For many expats, the United Arab Emirates is a land of opportunities. Each one of us is driven to it by a different reason, obviously. I, for example, followed my husband who decided he wanted to experience life abroad in a place that would provide us with a better quality of life. Others come for the sun, for the night scene, for friends or simply because they feel like making a change in their lives. But in the end, most of us decide to take the plunge and relocate here for one main reason: a very tempting job offer that comes with a series of attractive benefits.
But how far can this package be stretched and is it enough to take care of people’s needs?
If you asked me this question eight years ago when I first moved here, I’d say, absolutely! Back then, I’d spend, on average, AED 250 (USD 70) to fill up a cart in the supermarket and AED 110 (USD 30) to pay my monthly energy/water bill. I made ends meet, had extra cash to spend and managed to save quite a bit.
Over the past years though, inflation and frequent reviews in subsidies have made life here a bit more complicated. Today, the same trip to the market mentioned above will probably cost me around AED 800 (USD 220) and my energy/water bill has gone up to AED 300 (USD 85). Not even the fuel price resisted - as of next month it will be deregulated and a new pricing policy will be adopted.
Sure, it can be a bit frustrating, but I must confess all this does not come as a total surprise. I always wondered until when we would be able to live in this ‘bubble’, with so many privileges, while the rest of the world faces such economic turbulence.
To tell you the truth, there is a side of me that is actually kind of relieved. Maybe this change will finally force people to rethink their lifestyle, reduce unnecessary spendings and review their priorities around here.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again. People move to the UAE and go crazy. The local social pressure to have and show-off nice clothes, cars, homes, partnered with the easiness to get hold of credit cards with outrageous limits and bank loans has proven to be a deadly combination.
Expats who have a generous package to actually sponsor a luxurious and posh new way of life often find themselves frustrated and tired of maintaining such a pointless and vain routine filled with trips to the malls, debates over the most expensive piece of item one has purchased recently and brunch every Friday with people who would probably not be by their side if they were back home.
For those less fortunate, it is easy to get lost when it seems like everything is magically accessible and doable. Many people truly believe they are living the dream. The problem is this is a dream that they can’t really afford and suddenly they find themselves sitting on a mountain of debt.
Needless to say I am, of course, generalizing. Along the way, I’ve certainly met many amazing people who have managed to stay sane, to enjoy the best of what the UAE has to offer, to learn about the local culture, to make true and lasting friendships, to keep their focus and, ultimately, do what we all came here to do: live a better present and save up for the future.
From time to time we just need to stop for a minute and give ourselves a good reality check...