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Discover the UAE

Prepare for expat living with our handy guides to life, work and managing your money in the UAE.

Want to move to the UAE?

Opportunity awaits expats in the cultural hubs of the United Arab Emirates. It’s no surprise that the UAE has become a hub for expats looking to accelerate their careers. Expats from across the world set their sights on one of the most progressive countries in the Gulf region.

The UAE's buzzing cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the perfect setting to network with other professionals. Although the cost of living there is relatively steep, the impressive salaries and faster rate of promotions should help you to manage your money.

English is widely spoken, and the expat community is large and diverse, making it easier for new arrivals to settle in. You may struggle to adapt to the intense heat. And you may not be used to the conservative Islamic culture. But it helps to keep an open mind and be patient – the benefits of living in the UAE are worth it.

Working in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) boasts a dynamic work environment. It attracts expats worldwide because of its strategic Middle East position, robust banking sector, diverse economy, and stable politics. Despite being predominantly expat-populated, the business culture varies. International organisations tending to mirror their home countries' culture. Local organisations are often traditionally Arabic and family-owned, with hierarchy and personal connections playing a significant role in business operations. The working language is predominantly English, but Arabic is the official language, so translations are sometimes necessary.

UAE business culture values trust and relationship building. Emiratis prefer face-to-face interactions and are considerate of others' feelings, often avoiding giving criticism or bad news. Hierarchical business structures are common, with decisions made at the top. It's important to understand corporate hierarchy, especially as family ties can influence this. Flexibility is key in the UAE business environment, as meetings might be disrupted by phone calls, messages, or prayer breaks.

Practical business hours typically run from 07:30 or 09:00 to 17:00, Sunday to Thursday. However, a 'split shift' schedule, including an afternoon break with extended evening hours, is common to combat the summer heat. Offices operate shorter hours during Ramadan. Dress is formal and conservative, with a right-handed handshake being the standard greeting. Gift-giving etiquette requires consideration of Islamic customs. 

Expat salaries in the UAE rank among the highest globally, further increased by the favourable tax environment. Despite the high cost of living, expat packages often cover basic costs, and salaries can sustain a high standard of living.

Explore life in the UAE

What's on your moving abroad checklist? We break down the essentials including salaries, education and accommodation in the UAE to help you prepare.

Expats in the UAE can enjoy modern facilities and a wealth of entertainment opportunities, particularly in the buzzing cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. However, this lifestyle comes with a high cost of living, a fact that is increasingly impactful as expat salaries and benefits packages have seen a decline in recent years.

Should you get an offshore bank account?

An offshore account can be useful for expats looking to keep some money in a central location, rather than one specific country or region. 

Our Expat Bank Account is an offshore account that comes with a range of benefits, including:

  • A Global Money Account - Make quick and easy payments across borders.
  • Relationship manager - Someone to help you and your family manage your money.
  • Online and on mobile - Manage your banking, FX and investments wherever, whenever.

You can set your account up in USD, EUR or GBP and you can hold it alongside accounts in the country you're leaving or the one you're moving to.

Top tips

Here's what expats have told us about living in the UAE.

Accommodation will cost way more than any company HR department will let on, check prices before you come and add 10% for local fees and several thousand Dirhams per month for utilities.
The most important thing is, know your laws, some may seem restrictive, others not and don’t be intimidated by the local people or believe in stereotypes. You can learn a lot from them and expand your cultural horizon and empathy.
Talk to people residing in the country to understand the cost of living, social life etc. and evaluate if you will earn the same or better and then decide. Do not just look at salary in isolation or no tax structure. There are plenty of hidden costs.

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Additional information

    All Expat Explorer survey data, including the tips in quotation marks, is provided by HSBC.

    All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in July 2023. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

    This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

    Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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