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Interview with Zaïnab – a Moroccan expat living in Dubai

Updated 6 Mar 2024

Zaïnab is curious by nature, loves learning, and doesn’t handle monotony and routine very well. She wanted to meet new people and thought perhaps her future partner would be from a different culture; that is how she decided to move abroad and face her fears.

Zaïnab is a computer sciences engineer by degree, an aviation strategist by adoption and a painting artist and image consultant by passion (she just got her certificate in fashion styling and is very proud of it). 

She loves travelling and getting to know more about other countries and people, their languages, their traditions, and the dynamics of the different societies… Maybe one day she'll do her PhD in social studies.

About Zaïnabprofile of Zaïnab, a Moroccan expat living in Dubai

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Morocco

Q: What country and city did you move to?
A: The UAE, Dubai – and before that, Kuwait

Q: When did you move?
A: Last year

Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: No

Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/partner or family?
A: Alone

Q: Reason for moving?
A: New challenge

Living in Dubai

Q: Have you had any low points? What do you miss most about Morocco?
A: Yes, being far from my family and friends is something I still cannot figure out how to deal with. I miss having deep meaningful connections with genuinely nice people, and perhaps having a support system… I also regret not being able to be there for my loved ones in their happy moments.

Q: What misconceptions about Dubai, if any, have you learned were not true?
A: That it’s only for the rich and famous! Quite the opposite: There is a Dubai for everyone, but of course, you need money to enjoy all that it offers.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Dubai? Did you experience culture shock at all?
A: Not really. I chose to be in a country with quite a similar culture to mine, though there are some differences, but I am the kind of person who tries to adapt.

Q: What are your favourite things to do on the weekend? Are there any particular places or experiences you’d recommend to fellow expats?
A: The blessing of being in the UAE is that it’s a big country with different landscapes. I love a nice brunch outside and a nice hike.

Q: What's the cost of living in Dubai compared to home? Are there specific things that are especially expensive or cheap there?
A: I would say they are the same if we group everything, especially that the taxes are way lower here… The rent is way higher though! Way too high and getting higher.

Q: What’s public transport like in Dubai and across the UAE?
A: I am not a fan of public transportation, as it makes you less flexible, but generally the metro line is quite big – doesn’t reach all the areas of the city, though.

Q: What do you think of the healthcare available in the UAE? What should expats expect from local doctors and hospitals?
A: Quite good, reliable

Q: What’s the standard of housing like in Dubai? What different options are available?
A: There are many options for every budget. The quality is quite decent for the small budgets, and it can get veeery luxurious for the higher budgets.

Q: Are there any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: It depends on what everyone prefers, and I am quite new, so… pass :)

Meeting people and making friends in Dubai

Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: Very easy. There are a lot of groups that organise meetups, but the relations remain very surface-level.

Q: Have you made friends with locals, or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals?
A: Mainly expats in the UAE vs. mainly locals in Kuwait. I think one should just approach people and be open-minded. You can find nice people, either locals or expats.

Working in Dubai

Q: How easy or difficult was getting a work permit and/or visa? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: Easy if the company is quite strong.

Q: What is the economic climate in the city like?
A: The economy in Dubai is growing.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: I feel women are more accountable where I come from.

Final thoughts

Q: Any advice you'd like to offer to new arrivals in Dubai?
A: Just go with the flow and take the time to settle and see how the city can give you what you need; that’s what I am doing.

►Interviewed in March 2024

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