city. I viewed one flat with the most amazing view of the Marina, felt really pleased with myself and decided to skip the rest and eat some sushi on the promenade.
And so brings us to the end of day three. I have three huge spots on my chin (due to the change of water, according to my wise old ma), huge bags under my eyes and a slight fear that I’ll be homeless when my three weeks in this hotel runs out and I still haven’t found an apartment. I could be out sampling Dubai’s nightlife right now but instead I’m in bed with a brew and a Twix, looking forward to sleeping the weekend away.
Hope you’ve enjoyed my account of the first few days of Dubai life! Bit of a diary-style post, but that’s what the people want and all that. You can see more updates and snaps of me Discovering Dubai on my Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter.
Tasks for the week ahead
- Get a Dubai bank account
- Explore Deira – there’s an old quarter nearby that I think will be great to photograph.
- Find an apartment in a cool area that doesn’t make me weep over my bank balance.
- Go to a cool club and nurse one drink all night because I’m terrified of getting hammered and ending up in jail.
- Make some friends?
I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’d like to end this post with a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has sent me messages and left comments of support on my blog’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the run up to my move. You guys are the best!