Life in Dubai: Dubai Ladies, Michelle

by Travelbag on 28 May 2015, 10:05AM

As part of our Life In Dubai series, we spoke to Michelle, founder of Dubai Ladies to find out about life in the Emirate.


Where is home for you originally? I was born and raised in Basingstoke, Hampshire, however I spent my college and early working years in Guildford, Surrey.

How long have you lived in the UAE and what initially drew you to life in Dubai?
It was actually a split second decision that I am here at all. At 20 years old I was planning to start a life independent from my parents. I was about to move out, I had a steady job that I enjoyed and then my father announced he had been given a position in a company in Dubai, meaning my parents and much younger siblings would all be relocating to the UAE. A week before they were due to relocate I felt although I might be missing out on a great opportunity to work overseas, to gain some life experience, that would also look great on my CV. My plan was to stay a year; I’ve now been here ten years!

What do you enjoy most about living there?
I could say many things - things that often seem to be shown in TV shows and movies when they feature Dubai, mainly that you get used to the 5 star life and that you don’t have to pay tax. Ultimately the best thing about living in Dubai is the sun, we all know that a nice sunny day makes you feel good, but it’s easy to underestimate just how much, it’s not about going to the beach or lazing by the pool but just waking up in the morning pulling the curtains and being able to let the sun in, it just puts you in a better mood, every single day.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country? Did it take you long to settle into the new life and culture?
I was lucky that I moved to Dubai together with the rest of my family as I already had that support structure, however transitioning on a whole is not that hard. Street signs are all in English (even though roads names can be dauntingly long sometimes!), you are able to rent a car with your British driving license (however you will need your residency visa to rent an apartment or house and to get any loans from your UAE bank) and pretty much everyone in all shops and restaurants will speak English even if it may sometimes be broken, just try to be patient as it is probably their second or third language. All your appliances from home will work, as the UAE is one of the few countries in the world to use the same 3 pin plug as we do in the UK! You just have to remember that Dubai is not here to adapt to the ways of the Brit, but that we should adapt and embrace the ways of this new ever-evolving cosmopolitan city.

Did you find it important to learn the language or have you got by without needing to learn Arabic?
You really don’t need to speak Arabic at all, to be honest if you ONLY speak Arabic it’s more of a problem than if you only speak English. I have lived here 10 years and shamefully I can’t speak Arabic, I have taken a few classes and have picked up a few things here and there, but it’s hard to push yourself to learn it when you really don’t need it at all.


Is there anything you didn’t prepare for when you first relocated?
I never expected to learn so much; Dubai is full of different types of people, different religions, ethnicities, cultures and beliefs. I have never been anywhere like it, to me it is the true definition of blended. Although the official religion is Muslim and the Culture is Arabic you soon see that this is not really defining the city, it is true that you are requested to respect the “cultures and values” but all this really means on a day to day basis is not to wear a mini skirt to the mall (does anyone really do that anyway!) and don’t start kissing your other half there either! You will notice your friends will be diverse and conversations are more geared towards politics and current events than maybe they would be back home, but it’s also more interesting, you debate and find yourself changing or adapting your views because you’re mixing with people you might never have the chance to meet ordinarily. It is a very interesting place, if you are open to what it has to offer.

Is there anything you wish you knew about Dubai before you moved?
That it’s extremely transient, you get used to people coming and going and you just have to get used to it, everyone sees Dubai as a stopover if you like, a place to gain experience, a place to save some money while living tax free or a place to live a better quality of life. It can be hard to grow close to people only to see them move on, the bonus is you end up with friends in every corner of the globe!

Is there anything from home that you can't get in Dubai?
Yorkshire Tea! Funnily enough I didn’t even discover this until after I moved here, but it’s literally the only thing I can’t get, I just have to stock up every time I go back to England.

What are your favourite things to do in Dubai? Do you have any hidden gems for our readers?
Dubai is always changing, every couple of months there is somewhere new and exciting to try whether it be a low key breakfast by the beach or an evening at a high end nightclub in a 5 star hotel. My favourite spot at the moment is Omnia Gourmet, a cafe located in a secluded cove in the centre of Dubai in the old Jumeirah fishing village. It’s blessed with a beautiful marina sea view and it’s a quiet area that you would only find if someone recommended it - it’s also a great chance to try gourmet style local cuisines.


What tips would you give to Brits looking to make the move?
Try not to get carried away. So many Brits get swept away with high end living, many have a live-in maid/nanny, double the size of the family home, buy car they can suddenly afford that they couldn’t before and basically take keeping up with the jones’ to a whole other level, often resulting in waves of people running away from loans, leaving their Ferraris and Porsches at the airport and going back to England with their tail between their legs unable to return to the Emirates. Enjoy Dubai, enjoy the sun but try to remember you are here to live; it’s not a vacation.

You can find Gail on twitter at @dubai_ladies.

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