Pros and Cons of Living in Abu Dhabi

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By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Sep 24, 2021

Summary: Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what expats and digital nomads have to say about the pros and cons of living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

What do expats in Abu Dhabi appreciate most about the local culture?

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"The friendliness of the Emirati people. I have been made more welcome in the UAE that in several parts of the UK I have visited," remarked another expat in Abu Dhabi.

"The warmth and care they show their families, especially their children, is truly heartfelt. Americans could learn a lot by watching the time the Emiratis devote to family," explained one expat living in Abu Dhabi.

"They're incredibly generous. If I admire something of they own, they will try to give it to me. They are also highly hospitable," said another expat in Abu Dhabi.

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What do expats find most challenging?

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"Moving to a middle eastern country is so different to other European countries, the greatest challenge is understanding how and why things happen in the workplace. One expects differences in food and the day to day shopping, bargaining etc. Working in Government I was and still am to a degree, challenged by the completely different way of internal working when compared to the UK. The language is a barrier, but it is also the unwritten codes of the tribes and families, the office politics etc which pervade every thing, every day," explained one expat.

"Time is just a variable here. An appointment really is not as specific as we expect, especially between friends," said another person in Abu Dhabi.

"The Emirati population is small compared to the rest of the country, so there are generally less of them around. As a woman, forming friendships w/ an Emirati man can be tricky. The concept of the platonic male/female relationship doesn't exist in their culture. On the flip side, the women tend to have a lot of familial obligations and, at times, limited ability to move freely without a male member of her family, so going out to a restaurant or coffee w/ just the girls has never actually happened for me," remarked another expat in Abu Dhabi.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Italy, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and the Living in Panama Guide. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Help other expats and newcomers by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Abu Dhabi.

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