Life outside of the sand-pit is taking some adjustment. It’s almost six months since I left Dubai: a cocktail of money, men, booze and opportunity. In comparison NZ life is served straight-up without the frills.
One of the biggest differences from Dubai is money. The money and lifestyle on offer in the city is like nothing I’ve seen in NZ. There’s plenty of opportunity waiting to be exposed as this city develops further. Unsurprisingly the tax free income on offer in the UAE also meant I, and other expats, had a lot more money at our fingertips.
It made us all the more desirable. Bars and restaurants would compete for our attention. Each week they would offer special drink deals to entice ladies to come out – the perfect bait for expat men who would eagerly spend their money to socialise among women. The ratio of working men to women in Dubai is about six to one.
Ladies’ night, normally a Tuesday or Wednesday, was a popular weekly occurrence that tempted my expat girlfriends and I to sample a different bar each week. We were lured to head out with offers such as five free cocktails or house drinks per woman, just to show up. Life was good.
At the weekend, more food and alcohol were served up in the UAE brunch scene where drunken behavior and gluttony were often the order of the day. Expats paid a set price to feast on as much alcohol and food as they could from about 10am to 4pm.
Despite Dubai’s perceived strict alcohol laws, I could drink alcohol every night of the week if I wanted, off license or on-license. I bought it as easily as I did in any other developed western country. I held an alcohol license, which is issued by the police. It’s the law to hold one if you’re purchasing alcohol, but there were exceptions to the rule and there is still confusion around that, even by judges, who are unsure whether an alcohol license is needed to drink liquor in a hotel or not.
However, it was never needed when I purchased alcohol at a giant booze warehouse called Barracuda, in Umm Al Quwain, about an hour’s drive from the city. Bottles of spirits, wine, beer and every kind of alcohol imaginable lined the shelves. It’s frequented by expats who can stock up any day of the week and is overlooked by police who never visit or stop the trade.
It was just another facility catering to the whim of expats. This was an awesome luxury, but at other times it also was a necessity. There are times when Dubai life can drive you to drink. A task that would take 5-10 minutes in a developed country could take hours or days. Government department are renowned for being difficult to deal with, police and courts are all conducted in Arabic, and getting house hold services such as power or internet connected could take hours to organise as teething problems in new systems caused delays.
I was unsurprised to learn, while researching an article that, Alcohol Anonymous (AA) Arabia meetings have soared by 700 per cent in the 1990’s, from three a week, to 25 per week in 2011.
Money and opportunity were the main reasons why I packed up to join my boyfriend for life in Dubai. As a reporter I was earning almost double the salary I was paid, after tax, in NZ. It’s modest compared to the mega-bucks earned by senior management in construction, oil, media, IT and finance. A person’s financial worth in Dubai is largely measured by race. White managers are at the top of that pay scale, while Indian managers are near the bottom, and South East Asians workers are even further below, barely earning in a year what some managers earn in a month.
While I miss a lot about Dubai, as I re-entered NZ my UAE experienced highlighted the priceless life served up straight here, without a struggle. I’ve decided those benefits – freedom, ease of communication and individual rights – are far more valuable than Dubai’s materialistic perks.