Tell us about yourself and why you chose to move to Dubai…
I’m Steph. I’m a 31 year old female Australian. I moved to Dubai in 2008 to stay with a friend who was working for Emirates Airlines. I had applied for Emirates with her in Australia but I didn’t get in and she did. So I moved to London instead and I was living there over the winter months and struggling to make much money in such an expensive city. My friend convinced me that I would be able to make more money in Dubai and that it’s just as fun as London if not more so I packed up my bags and moved there within 2 weeks.
How long have you been there?
It will be 9 years in February.
Did you need a Visa? What was the process?
When I first moved there I was just on a visit visa, which back then lasted 3 months. I was working as a freelance model and hostess at different events around the city so I didn’t need a working visa. I would just leave the country and drive to the Oman border to renew my visit visa.
When I got a full time office job the company I worked for sponsored me and got me a residence visa. I just had to give them my passport and passport photos and they applied for everything.
Did you move solo or with a significant other?
I moved alone and stayed with my friend from Australia for the first few months.
How did you get there?
I flew there from London.
What were your first impressions?
This city is like one big construction site! There is so much chaos but so much luxury at the same time.
Where did you stay when you first arrived?
My friend’s Emirates accommodation apartment.
How did you find a place to live?
When I moved from my friend’s place I lived with my boyfriend in an apartment that he found through a real estate agent. We have lived in 6 different places since then. The easiest place to find them are on dubizzle.com
What is your room or place like?
I now live in a 2 bedroom townhouse with my husband and 3 cats.
We live about 20 minutes’ drive from the main city area in a small community with other expats in a newly developed area. It has vacant plots of sandy land all around us. We moved here because it is not only cheaper than being in the busy areas of the city but also travelling to and from here goes against the traffic and it was brand new!
What are your tips for others trying to find a place to live?
Be careful with dodgy real estate agents asking for deposits before giving you the rental agreement. You can also sometimes rent directly from the developer and it’s cheaper.
Where is your place in relation to the city centre?
20 minutes’ drive.
Transport – how do you get around?
Car – public transport is not great here. It’s pretty slow. Only a Metro along the main highway Sheikh Zayed and then buses to some places but not everywhere. So most westerners have cars because they are cheap and fuel is cheap. About $25 to fill my car.
How much does it cost per month for living essentials like rent, food and transport?
Approx 10,000AED / $3,650AUD.
What are you doing for work?
I was working in an office as a Personal and Executive Assistant for the past 7 years but decided to study part time to change careers and work in something I am more passionate about.
Is the salary comparable to what you’ve earned elsewhere?
I haven’t worked these jobs in any other countries.
How did you find the job?
I found my modelling and hostessing jobs through modelling agencies.
I found my office jobs through recruitment agencies. Or they found me by advertising my CV on Monster Gulf or Gulf Talent websites.
I found my PT and Yoga clients through marketing on Instagram, Facebook and my website.
How long did it take you to get a job after you arrived?
It took me about a week to start getting modelling jobs.
How much money did you have saved up before moving over?
I only had a couple of hundred pounds at the time.
What tips do you have for others trying to get a job there?
Depends what field you’re in but the best ways are what I listed above.
What do you do after work and on the weekends?
I catch up with friends at cafés or restaurants in one of the many 5 star resorts, go wakeboarding on the Palm Jumeirah or Abu Dhabi Eastern Mangroves with my husband as he has a wake coaching company – Wake Evolution. I go to various markets or events they have on in the city or sometimes I am just so tired and stay home with my 3 furbabies.
Is this something you started when you moved overseas?
I started wakeboarding more in Dubai with my husband.
How is your lifestyle different there?
In Dubai it’s normal to go to 5 star resorts and have dinners with friends.
What’s the weather like?
In summer it’s ridiculously hot for about 4-5 months it’s over 40 degrees celsius. In winter it’s in the mid 20’s and lovely with blue skies.
How did you make friends?
Through work and wake boarding.
What do you eat for dinner every night?
I don’t eat the same thing every night, but it’s usually fish or chicken and green vegetables stir fried lightly with sesame oil, garlic, chili and oyster sauce.
Do you eat out often?
While we’re on the topic, have you got any local favourite restaurants or activities we must try?
There are so many great restaurant chains here in Dubai, I like to eat at French, Mexican, or Thai restaurants, and there are Australian owned cafés and restaurants that have great breakfast and lunch options too.
Must try a Desert Safari when you first visit though.
What are the biggest cultural differences?
Most local Emiratis are conservative Muslims so the women cover up with a Black Abaya and the men wear Kandoras so in public places you have to wear respectful clothing covering the shoulders and knees.
What has been the most local experience you’ve had so far?
I worked as a PA for a local Emirati family so I got to learn a lot more about how they live through that experience.
Where is home? How often do you travel there and why?
Rockhampton, Australia. I have only been back 4 times in almost 10 years.
My husband and I prefer to travel and experience new countries than travel to a place I have grown up in or always know that it’s going to be there.
What do you miss most about home?
Old friends and family.
Do you think you’ll go back there to live?
Not to Rockhampton but maybe another place in Australia.
How do you feel about going home?
I now feel like a tourist when I go home.
What’s been the best thing about this experience?
Meeting my husband, traveling to different countries often, creating new friendships with people from all over the world and being able to make a living from a profession I am passionate about.
What would you do differently?
Hints and tips… do you have any other tips for living and working abroad in Dubai?
Accept the cultural differences and integrate yourself.
How do you know Jodie from Hoff to Explore?
We went to school together back home in Australia.
And lastly: describe living and working in Dubai in one word! Possibilities!
Interview date: December 2016