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Interview with ISS Relocations – a relocation company in the United Arab Emirates

Updated 11 Jun 2020

Many expats moving to the United Arab Emirates report that relocation firms help ease the transition and can assist in many ways. Some may prefer to go it alone, but they must be prepared to do the research. Here is our interview with Mr Abhilash Nair from ISS Relocations, who has been working in the relocation industry for around twenty years and in Dubai for 10 years. Read more to find out what to expect when moving to the UAE and Dubai in particular.

Life in DubaiISS

Q: Why do people typically move to Dubai?  
A: Dubai is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, from its population to its economy. Many people move for work and find that tax-free salaries make it one of the best places to live. Not only do salaries go untaxed, but food, restaurants and all other goods also are untaxed or at a minimum VAT. This saves a good amount of money for people living here: taking home more cash because of the untaxed salaries and spending less on amenities.

Those who travel frequently may move to Dubai as they find it well situated between Europe and Asia as the midpoint to some of the world’s most amazing destinations. 

Q: What do people enjoy most about living in Dubai and the UAE?
A: People love the freedom, the food and the tourist attractions. From the world’s biggest shopping centre to the tallest building, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

It’s all about variety. That holds true when it comes to attractions from lush, green parks in the middle of the desert for outdoor lovers, to lofty malls for avid shoppers and fashionistas. Despite its geographic location in the middle of the desert with limited natural resources, Dubai has managed to catch up with the rest of the world through its use of technology. Dubai is big on solar power and is building a sustainable city that aims to harness all its energy from the sun.

Dubai is made up of a thriving expat community. More than 75 percent of the people who live here come from different parts of the world and bring with them their different cuisines and recipes. There are hundreds of restaurants serving different authentic fares which expats can enjoy. The UAE is one of the best places for foodies who are keen on trying every type of restaurant, ranging from Lebanese street food (such as at Al Mallah) to high-end Japanese food (such as Zuma Restaurant) as well as Indian or Middle Eastern menus.

Q: What do newcomers struggle with most when they first arrive in the UAE? Do you have any advice to help new arrivals deal with culture changes or loneliness? 
A: Newcomers may struggle with finding a job and looking for accommodation. I advise them to do their research, line up interviews and plan investments before arriving. In terms of looking for a place to stay, after arriving it’s easy to find tenancy details displayed in businesses and around the city for expats to contact.

Q: How would you rate the overall cost of living like in Dubai? Is there anything that’s notably expensive or particularly cheap?
A: The cost of living is reasonable, but it also depends on your income. Still, expats can generally manage to live a comfortable life in Dubai. It certainly is one of the most luxurious cities, but even if we can’t afford all the luxuries, we can still enjoy some. There are countless high-end restaurants and while there are expensive brands in shopping centres, there are brands and options accessible to everyone. This balance of luxury and accessibility makes Dubai unique for people coming from all walks of life.

The relocation process

Q: How long before moving should expats start the relocation process? Could you break it down into stages for them?
A: Expats must start the process at least two months before arriving. The residence visa can take two to six weeks to get completed and the shipping time may take three to eight weeks with a door-to-door shipment, while air shipping may only take four to 10 days for smaller volumes.

Q: Are there any bureaucratic challenges that new arrivals should be aware of? 
A: There aren't that many bureaucratic challenges in the UAE. Most things in Dubai are done online, making living easy and convenient as things move faster without any human interference. While waiting in line for simple things such as parking passes, car registrations and paying for parking tickets could take hours, in Dubai, they can be done instantly online.

Q: How easy is it for new arrivals to find a suitable home here? What advice would you give them to help in their search for housing? Is there any research or preparation they can do beforehand?
A: Once you know the budget and area of preference, it’s quite easy to find a home – you locate, book and move in within seven to 10 days.

Q: Are there any particular areas and suburbs you would recommend to new arrivals?
A: There are many options in or outside of the city with a travel time of 25 to 35 minutes, but that would depend on the location of the expat’s job.

Q: What is public transport like? Do people need a car to get around? 
A: The metro, taxis and buses are readily available and easy to find in Dubai, but a lot of residents still choose to own a car, as they are reasonably priced and petrol is exceedingly cheap.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in the UAE? How can expats find good local doctors, dentists or other health professionals? Is local healthcare free, and should expats take out local or international health insurance?
A: Dubai Healthcare City has most of the hospitals and doctors, while, elsewhere, clinics and hospitals are likely to be within 15 minutes’ drive from where you live. You must have good medical insurance in place, and it can be arranged through the company or secured at reasonable costs online.

Q: Is it normal to get domestic help? Are there agencies you’d recommend for maids and nannies? Is this something you can help with? 
A: Yes, it’s quite easy to get domestic help and there are several options.

Settling In

Q: Do locals welcome new arrivals? Do expats and locals usually mix socially?
A: Yes, the locals are welcoming and friendly. It depends on where you live and work, but it may not be that common for expats and locals to mix socially.

Q: What advice would you give new arrivals looking to make friends, network and settle into their new life in Dubai?
A: There are many social media platforms and networking groups to make friends with different nationalities or connect for business.

Family and children

Q: How family friendly is Dubai? Do you have any particular tips for people relocating with children?
A: Dubai is a family-friendly city, but schooling is a costly affair and you need to plan well in advance.

Q: What is schooling like in Dubai? What options are available to expats? Do you have any recommendations or advice? Can your company help with school search?
A: There are many options available at different costs and locations, and yes, ISS Relocations does help in school searches.

Final thoughts

Q: How can people benefit from enlisting the services of a relocation agent when moving to the UAE? Talk us through some of the main advantages of employing ISS Relocations.
A: People can find solutions to all their needs: we are a one-stop solution for door-to-door relocations for goods and assist families with settling-in services, banking support services, home searches, school searches, storage and pet relocations.

Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Dubai?
A: My advice is that you must have a job in hand or plan your business well in advance. With most of the UAE’s population comprised of expats, moving to Dubai offers the opportunity to learn about cultures, religions and other countries. Dubai is one of the rare places in the world that breaks stereotypes instead of creating them.

►Interviewed June 2020

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