Working in Dubai

Published: 23 June 2015

Have you ever contemplated a move to the Middle East, in particular Dubai?

If the answer is yes or even maybe, below are 8 reasons it could be a good move for you:

  1. Financial: The salary you earn in the region is tax free. Yes the rents, grocery shopping, school fees and utilities can be higher than the West, but if you compare a city such as Dubai to large cities around the world where your children go to a private school it is on par but you are still paid without tax.
  2. Cultural experienceIn my time in the Middle East I have worked with nationals of at least thirty countries. I have learned not only from the native cultures of the Middle East, but people who have experienced living an expat life for many years and you learn a lot.
  3. Location: The Middle East is perfectly placed for visiting parts of the world one might not ordinarily have considered as a holiday destination. This is perhaps less relevant today than it was 30 years ago, when flights were more expensive, but places like the Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Oman, Azerbaijan, and Egypt from here are potential long weekends. Further afield, destinations like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand become a seven hour flight, as opposed to a twelve hours plus from the US and Europe.
  4. Family life: You and your children are in a safe environment. There is very low crime rate within the expat community, plenty of established sports or hobbies available, a number of hotels, retailers and restaurants to visit, music concerts to enjoy and a theatre, not to mention all the tourist attraction that never fail to impress.  In addition to the climate, the proximity to the ocean all creates a sense of well-being.
  5. Professional Network: It never hurts to create a network of relationships in one of the world’s economic powerhouses. If you are involved in an international business, your work will not always touch on the Middle East, but the region will always be there as a factor. Oil and gas, regional politics, sovereign wealth funds – all have a bearing on every business in the world.
  6. Career: The phrases “taking your career to the next level” and “looking for a new challenge” are the king of clichés, but for me it actually worked out that way. I found that in the Middle East I ended up with far more responsibility than I would have had in a comparable role in the UK.  I was stretched, challenged and occasionally frayed! The skills I can directly attribute to my time in the region include working with multi-national companies and multinational workforces, patience, tolerance, communications and political acuity. The region would not be a desirable one if it didn’t have the challenges.
  7. International track record: Being able to cite a “difficult” region on their curriculum vitae is bound to be of benefit to a career. If you’re British and have spent three years in Germany that of course is valuable experience, but you are still working in the European Union, in an environment where best practice is roughly similar and recognisable. I suggest that experience of the Middle East, with its different cultural, social, legal and commercial norms, is a far more valuable badge of experience, matched only by the Far East.
  8. Gateway to the East: The days when Bahrain and the Emirates looked primarily to Britain as a dominant trading partner and Saudi Arabia likewise to the United States are gone. Whether or not we are in the Eastern Century, China, Japan, Russia, India, South Korea and Malaysia, to name but a few, are playing a major role in the economy and business community of the region. In the Middle East you will work with or compete against companies and executives from the Far East on a much wider scale than you might, say, in a senior role in the UK or the United States. Not only will you benefit from that experience, but you might find yourself making your next career move to the Far East because of what you learned in this region.

The Middle East is a diverse, challenging, infuriating and ultimately fascinating environment. It’s not for everyone and their families but I have thoroughly enjoyed my seven years here and intend on many more years to come.

David Greenwood is the Head of Berwick Partners Middle East and is based out of Dubai. If you would be interested in hearing more about a career in the Middle East please contact him directly.

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