Planning a move to the Gulf? Here’s everything you need to know
Tax-free salaries are a huge draw, and there’s plenty of work available across a range of industries
The Irish population in the the United Arab Emirates now numbers around 7,000, mainly in the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai (pictured). Photograph: iStock
A decade ago, it would have been rare to hear about an Irish person moving to the Gulf States. But over the past few years, the Irish population in the region has soared. In the United Arab Emirates, the number of Irish people living there has increased from 4,000 to 7,000 in the past three years alone. Another 3,000 are based in Saudi Arabia, and 1,500 in Qatar, with over 1,100 more scattered between Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.
The downturn in Ireland has coincided with a construction boom in the Gulf countries, providing lucrative job opportunities for thousands of unemployed Irish construction professionals whose Celtic Tiger experience is highly sought after.
Rapidly expanding expat populations in these regions have created a need for workers across a range of other industries, from finance to education and healthcare. Tax-free salaries are no doubt the biggest incentive for Irish workers, with most employers offering packages which also include an accommodation allowance, health insurance, school fees, and a return flight home every year.
And it has never been easier to get there from Ireland; Emirates and Etihad now operate 28 direct flights a week between Dublin and the two main cities in the UAE.
But Irish people have to be prepared for an extremely different way of life there. First off, there’s the heat - rain falls just a few days a year, but temperatures at the height of the summer often soar to more than 50 degrees, forcing many Irish to return home for an extended holiday in July and August.
Sale of alcohol and pork products is restricted. Women are not afforded the same social standing, so work opportunities can be limited in some industries and regions, and conservative dress is essential. In Saudi Arabia, it is forbidden for women to drive. Expat accommodation is often in gated compounds, with restaurants, shops and other services all on site.
Irish societies have sprung up in all the main cities, organising cultural and networking events for the community and providing vital support for new arrivals. The ten GAA clubs in the region are also enjoying a boost in numbers, and Abu Dhabi will host the first ever GAA World Games this March.
This guide gives an overview of the main points to consider when planning a move to the Gulf, with links to useful online resources where you can go for more detailed information, or to get in touch with other expats for advice.
Which state? The most popular locations for Irish people, and what they offer in terms of jobs and lifestyle
Culture and lifestyle: Prepare yourself for a very different way of life, from socialising to the handling the heat
Finding a job: What skills and occupations are in demand and where, what remuneration packages usually include, and advice on how to jobsearch
Finding a place to live: The types of accommodation available, and what you can expect to pay
Cost of living: Tax-free salaries are a huge draw but education and rent is pricey
Health and Education: What health services and schools are like, and what you can expect to pay
Visa guide: Overview of the visa process, with input from Irish people who’ve been through the process
Directory: Contact details for Irish organisations, sports and culture clubs, online social networks and other useful support groups
This article forms part of The Irish Times Destination Gulf guide. Have some advice to share based on your own experience of moving to the Gulf States? Help make our guides better by sharing it with us here.