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9+1 Things Every American Should Know Before Moving to Dubai

04/27/2016 04:17pm ET | Updated April 28, 2017
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You are thinking of moving to Dubai. So I heard. Did you choose Dubai with the spin of a globe and your eyes closed? Did you fall in love with an Emirati? Are you looking to improve your career prospects? Are you after an 180-degree change? Or are you simply fed up with it raining every single day -people of Seattle I know you can relate. Whatever or whoever brings you to Dubai, thumbs up!

I know this is most likely the zillionth article you read on Dubai. But the more you search, the more confused you get. You still have no clue whether Dubai is safe, whether you'll end up in jail for drinking a glass of wine or whether you'll frown upon just for being a woman. May I have your attention, please? Here, you'll find all the answers to your questions.

1. You'll hear more "hellos" than "assalamu alaikum"

Okay, I'm exaggerating a little here. However with more than 70% of Dubai's population being a foreigner, English could have easily been its official language. This also means that you won't be getting the "stranger in a strange land" feeling that often. Plus networking will be easy as pie. If you thought New York was a melting pot, then wait till you move to Dubai.

2. It is an Islamic city. And that's fine.

Yes, Islam is the official religion of Dubai. However, it is good to know that Dubai is the least conservative emirate of the United Arab Emirates. You are expected to respect Islam and abide by certain etiquette, but isn't that the case everywhere? You can still freely practice your religion and buy pork and alcohol -using an alcohol license. Therefore as long as you are decently dressed (hot pants? nay) and you don't get drunk in public you'll be fine. And that's true for both men and women.

3. Dubai's Sunday is America's Monday.

The workweek in Dubai is from Sunday through Thursday. In the beginning, it might feel awkward. But when you think about it, it's practically the same. However, Fridays are not like Western Saturdays. Friday is the holy day in the Middle East and almost everything is closed, especially during Friday prayer from 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. Then again if you are a brunch aficionado, Dubai can be a heaven on earth. Friday brunch has become a big thing in Dubai -adding to the big list of Dubai's big things.

4. It's hot as hell outside. But cold as ice inside.

During the summer months, from April to October, it gets very (like very) hot in Dubai. Temperatures may reach 122°F, with humidity some 70% and beyond. Yes, you can literally fry an egg on the sidewalk. However, there is air conditioning everywhere, in just about every vehicle and every building. So moving from outside to the inside of a building is like moving from Sahara to Alaska, in less than 5 minutes. Be ready for multiple brain freezes. Yet Dubai makes up for extreme summers with mild winters. Do 77 °F count as winter? North Dakota and Minnesota have your say!

5. Oh gee it's (almost) tax-free!

Yes, I know you knew that already. Which is probably the reason for considering moving to Dubai in the first place. Yet what you may not know yet is that no income tax (given that your income is not more than $97,600) doesn't mean Dubai is tax-free. There are many different taxes levied in Dubai; taxes on alcohol (30%), taxes on restaurant service (10%) and many tolls, just to name a few. The cost of living in Dubai is lower than New York. But it's almost the same as in Houston, Texas. So before you end up not being able to save a single penny (dirham, to be exact), I would advise you to do the math. All that glitters is not gold. Not even in Dubai.

6. Shawarma and hummus are not your only option.

As we've already discussed, Dubai is a rich and varied blend of people and cultures. And this diversity could not but be reflected in its food scene. So even if the thought of eating traditional Middle Eastern dishes makes you sick, there is no need to worry. You are sure to find any of cuisine from around the world. And burger shops. Lots of them. If you are an American in Dubai, burger is the one thing you won't miss.

7. Dubai is safe. And I don't mean "Detroit safe".

There are a lot of misconceptions about safety in the Middle East, and by extension about Dubai. So I am pleased to inform you that Dubai has been ranked as one of the safest cities in the world. The city has zero tolerance for violence and extremism. I am not saying that there is no illegal activity whatsoever, but that there will be times you'll feel safer in Dubai than back home. Especially if back home is Detroit...

8. Don't buy the "no culture" myth.

There is a rumor going around about Dubai. That it has "too much makeup and not enough personality". Whoever made this up has just skimmed Dubai's surface. Cause there's so much more than fancy five-star hotel bars, glittering skyscrapers and air-conditioned malls. But not everyone is interested to see what's underneath the make-up. Dubai has grown into a characterful city. You can find a booming alternative scene, with running clubs and book clubs, community theater and live music venues. Unless, of course, you are like: "Alternative scene? -Thank you, but no thanks".

9. Bureaucracy is the same everywhere. Even in Dubai.

Americans moving to Dubai are advised to pack some patience along with their clothes. Bureaucracy and ever-changing rules can be a challenge. Here is some really wise advice for you: if you can avoid bureaucracy, just avoid it. For instance, if you have important documentation (passport, driving license), which is about to expire, don't wait till you move to Dubai to update it. It will take you far more time, money and energy. So no, no and no. Cause you can't afford any of these three.

10.It is still a land of opportunity. But you'll need to prepare to ensure a smooth landing.

Obviously, Dubai is nothing like it used to be five years ago before the city was slapped in the face by a recession. However, most companies still offer decent salaries. And there is a good chance that you will be better paid for working the same job in Dubai than in the United States. Recession or not, the job market is still on the hunt for skilled professionals. And that's also the case for the tourism industry. No matter how adventurous you are I would recommend you not to move to Dubai without a job. Besides, there is an abundance of job sites with Dubai listings. I actually have something in mind. And it offers far more than just job listings (including all the legwork of moving).

I hope I've been of some help. And that I've given you the little extra push you needed to go for it. It's always a toss-up whether you will like it or not. But so what if you don't like it? No hard feelings. Good (du)bye then! And don't forget to keep me posted!

If you enjoy travel articles check out my previous article about moving to Portugal!