Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Adjusting to life in the UAE

More and more Irish people are leaving for the United Arab Emirates each year. Rachael Power spoke to three recent arrivals about adjusting to a very different way of life.

Sat, Aug 18, 2012, 01:00


Despite being 5,940km away from Irish shores and having a different language, culture and climate, more and more Irish people are leaving for the United Arab Emirates each year. Rachael Power spoke to some recent arrivals about adjusting to a very different way of life.

RICHARD FITZGERALD: “The Arab spring highlighted the high volume of social media usage in this region and brands need specialists to help them keep up with this rate of change”

Richard Fitzgerald

28-year-old Richard Fitzgerald from Waterford is no stranger to emigration, having worked in marketing in London for the past two years. He recently took up a new post in Dubai.

“Apart from a ‘why not’ attitude coupled with tax free living and good weather, there were a few more reasons as to why I decided to move here,” he says.

“I am working for a media advertising agency as a social media director. The Arab spring highlighted the high volume of social media usage in this region. The growth rate since then has continued to accelerate. As I experienced in the UK, brands need specialists to help them keep up with this rate of change.”

Despite barriers such as differences in culture, language and the significantly hotter climate, Richard says he has settled in quite well.

“It is important to understand the culture of Dubai, of the UAE and neighbouring countries. Knowledge of the Islamic and Arab world in general is also important to have. I am currently engrossed in a book called Islam for Dummies, which, despite the childish title, is proving to be a fascinating and insightful read.

“All business is done through English though, so language is not a problem. Even business meetings with people from the UAE are conducted totally in English. I am enrolled in a language course to learn Arabic and am learning how to be more familiar with local culture.

“The working week is Sunday to Thursday, so that is a bit of an adjustment. As is the heat, as it is 45 degrees outside at the moment, definitely not the natural environment for an Irish country boy.

“Leisure activities are also impacted by the heat. At the moment it is too hot to cycle and run outdoors during the day, activities I used to love. But, I have joined a cycling club that go on long distance rides in the early house of this morning. There are plenty of football teams too. Besides that, the pool and gym is about it,” he says.

He would “never say never” to returning to Ireland, although he feels the current economic situation is one of the reasons why he would not.

“For work reasons, it is extremely unlikely that I will return. I did have four great years working in advertising in Dublin, but that time is gone for me now. However, I love going back to Waterford a couple of times a year – that is something I will always do.”

CONOR PURCELL: “You can take long weekends everywhere from Sri Lanka to Ethiopia”

Conor Purcell, a former journalist from Templeogue in Dublin has been living in Dubai for the past seven years. As with Richard, his choice to move to the UAE was mainly career-based, but he also had another reason for his move: property.

“I chose Dubai as I wanted to work outside of Ireland and the opportunity came in 2005. Also I was motivated by wanting to buy property which was too expensive in Dublin at the time, but relatively cheap in Dubai. When I moved to Dubai in 2005, I bought an apartment in Dubai Marina,” he says.

Conor, who studied journalism at Griffith College in Dublin already had a history with the Middle East, spending his summers there while at college.

After working in Seoul for three years after graduation, he came back to Ireland and subsequently found a job at a newspaper in Dubai in July 2005.

“Since then, I have worked as a writer, freelancer and editor, before setting up my own small publishing company called Wndr Media last year. His day job is as editor of Open Skies, Emirates’ inflight magazine.

Conor, who has also lived in Israel, Hong Kong and Korea, advises emigrants to establish a group of friends as quickly as possible in their new home.

“To unwind, I like Safa Park, a huge green space in the middle of the city. It has a four kilometre running track and is beautifully maintained,” he says.

“Be aware of where you are. It is an Islamic country, and although tolerant it has its limits. The laws are stacked against foreigners, so don’t expect the civil support network you have in Ireland.

“Travel frequently also — you can take long weekends everywhere from Sri Lanka to Ethiopia. The likes of Fly Dubai and Air Arabia airlines offer great value flights.”

LOUISE RYAN: “The best way to adjust to a new life in a new country is just to embrace it”

Louise Ryan

Louise Ryan from Portroe Co Tipperary is leaving Ireland for UAE this month. She has recently graduated from University College Cork with a degree in Arts, and has a background in teaching English.

“I decided to go to the UAE as I did not want to continue with study at the moment and there are little to no job prospects in Ireland. I decided to look into teaching abroad as I have spent nearly two years teaching English in Spain. With fully covered accommodation and bills, plus a nice salary at the end of the month, I decided Dubai was too good an opportunity to miss out on,” she says.

Louise found teaching work in Dubai with an international education management organisation SABIS, who hire graduates from all over the world.

“I will be teaching with the International School of Choueifat at Green Community in Dubai. It is a brand new school that was just finished being built in April. I will be teaching English and social studies, and if they need to, Spanish,” she says.

Louise built up her teaching experience during her Erasmus study abroad year at university.

“I got into teaching in the summer of 2010, when I got a job working in a summer camp in Spain teaching English to teenagers. From that I got a part time job on Erasmus teaching in an English Academy where I taught children and adults.

“With my new teaching position in the UAE , in my second year I can do exams in education and become fully qualified in primary and secondary teaching,” she says.

Louise says she built up experience of adjusting to other cultures while in Spain that will stand to her in Dubai.

“My coping mechanism for the cultural and traditional differences is basically just to get stuck into it. The best way to adjust to a new life in a new country is just to embrace it, get involved and just enjoy it. Missing home will also be a factor, but obviously with today’s technology homesickness is not too bad, especially when your friends and family are just a Skype chat away.”


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