A Russian's story about life in the Arab Emirates.

Roman went to the United Arab Emirates to work for a Russian-language radio station. He lived in the country for a year and a half, was full of impressions and returned to Russia. As part of a series of articles on compatriots who have settled abroad, he is publishing his account of life in Dubai.

I decided to live and work abroad about three years ago. I thought that I was at the peak of my professional development in my hometown and that it was time to explore new horizons. The option to go to the UAE came about quite by chance. I work in radio, and I learned from a colleague that the local Russian-language radio in Dubai needed a male voice. And then things developed quickly: I sent my CV and demo and received an invitation to a trial period. I left in a hurry, and a few days later I was walking on the beach in the city of Ajman.

Visits to Arab countries are part of my adult life: besides trips to Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, I visited Jordan and Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. So I didn't think much about traveling.

About the visa

Before coming here, I knew a little bit about the Emirates: the highest skyscraper in the world - Burj Khalifa, the capital of the Emirates - Abu Dhabi, not Dubai, the desert, the Persian Gulf (by the way, in the Emirates it says "Arabian Gulf" on all maps), the luxury cars, the expensive stores and the warmth. Perhaps, that's all that was associated with the Emirates at that time.

Obtaining a visa for the Emirates was no problem at all - it was not necessary. Visitors can stay in the country for 30 days as tourists. The work visa is issued by the employer at the time of employment. Its validity varies from one to three years. It is the employer who pays for the work visa. Its cost is 4-5 thousand dirhams (80-90 thousand rubles) depending on the period of validity.

About difficulties

The adjustment period may have been about six months. The first difficulty was the heat! I am from Tula, and my ancestors are from the north, so it was not easy to stay in the temperature regime of 32-36 degrees above zero. My colleagues encouraged me by saying: "You are lucky, because it is spring! Then summer will come and hold on! In the summer, when the temperature was 45-50 degrees Celsius, I had to run home to go to the conditioner and drink lots of water.

The heat was a little easier to bear on the Gulf shore because there was sometimes a sea breeze. But in the desert where I lived, there was always dry and hot air and no breeze. At first I felt dizzy because of this, but then I got used to it.

Another important point is the language. I have no problem communicating in English with people whose native language is not English, but in the Emirates it has become a problem. The UAE is a country of newcomers, 75% of the population are guest workers from India, Pakistan, Asia, CIS and other Arab countries. The natives of each country have their own dialect of English. Understanding what a Pakistani says, and in English, from the first time was an insurmountable task for me. It took me several months to get used to it.

In general, the dominance of the citizens of India and Asia results in a very ambiguous perception of the UAE. One has the impression that one is not in an Arab country at all, but rather in an Eastern bazaar. Their cultural habits and customs in most cases create an aversion to European nations, but one cannot point a finger at the Pakistani in the subway for the unpleasant smell emanating from him: by law, it can be interpreted as a violation of the rights of a citizen of another country. macos/deepLFree.translatedWithDeepL.text

About the work

Finding a job in the Emirates is both easy and difficult. For example, in the tourist areas of Ras El Khaimah and Fujairah - lots of work in the service and trade sector. If you have a work visa (and it is mandatory), you can find a job even without knowing English or Arabic. But it is more difficult to find a job in Dubai. Not everyone can get a well-paying job. There is what is called "passport discrimination". For example, citizens of Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and even New Zealand are paid two to three times as much in similar positions as workers in other countries. The lowest paid positions are reserved for natives of Pakistan and CIS countries. Russian citizens are not particularly appreciated as workers either. Being employed depends on personal qualities and luck. A good salary in Dubai is 7-8 thousand dirhams (about 110-120 thousand rubles). However, this is not as much as it seems.

About costs

In general, the UAE is a spending-oriented country. The infrastructure is organized according to the "one step for every ruble" principle, the same principle in catering. There are restaurants and cafes all over the country at every step - all because Arabs love to eat and taste delicious dishes. In addition, for lunch or dinner there is a compulsory offer of kebab, shawarma and sweets for dessert.

The whole country is crazy about sweets: everyone and everywhere is eating them! But there is a side effect: total obesity in the country, especially among children. There is even a government program to combat obesity among schoolchildren in Dubai. But it doesn't work very well, because the price of the cheapest but very caloric candy is 5 dirhams (75 rubles).

The average bill in a restaurant in Dubai is 100-150 dirhams (1.5-2.2 thousand rubles) per person. And this without alcohol. Alcohol can only be bought in specialized liquor stores or in bars and clubs.

The products in the stores are mostly seasonal and imported. It is very difficult to buy ripe watermelons or mangoes in winter, because it is winter in Pakistan and Oman (the main suppliers of fruit and vegetables) and the fruit is not yet ripe. But the price of the greenest mangoes bites: on average, they sell for 10 dirhams (150 rubles) each. Local meat and seafood are not cheap either. It is more profitable to buy Australian or Brazilian beef, and the price of Scottish salmon is comparable to that of local fish - "sultan" - 20-30 dirhams (350-450 rubles) for a 300 gram piece.

About accommodation

The cost of housing in Dubai and the rest of the Emirates - very different values. The most expensive accommodation in Abu Dhabi, because it is the capital after all. But in Dubai, rental accommodation is the most popular type of business. Despite the fact that local real estate agents - brokers - have to obtain a state license for their activities, apartments for rent in the UAE are accessible to everyone. This is because many clients (mainly Russians) are not familiar with local laws and a real estate agent's license is not required. Hence the many violations and frauds.

But even if you have managed to find a decent place in a good neighborhood and through a licensed broker, don't be fooled - the price will surprise you unpleasantly. For example, a studio with a master bedroom ("eurodvushka") in a high-rise apartment in a prestigious neighborhood will cost 5-6 thousand dirhams (75-85 thousand rubles) per month. Without utilities, which are usually in the range of 7,000-8,000 rubles. The price is half that in lower districts, but it is an option for those who are not bewildered by their Pakistani neighbors. 

About medicine

Medicine in the UAE is not free and operates on the principle "if you get sick, be treated in the hospital, not at home". The only way to get a free visit is to see a general practitioner, and then only with insurance. It is issued at the same time as a work visa and is valid for the same period. In exceptional cases, the employer pays for the employee's illness.

However, if you are unlucky enough to fall ill, you will have to pay a lot of money. For example, a visit to the cardiologist, even with a reduction in insurance, can cost up to 100 dirhams (1.5 thousand rubles), and aspirin may be prescribed as treatment.

Aspirin and menthol ointment are generally the most popular medications. They are sold everywhere, unlike serious painkillers or antibiotics, which are almost impossible to obtain. They are only used in hospitals. The professionalism of local doctors is also a problem: their arsenal includes advanced technologies that they do not know how to use. This is why Emirati citizens have their patients treated by private doctors, most of whom are immigrants from the former USSR. After all, Soviet medicine is still the brand, and expensive.

About the premises

The inhabitants - the so-called "locals" - citizens of the Emirates and their descendants seemed to me rather boring, childish and arrogant people. For example, being late for an hour without explanation is the norm among Arabs, and this hour is called "Arab". In all matters that concern them, besides waiting, there is disrespect and irresponsibility.

But there is an explanation for these phenomena. The state provides serious social support to its citizens throughout their lives, from the moment they are born. The inhabitants do not need to take care of their "daily bread" and their families. And respecting other nations is also useless: if someone does not have the same social bonuses, it means that they are not equal.

"The salary for each child is about 100 thousand dirhams (more than 1.5 million rubles), plus life support until old age, retirement and education. The latter, by the way, is free for the country's children everywhere in the world.

Newcomers are not citizens of the UAE and therefore cannot count on state support. Obtaining citizenship from a "foreigner" in the majority of cases is simply unreal. One condition, for example, is to save the life of a sheikh or a member of the royal family. Furthermore, at the age of 55, all expatriates must leave the UAE, as there are no "foreign" pensioners in the UAE. If a child is born in the UAE and his or her parents are not UAE citizens, he or she will not receive UAE citizenship.

Local Arabs are well aware of the existence of Russians. Some have even studied in Russia and know our country. But it is mostly Arab men who are interested in Russian women. 

Unfortunately, there are more and more stories about the availability of Russian women (including residents of Ukraine and Belarus). It is about the irresistible desire of girls and women to marry a mythical "rich Arab". The truth is that very often girls do not understand who is in front of them: the Crown Prince, or the poor Syrian in a Bentley rented for a day.

Despite the stereotypes, there are a number of marriages between Russians and Arabs. But in this case, it is interesting to note that their children become locals, while their Russian wives do not. The wife receives only temporary alimony, the amount of which is determined by the spouse. And divorces among these couples are in the majority: more than 40% of all divorces in the UAE occur in inter-ethnic marriages. To put it simply, if you can get an Arab, it's a kind of slavery, but not for long.

About stereotypes about Russians

"Vodka - bear - balalaika" - these stereotypes are not for Emiratis. A country is judged by its citizens. People associate modern Russia with the passion of its citizens to spend the last coin on everything from street shawarma to luxurious villas. This has led to the stereotype that Russians are not very smart, but very rich. Also, for Arabs, Russia is winter and Putin. Although the UAE is a pro-American country, just like the United States, most people consider our president to be a strong and respected leader.

And, of course, for the locals, Russia has the most beautiful girls, but as if we didn't know it!


Of course, I am grateful to fate and to all concerned for giving me the opportunity to live and work in another country. I lived in the Emirates for a year and a half and was happy to return to Russia. The UAE is a fairy-tale country for tourists, but in fact it is an expensive set of glass and concrete with a void inside. I will only go back there to visit friends and to swim. There are still many amazing places in the world. And there is another discovery waiting for me.