Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Report of what it's like to live there - 06/04/22

Personal Experiences from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 06/04/22


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Lived in Africa, Europe, and Asia before.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. Many options, there are non-stop flights to/from Abu Dhabi from multiple cities in the U.S. and Europe. We connected through Europe on PCS because of Fly America. Non-stop flight is about 14 hours.

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3. What years did you live here?


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4. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy housing is nice, there are townhouses and apartments in different parts of the city. Apartments tend to be near the corniche, TH tend to be closer to the Embassy, though some are closer to the airport.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can generally find anything you want here. Even pork products can be found if you really need them. The UAE is pretty much a first-world country, I've never heard of a shortage of any household good.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Paper towels.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything you can think of is available, and will be delivered to your residence in a reasonable time.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There are a lot of small ants, occasional geckos.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The Embassy has DPO, takes about 2.5 weeks to/from the U.S.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is available, and a lot of people have nannies. Household help are always third country nationals, usually from the Philippines, Ethiopia or other countries.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Full spectrum of availability. Cost is similar to the U.S.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes, I only use my American credit card here, I usually don't carry much cash. We did open a local account and I use my local bank card if I need cash; opening the account took a few weeks.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are a variety of churches here, many have English language sermons. Most mosques have sermons in Arabic, though there is one with English-language Friday sermons. The growing Jewish community in the UAE has some English services. Not sure about Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh service languages.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is the local language, you don't need to know any Arabic to live here, and most people don't actually speak Arabic since 90% of the residents of the UAE are not Emirati; the majority come from South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal)

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

No, the UAE has made a real effort to make spaces accessible.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There is a local bus system that is apparently safe, I've never used it. Taxis are safe and plentiful, you can use Uber or Careem (local version of Uber) without trouble for local or travel to Dubai.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Roads are very well developed here, I've seen all types of cars on the road. I've never heard of a carjacking or car robbery. The main thing to consider is that it is very hot here in the summer, and cars made for the local market (called GCC spec) have larger cooling systems than cars made for the American market.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, it is available, however you must buy a bundle that includes television and phone service. We had it installed within days of arriving.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I use GoogleFi to maintain a U.S. number. I also have a local SIM that I dual sim into my phone so I can have a local number. The local sim is pretty cheap, you can customize the level of service.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Jobs are available at the Embassy and locally.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work is business to business casual depending on your office.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No security concerns, this is one of the safest cities you'll ever live in.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care at post is great, several women have given birth here.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Summer is very hot and humid. There are occasionally dust storms that can affect air quality.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

If you have food allergies you may need to find restaurants that can cater to your needs, not all service industry workers fully understand allergies.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot for half the year. The winter is pretty pleasant, so half good, half bad.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American Community School (ACS) is used by most mission families and is highly regarded. There are a ton of schools here, British, American, and French systems are available.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Plenty of preschools and day care available, cost is a little less than the U.S. Our neighbor's child goes to a Montessori near the embassy and they have been very happy.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through the schools and through clubs/privately. Full variety, including American football, baseball, and ice skating.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

90 per cent of the residents of the UAE are "foreigners." In terms of "Western expatriates," there are also a lot. British are the most common, but you can easily encounter people from all over the world here. It's a big deal if you can actually befriend an Emirati as they tend to be very reserved.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Anything you can think of. If you like going to the pool and getting drunk with your friends, you can do that. If you want to have friends you have a book club with, you can do that. If you want to meet with friends and discuss scripture, you can do that. If you want to go clubbing, you can do that.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it's good for everyone. Singles may have to contend with an overly male skew, but I think among expats that an American would interact with, the gender balance is more balanced (many of the unskilled laborers are men who are here alone, but you probably won't be going on dates with them).

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No, it is hard because it is hard to meet Emiratis. When you do meet them, they are very hospitable and kind, but tend to keep to themselves as they come from large extended families where most socializing for them happens.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

You cannot be overtly LGBT here, but there is a significant community in the country. Any public displays of affection, irrespective of your sexual orientation can theoretically cause trouble, though it's rare for it to be an issue.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I am the child of immigrants from a country that has a lot of laborers here, and I have never felt discrimminated against. I understand that I have some privelige as an American associated with the embassy and I dress relatively well. Really, I think prejudices here are more rooted in economic disparities (like most of the world). Overt racism can get you jailed here. Racism does exist in some industries, but it is not apparent in daily life. Gender equity has been an area of progress in the UAE, but I think the conservative approach to gender relations can come off to Western expats as discriminations (i.e. conservative men will avoid talking to unrelated women out of [in their mind] being modest, but it is interpreted as they are disrespecting a woman by not treating her equally)

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The UAE is not a huge country and we have traveled all over. Dubai is an hour away and is a very different city, but great to visit. We've driven to Oman too, which has its own distinct culture and pace of life. Dubai is a flight hub to the rest of the world, and Abu Dhabi is well connected too. I've generally enjoyed living here, it's very comfortable, and I feel at home here.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Liwa Oasis, Hatta, Musandam.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

You can buy Persian rugs for decent prices since there is a long history of trade between Iran and the UAE (more Dubai and Sharjah than Abu Dhabi)

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is safe, clean, and developed. If you go to a mall or amusement park or other activity, it is never super crowded (like Dubai). Traffic jams here are exceedingly rare, you can get anywhere in the city within 25 minutes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How much I would like living here.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, I sincerely don't want to leave. I've considered changing careers to stay here, that is how much I like living here and in many ways I dread going back to the United States after living here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

An open-mindedness to interact with people from all over the world.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The United Arab Emirates: Power, Politics and Policy-Making by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

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