2 March 2017

Yvette Ali - Expat in Dubai, UAE

Yvette Ali - Expat in Dubai, UAE

We’ve had the chance to talk to Yvette Ali, 48, a US Virgin Island expat who has moved to Dubai with her husband. Mrs. Ali who has been living there for three and a half years, now works as a business support specialist. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: U.S. Virgin Islands.


Q: What made you move out of USA?

A: Trailing spouse.


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

A: Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


Q: How long have you been living in UAE?

A: Three and a half years.


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

A: Just us.


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

A: Nope.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Locals are referred to as “Emirates”, and only make up about 10-15 percent of the population. I find them to be open-minded and friendly but tend to keep in their own circles since they are very family-oriented and tribal in nature. It’s hard to actually meet any unless you work with them.


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

A: I’ve found it easy to make friends. There are a lot of expat groups for the wide array of nationalities here, women’s social groups and plenty people to find on MeetUp.com.  We’ve met lots of other Caribbean people as well, much to our surprise.


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

A: The cost of living is very high where we come from, so for the most part I find it cheaper.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A:  Depends on where you get in from. You can actually get a decent cup of coffee at the gas station for about $3. Starbucks and the sort are about the same as in the U.S.

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

A: About $10 to $30. Of course, street food is cheap. You can get a Shawarma for about $1.50.

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

A: I find a nice restaurant to be on the high end here. Expect to pay anywhere between $25 to $60 for a meal at a decent resto. Friday Brunch is a popular thing here for expats, but I find them to be way overpriced.

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

A: A bottle of wine will run you about $10 to $20, but you can only buy it from a liquor shop and you must have a license to buy liquor.


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

A: Patience. Everything here involves a ton of paperwork and you can get the run around sometimes because rules tend to change fast.


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

A: Same as above. The rules evolve often, so stay on top of changes in paperwork requirements. However, with Government agencies - they are pretty efficient. Dubai is a “smart city” so everything is progressively digital. I suggest you pay extra and opt for expedited services if you can.


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

A: Yes, we’ve had pleasant experiences in the hospitals here for the most part. I like Al Zahra Hospital. However, do your due diligence and check your Physician’s background.


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

A: It’s now required by law for all expats to be covered with health insurance by their employers. However, that may not mean you will get the best plan. It all depends on the company you work for and what type of employee you are.


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

A: I sent most of my things through the U.S. Post Office. It got here in a few weeks with no damage. I suggest you ship as little as possible because you can pretty much buy everything you need here, plus you never really know how long you will stay here.


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

A: Finding a job. The UAE has strange hiring practices, to say the least. For example, I’ve seen job ads with a maximum age of 45. Back in the U.S., that’s called Age Discrimination. I’m 48 and in perfect health with a very an impressive work history and a college degree. What exactly an employer thinks happens at 46 that makes one unfit for a job just befuddles me.


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

A: I think the biggest incentive is the tax-free pay, cheap petrol and how safe, orderly and peaceful it is to live here. The biggest negative is the brutal heat during the summer.


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

A: The beaches. They are clean and filled with nice amenities. There is an incredible amount of diverse entertainment for most of the year. Lots of pop culture, art, and great shopping. Global Village – an outdoor cultural entertainment and shopping park is open for about 6 months out of the year.


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

A: Not right now, but we sure do love Thailand as a potential.


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

A: Do your research. Don’t go by everything you read online. Walk with enough cash to survive for a last a month. Keep an open mind and perspective on things. Have official transcripts, degrees, or and required attested documentation at the ready. Take stock of your most heavily used electronic devices (laptops, cell phones, etc.) and get a power adapter, but they do have them here as well all over. Some prescription drugs are banned here; do your homework and find out what you can and can’t bring to Dubai.


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

A: Yes, mine-  http://fromwetsandtodrysand.com/ - but I don’t keep up with it as much as I’d like to. I also love foodiva.com and https://mrsdubai.wordpress.com/, http://www.passmethedimsum.com/ and https://thetezzyfiles.com/