Living in Dubai as an American Woman
The Middle East is in the cards – you see it in your future. But what about everything you’ve heard?
Or maybe you haven’t heard anything at all, and that’s what worries you. Fear not. Here is a heads-up to help you if you are going to be living in Dubai as an American woman.
If you have been imagining a place where your rights as a woman are few and far between, you can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not bad.
Some of our neighbouring countries are quite restrictive with regard to what is and isn’t allowed for a woman. Don’t get me wrong, there is some form of discrimination against women in Dubai, or should I say, discrimination for women in Dubai. Let me explain.
Imagine you have errands to run. You need to pick up your shopping, recently delivered from your favourite store in the US. You have to go to the post office. You see there are 20 people waiting in the line, but that is the line for the men.
Women are rarely required to wait. Proceed straight to the counter, sign for your package, and run along to inspect your purchases. Perks of being a woman. The same applies at most government-run offices or facilities.
How about getting on the metro? Instead of being jammed in like sardines amongst strangers, wouldn’t it be nice if you had a dedicated ladies only carriage, with additional seating and user-friendly spaces like pushchair parking spots?
It’s here. Ladies should be able to travel in comfort.
Is it important for you to have the freedom to choose what you want to wear? Of course it is. And you can. There are guidelines about what they call “moderate” attire, which basically just means consider those around you before you strut around the mall in your shortest pair of short shorts and your crop top.
The reality is that almost all of your everyday wardrobe will be just fine in Dubai. Malls and public spaces are so heavily air-conditioned that to be honest, it’s too cold to bear all anyway.
And if you’re on a night out on the town or at the beach, well pretty much anything goes.
One of the major differences between the American Woman and the Women of Dubai is how we shop. Sadly, that includes almost everything from groceries to clothing.
Don’t despair – it’s not all doom and gloom. Dubai has no bulk-buy stores such as Costco. Instead, try a Wal-Mart alternative such as Carrefour or Geant.
Love designer shopping at outlet malls? Forget about it. Although there is an outlet mall in Dubai, you will not find the same kind of stores or brands as you would in the US.
Instead, buy from the US and have it shipped over. Macy’s even has a UAE-based website which displays prices in dirhams for an accurate idea of what you’re spending.
Otherwise, hit the incredible shopping malls in Dubai during sale time or the annual Dubai Shopping Festival to get your designer buys at (slightly more) affordable prices.
Besides that, many of the best US stores have massive flagship stores of their own in Dubai. Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, Aldo, Abercrombie & Fitch – they are all here.
A word of advice about shopping: be sure of what you’re buying, or thoroughly check out the returns policy. The stores here are not as transparent and consumer-friendly when it comes to you, as a customer, changing your mind.
Can’t imagine life without your American staples? You don’t have to. Over the last few years, more and more of America’s best restaurants and food chains have washed up on Dubai shores.
Cheesecake Factory? Of course! PF Chang’s? Yes ma’am. ShakeShack? Definitely. IHOP? You bet! You’ll also find a Starbucks on almost every block (think NYC).
One of the food-related things I miss the most in Dubai is going in to a greasy diner for a delicious fry-up or all day breakfast. The closest thing I’ve found so far is Johnny Rockets for a diner feel, although don’t expect the usual diner food (or prices).
For a decent fry-up and all day breakfast, choose one of the British pubs. Some of them even offer brunches, which are the perfect answer to the night before.
The American Dream
Since you were little you’ve imagined how your life will be – The American Dream, people said. So what happens to that dream if you’re living in Dubai? It gets better.
What is the American Dream, really?
To have a good job that pays well, for starters. Opportunities are plentiful in Dubai if that’s what you’re after. You want to make sure you earn enough to have a nice car. Well there are plenty of nice cars on the road in Dubai, and not only that, but fuel is so cheap that you can afford to drive your nice car around all day without a care in the world if you choose.
You want to live a life of leisure.
How about weekly spa visits? I’m talking mani/pedis, facials, and massages. Wining and dining? There are world famous restaurants such as Nobu and designer nightclubs such as White.
Love to travel? Dubai is smack bang in the middle of the globe, truly making the world your oyster.
Other Americans in Dubai
To help you settle in even more, stave off the homesick feeling by connecting with other Americans in Dubai.
There are heaps of ways to do it, whether you check out Facebook for groups that bond over a shared passion such as American football (check out their Facebook webpage here), or whether you go for something more structured.
Websites such as InterNations and Expat Connect unite many of the 19,000 Americans residing in Dubai, and it’s free to join.