Dear Dubai Newbie: A Letter from a Filipina Expat who is celebrating her 9th Year in Dubai | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Mar 29, 2017

Dear Dubai Newbie: A Letter from a Filipina Expat who is celebrating her 9th Year in Dubai

Dear Dubai Newbie,


You might be surprised with this letter. You don't know me, and I am not in the position to welcome you in this mega-city. But today is special; hence, I'm writing this letter down whether you'll read it or not. I hope you'll read though. 

Today, exactly 9 years ago, I was like you. I got off an Emirates airplane and step foot in Dubai for the first time. Finally having a taste of independence at 25, I was excited, but tremendously scared. 

Looking back now, I want to give my younger self a pat on the back for taking that initial step. It was a bold move that prepared me to a lot of crazy beautiful changes, so please allow me to share some unsolicited advice today.

Take time to get to know Dubai. 
This is not only a place where you can work and earn money. This is your second home, so don't be a stranger. You can start from the basics, or shall I say roots.  Let Dubai introduce to you its history and culture in Dubai Museum, Bastakiya, the creek and the souks. My flatmates took me there on my first week as an expat, and seeing how much Dubai has grown from a small village by the creek to the metropolis that it is now was a humbling experience. 

Follow the rules. 
Dubai may look more cosmopolitan than the city you grew up in, but it's more traditional than you think. The UAE is a Muslim country. We may be allowed to go out in the streets without covering our hair and wearing an abaya, but we are obliged to pay respect to the local culture by dressing and behaving modestly. Public display of affection is definitely a no-no, as well as using offensive language.

Take out your college notes and study!
The competition is tough in the job market. Be confident, but be prepared. You'll be competing with job-seekers with work experience in the UAE; hence, always put your best foot forward! If you are in the medical field, like me, review your notes and be ready for a licensure exam. You can't practice your healthcare profession in Dubai without a license.  

Have a life outside work. 
Dubai is a city of endless possibilities. Well, I bet you've already seen that on TV. So, why don't you explore, meet friends, or do a hobby on your day off? It can definitely help you ease homesickness and reduce work stress!

Open your doors to diversity.
Dubai is a melting pot. To me, it is like a window to the world. Here, you can experience different cultures and traditions, taste of a variety of cuisines, meet different kinds of people. Let Dubai teach you to embrace diversity, to love and to respect even more!

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Stay grounded.
Dubai surely knows how to spoil us rotten! Book a ride in Uber and a Lexus will be there to pick you up! Too lazy to go to the grocery? Call and they will deliver whatever you want at your doorstep. You'll also get random phone calls from agents offering credit cards and loans. It is obviously pretty easy to get everything you want here. While you can choose to enjoy those little luxuries, stay grounded! And if ever you'll say yes to that credit card offer, use it wisely!  

Be budget savvy.
It's definitely okay to reward yourself, but think twice before you spend your hard-earned money. If the item you are eyeing is not on sale, be patient. There's always a shopping festival around the corner; Dubai Shopping Festival in winter, Dubai Summer Surprises in summer, and GiTex electronics event in spring and autumn.

For dining out and activities, look for great deals online or purchase The Entertainer app for Buy 1 Get 1 Free offers. It is also possible to have fun in Dubai without spending a lot! Read my Free Attractions and Cheap Thrills in Dubai article.

Save save save.
Save money while you're earning. Dubai is one of the most expensive cities to live in; hence saving money for the future is easier said than done. It is possible though. Start with the sensible ways to cut your monthly spending. Rent an affordable accommodation, save water and electricity, and cook your own food. Also remember to take care of your health; don't let that savings go to hospital bills!

So, Kabayan / Habibi / My Friend, I wish you all the best in this journey you have taken. There will be sandstorms literally and figuratively ahead, but think about it, if a scaredy-cat like me has been brave to face all those, then so can you!

Wish me luck, faith and strength as I begin my 9th year in Dubai, will you? :)


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