I have been lucky to have lived in some of the most exciting cities in the world: London, Barcelona, Medellin, Sydney, and Melbourne and now I have made the move to Dubai! In this article, I share my reasons for moving to Dubai
“Are you here with your family?”
“No,” I reply to my new hairdresser.
“No,” I answer again.
“So you came here alone?”
“Yes,” I smile. Thinking how unusual that must be.
Moving to a new country, especially one that works differently from your home country is both exciting and daunting. I had mixed reactions when I told people I was moving to Dubai. Half thought it was superficial and never wanted to go, whilst others were open to hearing the reasons why I have chosen the UAE as my new home.
So here’s why…
Why I Chose To Move To Dubai
I have always felt an affinity for the Middle East. As a blonde Western woman, I have generally felt comfortable travelling alone in this region (I have encountered more stares in Cyprus and India!) In my experience of travelling to 141 countries, no country is perfect but Dubai just gives me a feeling that I’m home. A feeling that I haven’t had since living in Medellin, Colombia.
Since I left Barcelona in December 2019, I have been looking for my next base. During Covid, I was lucky to have been able to stay in the UK. But it wasn’t until this year on a recent trip to the Middle East and Africa that I finally had my epiphany.
‘If I loved the Middle East so much, why was I not living there?’
Fate took me to Dubai for 5 days then brought me back there for a month as I tested the ground and threw myself into the city to see if this was where I wanted to live.
Then a series of serendipitous events took place. The Emirates announced they would be extending the visa for British citizens. Plus the amount that you had to earn to qualify for the digital nomad visa was reduced significantly meaning that I finally qualified for it! I could finally become a resident in a country that wasn’t my home country. Before Brexit, it never felt right to apply for residency in Barcelona but here it just does.
Being completely outpriced by the UK housing market, I can afford to buy an apartment here (next year hopefully). And I miss driving so I can’t wait to get a car and have some freedom instead of constantly taking public transport (although the metro and taxis are cheap here!)
But the biggest reason is safety. Dubai is incredibly safe which is so important to me. Having travelled solo extensively, I am so used to being vigilant but I can relax here.
I don’t have to worry about being pickpocketed and I can leave my laptop, phone and purse on the table and they will still be there hours later.
If someone walks near me here, I don’t have to grab my bag tighter. I don’t have to worry about walking home late at night, about anyone mugging me, starting a fight or worse. Having lived in other cities, I can’t tell you how refreshing this is.
There’s an etiquette here. Cars stop to let you pass on the road (they don’t speed up unlike some other places). The hospitality and customer service are outstanding. There is so much to see that I can spend my weekends exploring the city and my weekdays co-working from different locations through the Let's Work app.
They are welcoming to foreigners and actively encourage people to visit and stay. It’s multicultural as more than 200 different nationalities live here. Today is their Commemoration Day with free events being held across the city and the rest of the country. But as well as their own National Day, they celebrate the rest of the worlds' too.
I can see the desert whenever I want, visit camels, go horse riding in the desert and explore the other six Emirates. Plus one of my favourite countries (Oman) is just next door! But it isn’t all desert like people seem to think. It’s only an hour to Abu Dhabi where you can go kayaking in wetlands. There’s a mountainous region called Hatta where you can hike and mountain bike and there are various green spaces in the city too.
Dubai is also an international hub so I can fly to Asia or Africa within a few hours. And there is a group that arranges trips from Dubai to countries that I haven’t been to such as Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. I can travel from here to places that I don’t feel comfortable travelling to alone, with a group of people.
Fitness is big in the city too. The 30×30 Dubai challenge just took place last month with free exercise classes and recovery treatments in the city to encourage people to get fit. There’s also Class Pass, an app with access to fitness classes in various locations.
Everyone speaks English (even though I am learning a few phrases of Arabic). It’s family-friendly and has Latin dance classes, Toastmasters and super clubs. And I love hearing the Call to Prayer. There’s something so haunting and familiar about it. They have international artists and festivals here (in English). And one of the things to do on a weekend is spend all day having ‘brunch’ at a hotel pool with food and drink included.
I love Arabic food and music and there are so many other food choices here too. I love where I'm staying as it has a gym and a swimming pool and I can see the desert from my balcony as I eat my breakfast every morning. Plus, I qualify for an investment visa with my blog which is amazing! although they are also bringing in a digital nomad visa too.
There is something about Dubai that makes me feel like a kid. The sparkling lights as the city lights up, the dancing fountains and the stunning architecture.
But Dubai seems to polarise people. They either love it or hate it and I have received judgement for wanting to live here. When I announced that I had moved to Colombia and Barcelona, no one seemed to have an opinion but Dubai is a different story. Maybe it’s because it’s the Middle East and people have formed opinions on what they have seen and read. But Dubai is constantly changing.
Some people only see the superficial side of the city and I agree that there is one and this is the usual side of Dubai that gets portrayed on social media, especially by the Dubai Instagram Influencers. But there is another side to this city. There’s a creative, innovative vibe that runs through Dubai. And many come here to better themselves and for a better quality of life. It’s a great city for entrepreneurship and the city is welcoming to foreigners.
I’m no stranger to the dark side of any country and having visited 141 countries I could write about the dark side of nearly all of these countries. Nowhere is perfect but for the time being making the move to Dubai is perfect for me.
It has everything that I need and it just feels right. For this moment in time, I am right where I am meant to be. In Dubai…
I feel nervous writing this post but I felt as though I needed to justify my reasons for living here. But if I had lived my life based on others’ opinions I would never have had the experiences I had or achieved what I have achieved. Whatever you do in life people won’t be happy especially if they don’t understand your life choices: getting divorced, wanting to live a nomadic life, living in a country that they would never visit. This whole new chapter of my life has just been a reminder of that.
If you are reading this and considering a move to Dubai or to another country, my advice is to visit it before if you can. I came back here for a month to test it out as a potential base and I loved it. Which I think is important when you are deciding where you want to move to. But most importantly, live your life for yourself and make the decisions that are right for you. No one else can live your life for you so take the leap of faith and things will start to unfold, just how they are meant to.
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