17 January 2017

Suzanne Eaton - Expat in Dubai, UAE

Suzanne Eaton - Expat in Dubai, UAE

We’ve had the chance to talk to Suzanne Eaton, 45, a British expat who has moved to Dubai with her husband. Mrs. Eaton who has been living there for over two years now is a housewife. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born in Newport, South Wales, grew up in Leicestershire, Yorkshire, Hertfordshire. Lived in Malvern, Worcestershire for eight years (longest I’ve lived in one house) before leaving the UK in January 2011.


Q: What made you move out of UK?

A: My husband was offered an inter-company transfer to south Africa where we lived until December 2014.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: We live in Dubai, we were unable to renew our visas for South Africa, it was a company move.


Q: How long have you been living in Dubai?

A: Just over two years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live in Dubai with my husband. Our youngest son who is 18 in April has a residency visa but is at boarding school in the UK. We took 2 of our children to South Africa, they were 11 and 15. The youngest returned to the UK for school in 2013 and the other child left home in 2014, aged 19 to join the army. They loved living abroad and settled well into their schools and quickly made friends.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Now the children are back in the UK with their other siblings (5 in total) I do miss them, there have been deaths and births that I haven’t been there for, but I don’t feel homesick, I visit when I want and the children travel out here as well as friends and other family members.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: That’s a difficult one as Dubai is made up of expats. Only 21% of the population are Emirati’s. But I’ve found everyone to be very friendly and helpful.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Dubai? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: I’m very sociable, but find it difficult to initially meet people. I joined all the groups for expats but didn’t really have much in common. I’m a Stay at home, without kids so I don’t meet many people like myself anywhere in the world. In South Africa, it took about 18 months to find the right people and I did this through volunteering and charity work. All my friends there were locals apart from one other Welsh expat. In Dubai, I spent the first year focusing on settling in and finding a job, after a year of teaching I resigned as I found I didn’t have any spare time and it was difficult to meet people after work. We have met some lovely people who we spend time with through a Facebook group ‘Dogs in Dubai’ Our friends here are British, American and European and of course, we socialise with my husband’s colleagues who are a mix of nationalities, something we didn’t do in South Africa.


Q: How does the cost of living in Dubai compare to your home?

A: I would say the cost of living in Dubai is on par with the UK, rent is much higher and has to be paid a year in advance, although some landlords will take several pre-dated cheques. Fuel is very cheap, but it all balances out.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: AED 18 on average £4.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Restaurants without alcohol licenses attend to be cheaper and better quality food. I’d say around AED 40-60 f(£9-13) or a meal and a MacDonald’s meal is AED 21 (£4.60).

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Again depends on the setting. We had afternoon tea in the Burj Al Arab for AED 600 (£134) each and in a less expensive location for AED 180 (£40) for 2 using the Entertainer app. A meal in an expensive restaurant can cost upwards of AED 450 (£100) for 2. But we use the Entertainer app for 2 for 1 deals.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: A bottle of wine costs around AED 50 (£11) if bought from the liquor store for which you need to prove you are non-Muslim and must have a license. In a bar, a glass of wine will cost you AED 45 (£10). A packet of cigarettes is AED 9 (£2).


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Dubai?

A: We bank with HSBC, it was fairly simple to open an account and link it with our offshore and UK accounts. Your bank will tell you what documents you need. Each person requires a single account for their salary to be paid into, so once we opened my husband’s account it was easy to add a joint account and we transfer the money online. When I was working I had to have my own account, which came with a credit card option, it was arranged through my employers and the bank came to work to set it up with me.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: I find the government side here very simple. You are told what you need for each application and where and when to go. They SMS (text) you with reminders and let you know if you need cash, cheque or to make payment online. All UK documents have to be original, attested by a solicitor (solicitor must be registered with the foreign office) the foreign office then certify the documents and then the documents must be taken to the UAE Embassy in London. You must take enough cash with you as they don’t accept cheques or cards.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Dubai is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Medical care is great in Dubai. People are happy to explain to you how it works. You do need to ask if the clinic/hospital take direct payments through your medical aid or whether you have to pay up front and then make a claim.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the UK or Dubai? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Medical insurance is arranged through the company, we have dental, eye care, doctors and hospital cover.


Q: What was the most memorable about the process of packing and moving to Dubai? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: It was a company move so we had no say in the company chosen. Be aware that the removal firms won’t deal with the spouse, only with the company and the person with the work visa. We arranged air freight which was delivered ten days after the contents of our container was unpacked, this is because your work visa must be in place before your container can be cleared from customs and your air freight sent. You or your company will have to pay storage costs in both countries.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Getting things sorted and done when you rely on your husband’s visa. The company wouldn’t deal with me directly and my husband had to go in person to set up utilities, bank accounts, insurance etc. Once I got a work visa I was able to buy and insure my own car without him.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Dubai?

A: Everyone wants to visit Dubai, but the downside is we’re not on holiday so it gets expensive. We are only 7-10 hours from most places in the world, although from Dubai is not as cheap as flying to Dubai. Everything works well and problems are resolved quickly. Although workmanship is not generally of a high standard and you have to keep calling people back to sort things. The summer is unbearable with temps in the high 40’s and living under aircon is not pleasant. The winter is perfect and we spend as much time as possible outdoors.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: We live only 1km from the beach and we own a dog so spend a lot of time out in the desert. During the winter we spend all our time outdoors and there are plenty of places to get coffees, walk and explore the neighbourhood. We enjoy visiting the creek and the souks. In summer life is spent indoors, but there are Malls everywhere and a very good transport system.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: I doubt we will have another company move, so plan to stay in Dubai until my husband retires in the next 3-6 years.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Choose carefully where you will be living and working. It takes my husband 90 minutes to commute from work, we choose to live in a villa near the beach with good transport links so I could get around and have plenty of space for when the family visits and for them to get around.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Dubai?

A: Not really, I tend to use hashtags to search for things in Dubai and have joined several local Facebook pages, mainly animal related as restrictions on dogs make it difficult to find places where you can walk them.