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Housing and Lifestyle

The UAE - Housing and Lifestyle



What is living in the United Arab Emirates really like? Here is a brief summary of what to expect from life in the region, from housing options to the more general daily routine. 

Whilst housing options vary between the different Emirates, there is a generous supply of rental properties available for expats – as 85% of the population was born outside of the country, and more than 100,000 British nationals now live here. 
An important point to consider is how far you are prepared to commute. Similarly, if you are relocating with children, it’s best to find out where their school will be before settling on an area, as traffic can be very intense during rush hour (particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi). 

Once you have an area in mind, you can choose the style of your accommodation. The main types are apartments, and villas for larger families. Many of these buildings are serviced by ground staff, and several of them are situated in gated community complexes, with facilities on the premises including communal swimming pools, tennis courts and shops. Most housing options also feature at least one en suite room for domestic staff. 

Although it’s possible to buy a house in the UAE, this is not all that common for expats. Many will arrange their accommodation with a rental agent. It is important to note that many landlords will require a year’s rent in advance – for a family home this can be in the region of £25,000. 


Moving to the UAE could be perfect for you, but as a Muslim country there are notable cultural differences that should be considered before relocating there.

  • The working week runs from Sunday to Thursday, and standard working hours are between 07:30 and 14:30. Almost everything is closed on a Friday, the holy day. 
  • Life in the UAE is ruled by the Muslim faith’s prayer times and religious events. Muslims pray five times each day, and the mosques issue a call to prayer through public address systems at the selected times. 
  • Similarly, the calendar is also based around Islam’s religious events; the main public holidays are around Ramadan and Hajj – the dates of which vary each year. You would be expected to use your annual leave to celebrate Christmas and Easter (although the international schools do have a fortnight’s break at these times). 
  • Women’s dress is more restricted in comparison to western standards. No tight or short clothing is appropriate, and shoulders and knees should be covered whenever out in public. Yet in compound accommodation and other private areas, people are free to dress as they choose. 
  • Married couples can hold hands in public, but any others displays of affection are forbidden. It is against the law for unmarried couples to live together. 
  • Alcohol consumption is permitted, but only in places with a special licence. This includes your own house; without the correct licence it is illegal even to carry alcohol in your car.   


Owing to its favourable climate, there is a whole range of outdoor activities and pursuits you might like to try. These can cover a broad variety from diving with sharks to indoor skiing. There’s also a comprehensive range of shopping malls and coffee shops / eateries where residents catch up on the day’s events. Many locals will spend their downtime unwinding on one of the beaches along the country’s sizeable coastline.  

Additionally if you’re living on a compound, there are often events and activities organised such as cinema nights and general social gatherings. 


The UAE is hot all year round; in the winter months the temperature tends to be around 20-25°C, and this increases to more than 40°C in the summer months. Many locals escape this heat – and the occasional risk of dust storms - by heading indoors to the air-conditioned buildings. 

Ultimately only you can decide if living in the United Arab Emirates is right for you. But it can offer a refreshing and rewarding experience of a completely different culture, with the added advantage that English is widely spoken here. Alternatively, if you’re of Islamic origin, choosing a career in the UAE can allow you and your family to either return to your roots, or simply experience life in an authentic Muslim country.


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