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How to adjust to life in the UAE as an Irish expat

This article was written by Kim Cristian. Kim is a freelance writer specialising in all things expat. Having spent many years living and working overseas, Kim has built up the insights and experience for the expat advice found on her blog.

When moving to the UAE from Ireland, you need to plan your accommodation, visas, employment and how to get access to a regular supply of Tayto crisps in the UAE. You can prepare easily for all the above by looking online, checking forums or reading our guide to the cost of living in the UAE for an Irish expat.

However there are cultural differences that you will only truly understand when you arrive, the funny quirks or norms that you should prepare for when you plan to move to the UAE from Ireland.


Differences to life in the UAE for an Irish expat

The UAE shares many similarities with Ireland. A great reputation for friendly people, beautiful scenery and a host of cultural attractions and things to do.

However there are some differences that an Irish expat will have to adjust to if they are moving to the UAE.

I don’t like Sundays

pug dog wrapped in blanket

Thousands of expats in the UAE have moved there for a better salary and to avail of new improved job opportunities, however the UAE “working week” will also take some getting used to.

In the UAE, the working week is Sunday to Thursday. So Sunday is the new Monday and your Friday night out will now take place on Thursday meaning TGIF, is now TGIT. But it does also mean you are off work to drop into the all day brunches held in expat hubs throughout the UAE (which we look at later).

Your workday might also be interrupted depending on how hot it gets. UAE Labour law states that if temperatures reach 50 degree, workers have to down tools and stop.


Wear sunscreen

woman on beach lounger in UAE

Irish skin is made for the mixed weather that comes with being on the edge of the world in the Atlantic.

We often have to endure dark overcast skies, soft rain and cold nights - and that is just our summers. Most Irish skin is not genetically predisposed to taking to the sunshine.  After exposing our limbs to hot rays, we usually lose the battle and end up a nice shade of lobster red instead of having a golden tan.

With year round sunshine and temperatures reaching 40 degrees and above, you will have to adjust to applying a generous layer of a high factor sunscreen every day if you move to the UAE from Ireland.


Should I stay or should I go now

family laughing on grass

An extension period of 5 years has been announced for expat retirees who wish to stay longer in the UAE.

Expats who relocated to the UAE mid-career, may not have kept a home in Ireland and are now planning to retire. However when they analyse the uncertain condition of the property market in Ireland, they might be deterred from moving home just yet.

These proposed new visa laws are welcomed by long-term UAE expat residents who can continue to enjoy the life they have built overseas while giving them the time to plan their next steps.

To qualify for the new over-55s visa in the UAE:

  1. Expats must own a real estate investment of at least AED 2 million

  2. Have savings of more than AED 1 million

  3. Or prove income of at least AED 20,000 per month.

All work and all play

friends laughing in sunshin

There is such a wide variety of activities, events and adventues to have throughout the UAE, your time is always filled with making memories from these great experiences.

Although you can earn more while living there it is possible to spend a lot more too. Your credit card will not just be feeling the heat from the sun but from the speed and amount of your spending over there.

Things in the UAE that could harm you

camel head side view

From scorpions, red back spiders and sea snakes, there are many new Emirati creatures to watch out for. However there is an even bigger creature to fear when you move to the UAE.

Camels or the “ships of the desert” are not mammals to turn your back on. There are reports of them snapping at tourists who they get the hump with (see what we did there) with their powerful jaws, that are wide enough to fit two hands in.

If you are out on a tourist trail with them, our advice is to make sure you keep your limbs out of a camel’s reach.


Feeling Irish in the UAE

irish flag football on grass

What better way to help with your adjustment to life in the UAE than by joining any one of the many Irish sports clubs and associations that operate there.

Whether you’re playing gaelic football in Dubai or watching the hurling in Abu Dhabi, you will never be homesick for long when you can hear an Irish accent at any of the games taking place.

The inaugural Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) World Games took place in Abu Dhabi in 2015.

This shows the globalisation of traditional Gaelic sports especially amongst the Irish diaspora in the UAE, and how you are never truly far from home when you move there.

However if you do feel like broadening your social circle beyond the pale, there is a wide choice of clubs for your fix of Irish sport like the Dubai Celts, or Abu Dhabi na Fianna  see the full list here


Brunch like no-one is watching

brunch setup on sideboard

Brunch is another hugely popular activity for most expats living in the UAE.  Before you move there, you might think you know what brunch is from weekends back home: typically a one to two hour affair, where you enjoy some sweet and savoury treats, maybe with a bellini, from a decent brunch menu.

In the UAE, brunching is a full blown four hour extravaganza for the eyes and taste buds that takes place on Friday. From dedicated cheese rooms, chocolate fountains, ice cream stations and foie gras bars, hotels host brunches in the UAE in an attempt to outdo each other with their own culinary brunch spectacle.

We hope this advice on what you will have to adjust to in the UAE as an expat has given you some insights into what to expect if you move there. Now you are armed with some honest tips to make sure you are getting the best start to your new emirati adventure.

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