20 Ways to Know You’re an Expat in Dubai



1. You hear yourself making ridiculous statements such as “it feels quite refreshing today, only 37 degrees hooray!” You know that anything less than 40 degrees in June is a gift from God and so you are appreciative.


The photo that’s trending on UAE Twitterverse now says it all. :-)


2. You drive 20kmh over the speed limit confidently, because you know the cameras will only catch you if you’re going at 21kmh over the speed limit.


3. You feel happiest when it’s Thursday. And you get the Monday blues on Sunday instead.


4. You only know 3 words in Arabic but they get the job done on most days “yallah” (lets go), “habibi” (dear), and “inshallah” (God willing).


5. When friends and family ask you for your address, you give a sigh. How do you explain that even though you have an address, nothing they send will ever reach you?


6. You’ve had enough practice and know just how to fit the entire Burj Khalifa in that selfie with your visiting friend.


7. You’re still able to make sense of a movie plot at the cinema, even with all the censored bits cut out in between.


8. You feel like hitting your head against a wall when you go into any clothing store in November, looking to buy a summery dress or shorts for your child, and the sales assistant tells you “sorry Ma’am, we only have the winter collection at the moment” and attempts to sell you a trench coat instead.


9. You arrive at the Gold Souk in Old Dubai and wonder where that valet parking is when you need it?


10. It takes you longer to get out anywhere in the summer months: walk to car, turn on AC, turn on max AC, begin cooling for 5 minutes, go back, bring kids to the car, strap them in and turn on more AC ducts at the back of the car – and proceed driving to cries of “its sooooo hot” and “can we go back home please”. 50% of the time you change your mind and go home.



11. When you enter any government office, you immediately look for the “ladies line” which is thankfully almost always shorter.


12. You have to stop yourself from chuckling when that newly arrived expat friend of yours tells you he’ll be going downtown to catch the fireworks at New Years, because you know how crazy that plan sounds! After all, you’ve just finished convincing your husband to come home by 3 pm on New Years Eve to escape the mad traffic.

Burj Kalifah fireworks


13. When the temperatures finally dip in December and January, you struggle to remember how to dress for 20 degrees. You still think fur coats and boots are a bit of an exaggeration. Just a tad bit of course.


14. You have forgotten how to work the gas pump yourself and are happy to have a polite chat with the petrol pump guy instead, while he fills up the tank and thankfully accepts cash.


15. You feel silly telling your parents-in-law in Germany that’s the kids’ school is closed “because it’s raining”. You capture their surprised faces on Skype and attempt to show them the flooded streets outside.


16. You are so sick of answering the “where are you from?” and “how long will you stay in Dubai” standard questions that you start to come up with make-believe answers just to keep it interesting.


17. Your child’s kindergarden brings in a camel to school, you know, because it’s National Day.


18. One of your least favorite tasks has been to have to ask your husband to sign the “no objection certificate” to allow you to drive.


19. You know you’re at a typical Dubai birthday party when the kiddie entertainer slips you her card and reminds you to book them for your child’s birthday party at least 6 months in advance, while you watch a 2 year old open her birthday presents: a puppy and an iPad mini!


20. Nothing shocks you on the beach anymore – you are used to seeing everything from bikinis to burkinis to full abayas. As a result, you now find people-watching in other countries really boring.


About the Author:

 Mariam Ottimofiore


Mariam is an eternal expat who 15 years, 7 countries and 3 continents later, is embarrassingly a seasoned expert at getting lost in every new city she calls home, and butchering words in every new foreign language she picks up along the way. She currently lives in Dubai with her family and writes mostly about life as an expat, trying to raise her multilingual and multicultural children in her East-meets-West marriage and of course traveling the world. 

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