Living in the Middle East

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Culturally, the Middle East is obviously different to the West. However, it is not as different as you may think.

In this article, we take a look at typical practical considerations people have and dispel some common myths.


Dress code

There are many misconceptions about dress code within the Middle East. The locals certainly wear traditional attire, although the extent to which they do so is dependent on their own personal preference. However, Western expats do not have to follow suit (the only exception to this is in Saudi Arabia). In Dubai, for example, Western dress code is very much the norm. However, it is sensible to dress more conservatively during sensitive religious holidays/festivals (e.g. Ramadan) out of respect for the local custom.

Life in the main expat hubs in the Middle East is actually very similar to any other Western city 

Alcohol consumption

You can drink alcohol in all countries in the Middle East apart from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. You require an alcohol license to drink from home, which is easily obtained once you have a residence visa.

Day-to-day living costs

Food shopping bills are typically 15% more than in the UK. The same applies to alcohol.  However, petrol/gasoline is extremely cheap (typically equivalent to around 15p a litre).

Schools in the Middle East

Schooling is generally of a high quality and is fee paying. There are often waiting lists for some of the best schools so you’ll need to look into this in advance. However, many more new schools are being built to provide further capacity for the ever growing expat community.

Can women work and drive in the Middle East?

With the exception of Saudi Arabia (where women cannot drive and employment for spouses is difficult), life in the main expat hubs in the Middle East is actually very similar to any other Western city in this respect. Women can work and drive as normal and should adopt a common sense approach to dress for a hot country (most will wear bikinis on the beach for example).

For more career advice, and information on how to switch careers, please contact:

Jason Grundy, Country Manager (Middle East)
+971 4 8180 102

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