Moving to the UAE

The United Arab Emirates, or more commonly known as the UAE, sits at the South-East end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf. This desert nation is made of 7 states that formally came together in 1971. Since the discovery of oil in the 60s, the UAE has flourished and is now the most important economic centres in the Middle East. Gone are the nomadic peoples, having been replaced by soaring, modern cities that boast some of the tallest buildings in the world.

If you’re thinking about moving to the United Arab Emirates then rest assured you’re not alone! In recent years it has become a real hub for expats. While it remains a traditionally conservative Muslim country, the UAE is considered more liberal than some of its neighbours. So long as Westerners respect Emirati customs and traditions, they’re free to enjoy an extremely high standard of living unimpeded.

Finding accommodation

If you’re moving for work then it is worth enquiring with your employer about a relocation package that includes a housing allowance in your contract. Some employers will allocate accommodation or will allow you to choose your own.

When it comes to the types of accommodation available you won’t be short of choices. Many expats choose to stay in complexes in expat-dense areas. Places such as Bateen and Karam are popular locations for standalone houses, whereas Khalidiga and Corniche are good for flats. Although Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the most well-established expat areas.


Education in the UAE can start as early as 3 years old. State-run education is split into four main sections: nursery, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary. While it is possible for international children to be placed in an Emirati school, it is rare. International schools are usually the preferred choice.

The ever-growing expat community means that there are plenty of schools to choose from. However, demand for places is high and waiting lists are long. So be sure to start the process of enrolling your child early, even before you’ve left. Speak to your employer as they may be able to help secure your child a place.


The oil boom radically changed the Emirati way of life. Once a semi-nomadic people that survived on oasis farming and pearling, the UAE of today bears little resemblance to the life lead 50 years ago. That’s not to say their culture and traditions have been forgotten! Far from it. There are festivals throughout the year that celebrate Emirati culture such as the International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition in Abu Dhabi. Plus, many Emiratis still choose to wear their traditional grab. For men, this is a kandura, an ankle length shirt made of wool or cotton, and women wear an abaya, a black robe similar to a caftan.

Good to know

Non-Muslims are permitted drink as long as you have a liquor licence. With it, you can buy and consume alcohol at designated restaurants and licenced bars. Even if you wish to do it at home, you must have an alcohol licence.

While most Emiratis wear national dress, this isn’t necessary for internationals. That said, clothing should be appropriate, so nothing sheer or anything that sports offensive language or images.

The Dubai skyline is home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, at a staggering 828m. If stunning modern architecture interests you then Dubai is the place for you.

Santa Fe Relocation is the local and international moving company that specialises in moves to United Arab Emirates.

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