[Личный опыт] What to do for an IT engineer in the UAE: they pay well, but prices bite and you won’t stay forever
Europe and the United States are very understandable countries to move to. We know a lot about them, if not from the stories of expats, then at least from films, TV series and books. But the UAE is a different kind of country. There seems to be IT, and Russian developers are often hired there, but what is happening inside is not clear. How does the work work there? What projects? What about the prices? What about religion – does it interfere with living? Can you make good money there?
We talked with Alexander, who moved to the Emirates in 2010 and left back to Russia in 2017. He managed to work on several projects, he and his wife had a child here, and he will tell you how it is generally life in the UAE and whether it is worth going here IT -engineer.
What’s in the Emirates with the IT industry and how can an engineer get here
I didn’t plan to move to the UAE, but it turned out that way. A Russian investor contacted my friend and decided to develop a social network in the Emirates. He already had a company, and I was invited to work there as a technical specialist. In 2010, I moved and stayed there for 8 years – first on one project, and then on others. Until the investor ran out of money and interest, and I left back to Russia.
The IT situation in the Emirates is interesting. For a long time there was no infrastructure at all – in 2010, for example, there was one data center for the whole of Dubai, and it was very expensive. The situation has gradually improved, but even now it is far from even the Russian one.
In general, life here is arranged in such a way that local residents receive money and buns from the state. In different emirates it is different – in Dubai, for example, they give a house and money when they get married. As a result, locals often may never work in their lives. And they are simply too lazy to go to most jobs, plus there are very few locals – about 11% of 10 million people. Therefore, most companies employ foreigners, and the IT industry is no exception.
The problem is that engineers are hired from Iran, Pakistan or India to save money – and rumors about their quality and speed of work do not lie. Plus, the same Indians or Iranians are engaged in hiring – and they are recruiting their own.
In order to somehow even out the situation, a more experienced specialist is put over several not very qualified developers. So, for example, they took us with a friend 🙂 And we were also looking for important positions for engineers from Russia. But such developers are hired on a spot, and not in large quantities, because they are more expensive.
There are a lot of IT companies here. Sometimes they are opened by the Emirati themselves to invest capital or receive money for helping to open a company. Sometimes they are foreigners, because there are a lot of unoccupied niches. Plus, in some zones, for example, in certain areas of Dubai, there are no taxes – this also attracts foreign companies.
However, the absence of taxes does not work as well as it seems at first glance. The government will still receive money from you – for each service, for any appeal to the authorities, you have to pay, and a lot. There are even separate paid priority queues if you want to go faster. There is also a “subscription fee” – for example, an IT offshore in 2017 costs a million rubles a year.
How recruitment and work processes are arranged in the UAE
Since the companies in the Emirates are foreign, and foreigners work in them, the work processes there are often built in the same way as in Russia, Europe or the United States. I did not notice any serious differences. Unless among your colleagues you will be full of Indians, Pakistanis and Iranians. True, you will still speak with everyone in English – in the Emirates this is the main language of communication.
Developers from Russia are hired here – mostly the same Russians. The resume can be posted on dubizzle, but they usually look for those who have already moved to the UAE. Foreigners are mostly recruited through LinkedIn, plus Russian-speaking expats sometimes post jobs on Russian websites. For example, we were looking for developers on Habré. Be prepared that they are often hired without moving, remotely.
In the process of hiring and negotiating salaries, it is important to remember that here they are accustomed to hiring engineers from Asia and paying them little. Therefore, they will want to pay you as little as possible. It is important to stand firm and knock out some goodies for yourself – paying for insurance, helping with the move, maybe even paying for housing. By default, this is unlikely to be offered, but if you are a really cool specialist, then upon request they can provide it to you.
Keep in mind that the move will be fraught with serious expenses. For example, when I moved, I had to undergo a mandatory medical examination, which cost me 15,000 rubles – and it’s good that the company paid me for it. Paperwork also costs money – for example, the translation of a marriage certificate cost me about 30,000 rubles. By the way, contrary to rumors, it is possible to transport someone with whom you are not married – however, it will be more difficult.
There is also a funny story with higher education. According to local laws, if you do not have a tower, you cannot be officially given a normal position. Because of this, I worked for 8 years as an “assistant system administrator” – although I worked as a Senior Engineer and received a normal salary. The official position did not affect anything at all, for example, it did not prevent me from getting a loan for a car.
How does a foreigner live in the Emirates
All newcomers are second-class people. There are indigenous Emiratis – this is the elite. All the rest are servants for them. And it doesn’t matter if they are Asians, Russians or Europeans. They are simply not taken seriously. True, this does not interfere too much with life, because you do not come across the indigenous Emiratis in life so often.
Connections are everything. The importance of “I have a friend” in the Emirates is elevated to an absolute. You can live an ordinary life, but if you want to earn more money or open a company, you must somehow make acquaintance with the locals. If you have to communicate with the police, government agencies or the court, acquaintance will be very helpful. Getting to know a local is not easy, but possible. For example, I had a chain – I was friends with a Tunisian who looked like a spitting image of an Arab. He made friends with the locals, I was with him – and everything was fine with me.
Life is comfortable and safe. I was born in Novokuznetsk, and in a criminal area. To me, Moscow seemed safe enough, and the UAE in this regard is generally a country of dreams. Here you can safely walk at night, everything is clean, neat and comfortable. Later I learned that there are also criminal areas here, but you don’t have to go there, then everything will be fine.
Prices for everything are space. I rented an apartment for about 200,000 rubles a month, and this is far from an elite apartment: the air conditioner was constantly leaking, and there was black mold on the walls. There are cheaper apartments, but in remote areas. Public transport is not very well developed here, and getting to work will be difficult. Recently I learned that now the apartments have fallen in price by 50%, because everyone left because of the pandemic. But then they can jump back.
When our child was born, we sent him to kindergarten – and paid more
Sea, sun and heat. You can swim here all year round, and the lack of vitamin D certainly does not threaten the locals, and there are practically no clouds and rains. But for those who do not tolerate the heat, it is hard here. + 55 ° С in the shade in August is not so uncommon. And there are also terrible sandstorms, that the sand is clogged under the clothes, and there is nothing to breathe at all.
The situation with religion is not at all annoying. I must say right away that this does not apply to all Emirates. There are very religious ones, for example, Sharjah – it is better not to appear on the street in shorts or a T-shirt. And in Dubai, no one cares. Of course, you should not go naked – for this you can be fined. But on the whole it doesn’t bother me. There is really no such thing that is taken to prison and expelled from the country – you need to create something completely wild, show your naked ass on the street, for example.
In general, local Muslims are very calm guys. For example, when I went on excursions to mosques, we communicated with tourists politely – everyone showed them and calmly told what they can and cannot do. On the streets, too, no one pesters with questions of religion or tries to throw stones at you.
There are some inconveniences only in Ramadan – the holy month in Islam. At this time, until sunset, Muslims do not eat or drink anything. Because of this, all establishments are closed, and if he himself is on the street, a police officer can come up and ask him to stop. But I quickly got used to it 🙂
With alcohol, the situation is also not too difficult. Previously, it could only be bought in hotels or specialty stores. Now it appears in ordinary supermarkets – all the same, most of the population is non-Muslim, and no one restricts them.
A very narrow choice of entertainment. There are no separate cafes, clubs, bars and other interesting places. All cultural life is concentrated in malls, but even there it can be boring for those who are accustomed to the movement as in large Russian cities. If you want to sit and have a drink, you need to go to the hotel restaurant. True, it will be either cosmically expensive, or you will meet drunken Englishmen. I’m not kidding – somehow new employees went to the bar and there they almost fought with the British, because they came to “their” bar.
True, I am speaking from the point of view of 2017. Now the situation seems to have improved a little – a promenade for walks by the sea has appeared, another water park has been built, some amusement parks, other establishments have begun to open.
There is nothing to do without a car. Public transport is very poorly developed, and a car is really needed. You can’t get to the same mall without her. True, it’s easy to buy it – they give a loan for a car under
There are quite a few rare and rare cars on the streets here – fans of exotic automobiles will like it
Totally paid medicine. For foreigners, even state clinics are paid. Moreover, the quality of service there is really not very good – only Indians go there, who have no money at all. There are private clinics with good doctors, although they are not local anyway. I have never seen an Emirati doctor.
I had insurance, it cost about 280,000 rubles a year. It includes almost everything, even medicines. But for childbirth, my wife and I bought a separate package of services – and as a result, childbirth for my wife and I cost about a million rubles, taking into account the full management and examinations in a cool clinic.
Should an IT engineer go to the Emirates
I think that it is worth going to the UAE just for the sake of an interesting project. Striving here on purpose is not a good idea. First of all, because here it is generally impossible to obtain citizenship or a permanent residence permit. You will forever remain a stranger. And after the completion of the project, you will need to either quickly look for a new one, or go home.
Salaries, of course, are high – they can pay even $ 9000. But because of the expensive life, there is not enough money. That is, if you want to earn extra money, you will have to save on everything: housing, entertainment, food. And if you don’t save money, you won’t be able to save money. If you are planning to move, then it is better to go somewhere to Europe right away.
But if you have an interesting project and are invited to work in the UAE, you can go. The country is comfortable, it is interesting to live here, and I do not regret that I spent 7 years here. But I do not plan to return, although my name was.
Commercial break! Have you thought of going to another country? It’s a good time – during the pandemic, the demand for engineers has grown all over the world. In our telegram bot @g_jobbot there are thousands of vacancies, including those with relocation. Or remotely – whichever you prefer.
What else to read about moving
- [Личная история] How does a developer live in the Czech Republic. Job search, love of Python, dumplings and Czech beer
- [Личный опыт] Life Beyond the Great Wall of China: How China deals with IT, censorship and integration into society
- [Личный опыт] How easy it is to move to Slovakia and what to do there for an IT specialist remotely