Starting My New Life In Dubai

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

Moving to Dubai: the first few days

dubai marina selfie

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.

lunch dubai marina

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.

flowers dubai marina

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.

ice cream cart dubai

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.

beach gym dubai

pink flowers dubai beach

jumeirah beach at winter

Jumeirah lake towers from beach

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

work outfit

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.

jumeirah beach camels

girl on jumeirah beach
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.

sushi

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

  1. Get a Dubai bank account
  2. Explore Deira – there’s an old quarter nearby that I think will be great to photograph.
  3. Find an apartment in a cool area that doesn’t make me weep over my bank balance.
  4. Go to a cool club and nurse one drink all night because I’m terrified of getting hammered and ending up in jail.
  5. 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!

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17 Comments

  1. January 28, 2016 / 10:32 pm

    Ah I just love reading about your adventures – can’t wait for the next post! I always read your posts as soon as they ping in my inbox!

  2. Vourneen
    January 28, 2016 / 10:57 pm

    I am absolutely loving your blogs about moving to Dubai!! I’m heading over next week for my own ‘secret mission’ and your blogs are so helpful (have already bought my fake engagement ring!) They’re getting me all excited for my own trip. I look forward to reading more about your new adventure!

  3. January 29, 2016 / 8:18 am

    Exciting! I am off to Dubai in March for 4 nights so looking forward to your posts!

  4. January 29, 2016 / 8:40 am

    Good luck! I’ve always wondered what living in Dubai would be like, so I’ll be following your posts 🙂

  5. January 29, 2016 / 9:25 am

    Saying goodbye is always difficult, but there’s no way around it. I’m sure you’ll have a great time in Dubai and I hope you’ll find an apartment very soon 🙂

  6. January 29, 2016 / 10:09 am

    This made me lol, mostly because I go through this every time I move somewhere new and know exactly how you feel. Excited but utterly terrified. Look on meetup or Facebook for expat groups. I find making friends tone the most important thing. Everything else will fall into place of you can meet people who’ve been through it already. Good luck!!

  7. rob
    January 29, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    You sound like a mirror image of me many years ago i went to work there with xerox best thing i ever did promise you you will be ok rob

  8. January 30, 2016 / 11:55 am

    This style of post is great to read! I especially love the little to-do list at the end 🙂

  9. February 1, 2016 / 5:45 pm

    Wow! I am so excited for you. You have a big adventure ahead! And don’t worry – I sobbed through room too.

  10. February 1, 2016 / 6:11 pm

    “Beamed into The Sims,” I love that! I just stumbled across your blog and I love it. Good luck with your adventures!

  11. Journal of a City Girl
    February 1, 2016 / 10:19 pm

    I just found your blog and LOVE your blogs name!!! All the best for your new life in Dubai, the expat life is admin intensive but awesome. I have lived in Canada and South Africa so maybe one day our paths will cross. xx

  12. February 2, 2016 / 6:17 am

    So happy to read that you’re settling nicely in Dubai! As a fellow blogger who landed a job in international digital marketing, I would love to figure out how to make my way over there! Will definitely be following!

  13. February 6, 2016 / 11:35 pm

    Sounds like quite a productive first few days. Best of luck as you get settled into your new home 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  14. Adventuring The Great Wide Somewhere
    February 14, 2016 / 6:51 pm

    Congrats on making the big move! It sounds amazing and completely terrifying all at once, but you seem to have a handle on it. I hope you find an apartment that you love, and enjoy your new life! 🙂

  15. Paul
    March 13, 2016 / 7:18 pm

    I know how you feel. I’m in my 3rd week here (with one of those weeks travelling to Morocco).
    I got my residence permit in 5 days, opened a bank account today (hopefully) and am waiting for my ID card. Can’t do much more now till I get that. Need driving license, phone SIM card and then apartment. Exciting times in a great place.
    I need to be more daring this weekend!

  16. Tony Samuel
    March 13, 2016 / 8:14 pm

    Best of luck with finding a cool place to live. Very well written blog. I’m making the big move very soon. I’m worried that I won’t be able to buy frazzles!..

  17. SophieMLB
    March 22, 2016 / 11:13 am

    Just came across your blog and I love it, “pervert porsche” made me laugh out loud!
    Moving to Dubai is something I really want to do one day soon as well, hope you’re having a great time out there!