1. Not paying tax.
2. Petrol Prices. Driving a 5.7. litre jeep (which we felt was necessary for safety reasons) and filling her up for 160 dirhams (€40).
4. Friday brunch. No matter where it is, it’s always way better than anything you can find in your home country and it’s become such an intrinsic part of expat life.
5. Never running out of new things to do or see.
Miracle Gardens, Global Village, climbing Jebel Hafeet, skydiving, desert camping, crab hunting in Um Al Qwain, Dolphin watching in Musandam, Desert Coursing in Sweihan, The Museum of Islamic Civilisation, an afternoon in the spice souk, Skiing in MOE, triathalons, bowling in the Kempinski Ajman, ice skating in Sharjah Ladies Club, jet skiing in Al Mamzar Park, the camel racing at Meydan, Ripe Food & Craft Market every Friday morning, picnics in Safa Park….there are endless things to do outside of the malls.
6. Never being bored. I can’t remember the last time I stayed in and did nothing for the weekend, it feels criminal when the weather is so good.
7. Affordable laundry services. We get all of our clothes, sheets and towels washed, ironed and pressed every week for less than €20 and it is worth every single penny let me tell you. Life without piles of laundry rocks. Even better, some of the laundry services here come and pick up your clothes and drop them off too.
8. Being ideally located to take a cheap and short flight to places like Sri Lanka or Egypt for the weekend. Flydubai and Air Arabia have been good to us over the years, especially in the early days when Flydubai just started up and we got 2 X return tickets to Beirut for 700 dirhams…the good ol’ days!
9. Living with a 90% expat population. People are open minded, diverse and multi-cultured. The internationally minded folk of the UAE talk about business ideas, new projects, languages, and travel.
11. Beach life for 8 months of the year. There is no better cure for a tired body after a week at work than hitting the beach on a Friday morning with a bit of music, a large bottle of water, a towel, sunscreen and a good book thrown into a bag.
12. Feeling Safe. Having a good police force, a zero tolerance to crime and a largely professional population means most of us feel way safer here than we do in our home countries. We think nothing of leaving our handbag draped over a chair when we go to the bathroom or having the car door unlocked at the petrol station.
13. Home help. Everyone swears they won’t succumb…but they do, eventually. We are lucky enough to have the most amazing lady who not only looks after our space but minds our dog when we go away and who we trust to look after baby when he arrives…more on this in a separate post.
14. Luxury. You become oblivious to it after a while but then someone who has just arrived says things like “I hear there is a mall like a glass pyramid?”or “Do they really sprinkle gold on the coffee in Emirates Palace?” or “Do the police have Lamborghinis?” and suddenly you realise what has become normal is not actually normal at all.
15. The Malls. There is no place like Dubai for shopping, you have literally every brand and store you can possibly think of. I love when I have lots of random things on my to do list and I just head straight for Dubai Mall (the size of 50 football pitches and the largest in the world) which has everything under one roof, and I know no matter how obscure the thing I am looking for may be, I will find it there. I love bringing my friends to Cara Jewellers in the Gold and Diamond Park for their custom made jewellery piece or engagement ring for a quarter of the price that they would pay at home and twice the value!
Where else would you find the likes of Dragon Mart or China Mall?
16. Events. An endless list of international events, February is the Omega Dubai Desert Golf Classic,the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the Jazz Fest, March is the Dubai World Cup horseracing, Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature and the Emirates T20 Cricket Tournament, April is the Beach Polo Cup, December is Rugby 7’s, National day, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the DP world tour.All of that and you haven’t even factored in all the major concerts, film festivals and fashion shows that take place here in a year. And no one runs a concert like the UAE- clean toilets and plenty of space are almost always guaranteed.
17. Affordable Dental Care. I love going to the dentist here because it’s such a different experience than going to the dentist in Ireland where you more than likely have to shell out a couple of hundred euros for a filling & clean. News of a root canal might mean taking out a small loan. A root canal in Sharjah costs about €200, max. I send all my visitors up to the dentist for a clean or a filling if they have time.
18. Spa’s and Salons. It is so much cheaper for a manipedi, massage, facial etc here than at home. I would die without my fortnightly eyebrow thread for €2 (10 dirhams). Even the men enjoy cheap haircuts and a proper shave. It’s a bit too easy to become a Dubai dolly!
20. The Expat Community. For us its The Rose Ball, The St Patricks Day Ball, the Danu Theatre plays, the Dubai Irish Society events, The Irish Village at Christmas or Mc Gettigans during Rugby 7’s but there’s always a connection to Ireland and home. I’m always bumping into old classmates or neighbours or friends of friends who are working here or just visiting.
21. The Entertainer. We love it, we can’t live without it, it forces us to try new places and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
22. The Desert. When you come from somewhere as lush and fertile as Ireland then ones connotation of the desert is that of a barren wasteland. Over the years I have come to love the desert with its golden colours and romantic past. You begin to understand what it is that has inspired so much of Arabic poetry. A picnic basket on a sand dune at sunset is one of the most relaxing and peaceful things you can do.
23. The smell of Shisha. I don’t smoke it anymore but I still love the smell of it and I love the ritual that surrounds a group of Arabs nattering away together with a shisha pipe, it’s really lovely. I would miss the whiff of grape and mint and that whole social custom if and when I leave this part of the world.
24. Proper curries at your fingertips. Not like “Indian” take aways at home that taste nothing like Indian food, I do love a good murgh achari, a stack of garlic nan and some mango lassi at one of the many authentic Indian restaurants here.
25. The news headlines. Just this week I read that a crocodile was found in a Mirdif swimming pool and a lion was found on the loose in Al Barsha! I find reading the news so much more entertaining now.
26. Middle Eastern Carriers. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Emirates or Etihad, Qatar Airways or MEA, flying is going to be such a better experience here than anything you are used to anywhere else in the world.
27. Lebanese Food. I know it’s not as good as the food in Lebanon (sometimes when I’m really hungry I dream of the manaeesh stands opposite AUB and drool) but it would be pretty hard to live without. I can’t imagine a life without good labneh, hummus, halloumi and tabbouleh not being a regular fixture in my weekly nom nom nom fest.
28. Respect. Learning to live in harmony together whilst respecting the cultures and customs of others.
29. The Work ethic. I find it amazing when I go back to Europe now and all is quiet at 8am. In the UAE we are all awake by 6am and the vast majority of people are putting down a 12 hour day. Not working is not an option. There is no social welfare system, either pull your weight or jog on. Simple. That means no one is in their pyjamas in the petrol station.
30. The Banks. I love the UAE banks. They have been nothing but good to us over the years, we pay our bills and they reward us with points and airmiles. I’ve had a few trips to IKEA compliments of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and I’ve upgraded my flights plenty of times based on airmiles earned. When we needed a mortgage they gave us one without fuss. I was shocked last year when I went into my local bank in Ireland and they suddenly began charging me for lodging money into my account.
31. The visitors. Dubai is the kind of hub where it’s normal to have friends pop in en route to Australia or Thailand or wherever. Sometimes it’s a brief 3 day stint and sometimes you squeeze in a week with them. We have had so many visitors over the years and we have shared such great experiences and memories with them that would not be possible anywhere else.
32. Family Life. I love the Arab emphasis on family life, people still sit down and eat together, pray together and go places as a family. This is evidenced throughout the culture and it promotes a feeling of togetherness and unity for all.
33. The child friendly culture. I love how children are welcome everywhere, I feel the UAE is streets ahead of other countries in this regard.
34. The Souk.I’ve had many a Friday afternoon trawling the Blue Souk in Sharjah for a rug or a Persian plate and I love the ceremony of it all..the haggle, the tea, the raised eyebrows…the whole nine yards.
35. Karama. I don’t go to Karama as much as I did in my first year but I do love picking up handbags and scarves and wallets for my friends back home, especially at Christmas time.
36. The old tradesmen. I have a tailor in Sharjah who can make a three piece customised suit in the finest materials for under 1,000 dirhams. A man I know in Abu Shagara has been fixing my shoes for nearly a decade. Simon has a guy who makes his belts, fixes his shirts and generally sorts out his life. Spend an afternoon down in the port in Sharjah and watch the fishermen come in, it’s like a scene from a bygone era.
37. Winter BBQ season. Having a BBQ at home in December is always a treat.
38 Inter-Emirate Roadtrips. Whether its packing up the car to head to Fujairah for the weekend or hitting Abu Dhabi for the mid-term, we all love the inter-emirate road trips.
39. Friends that become your family in the absence of your family.
40. The locals. Last but certainly not least! Some of the most decent, kind, witty and innovative people I have met in my life are the locals of the UAE and I am grateful every day for the opportunities given to us here by them.