Why Move to The Middle East?
- OpportunityThe majority of opportunities for expats in The Middle East are found in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, The UAE and Saudi Arabia. The region is experiencing a boom in many areas, particularly in construction and natural resources. As the expat population grows to meet this demand, expat workers are being sought in industries such as health, finance and education. Many workers are attracted by the lucrative salaries and potentially tax-free earnings. Expats are also rewarded with packages that include free or subsidized accommodation, health insurance, subsidized private school tuition for children and a return flight home once a year. The Middle East offers flights directly to many of the world’s major airports. The biggest airports in the Middle East are transport hubs themselves.
- Doing businessWorking in The Middle East is not like working from home. Those who enjoy the most professional success in the region are those who can adapt the quickest. Keep an open mind. For example, workers raised on the philosophy of efficiency and expediency may be frustrated in meetings that open with a lot of social platitudes and casual conversation. This apparent time-wasting is part of the way of doing business in the region and is thought to cement personal relationships, which then develop into fruitful business relationships. Maybe it’s too hot outside to play golf!
- EmploymentDestinations for construction jobs are The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, especially in project management, quantity surveying and design engineering. Qatar has increased its output in preparation for the FIFA World Cup in 2020. Health is another industry seeking expats, and jobs are available, particularly in Saudi Arabia and The UAE. Emergency and intensive care skills are highly sought after, and nurses are in constant demand. English language instruction, and quality education, is in high demand across the region for local and expatriate children. All of the countries listed above recruit native English-speaking teachers. A teaching package commonly includes accommodation, insurance, flights and possibly free or subsidized education for children. Many teachers find they can send their child to a private school that would simply be too expensive back home. Promotional opportunities and career advancement are also much better for teachers in The Middle East. Most international schools will follow either the British or the US education system.
- Work visaRules for work visas differ from country to country, but the employer should organize the work visa, or at least assist with the process of securing a work visa. For teachers, in particular, it is important to research the schools thoroughly because there are some disreputable schools that can fail to source a work visa properly.
- Finding workJob fairs are a popular way for recruiters to source talent to work in The Middle East. These are often conducted in person, but many of them have started to establish online recruitment processes. Some industries will complete the recruitment process before the employee arrives in the country (such as teaching). At the same time, in other industries, experts suggest that being on the ground and networking in person is advantageous. It is also believed that some employers look for employees of a certain age or gender – so do your research.
Some Things to Keep in Mind:
- ClimateThe Middle East is hot. The heat is generally dry, and temperatures are a shock to anyone moving from colder countries. The Middle East almost doesn’t have a winter, so expect warm weather all year. That said, the region is generally arid, so the temperature does drop at night. Light, cool clothing is best during the day, but you will need some warm clothing as the sunsets. Of course, if you’re relocating for professional reasons, you will dress as your profession demands.
- Daily routineAvoid the heat of the day. If you plan to exercise, socialize or explore, try to do that in the morning, late afternoon or evening. You can stay out of the heat and will also be rewarded with beautiful sunsets. Furthermore, most of the local people have adapted to this climate over centuries, so if you head out in the morning or evening, you’re more likely to see them and have the chance to experience local customs. Drink lots of water. That is still the best way to survive the heat.
- ReligionIslam underpins the culture of the region. Friday is a dedicated day of prayer, so the working week and working hours, as well as times for socializing, react accordingly. Also, the daily lives of the local people change dramatically during Ramadan every year, and this affects everyone in the region, even in a professional sense. As a majority Muslim region, the sale of pork is heavily restricted. Think of it as a chance to kick your addiction to bacon and branch out into something new. Saudi Arabia is regarded as the most religiously conservative of the Gulf states, and the social and cultural life for expats reflects this fact. In some locations, religious police enforce rules such as closing times for prayers and appropriate dress, and expats are expected to abide by all of these rules.
- CultureWomen will not enjoy the same freedom or social standing that they may be used to. Restrictions for women include the way they are allowed to dress, their freedom to travel alone and their status in society. Everyone is also expected to think about the way they interact with people of the opposite gender, in any situation. Also, women may find fewer opportunities in certain industries that are still entirely male-dominated in this region. One peculiarity that newcomers will notice is the women-only checkout aisle at the supermarket. At least they get women through the checkout more quickly! The growing expat population has created a lively social scene. Sporting, artistic and social clubs have emerged. Many countries have their national association, and there are normally many events expats can attend to have fun, unwind, network and pick up some local tips from those in the know.
- Can I get a drink?Rules and regulations differ per country, but you should assume that you can’t drink alcohol with the same freedom that you would back home. In some places, you simply cannot drink alcohol. In other places, expats can purchase alcohol from official locations and take it back to their private residence. Most importantly, you must respect local customs and laws and seek reliable advice from locals before having a drink.
- LanguageMost people can get by with English. Arabic is the lingua franca of the region, and if you speak this language, or can learn it, you will integrate far more easily. Authorities in the Middle East understand that English is an international language, so it is normally possible to find someone who speaks English.
- HousingThe standard of housing for expats in the region is normally very high. As discussed earlier, it can also be provided free or subsidized. Buildings are new, highly secure and well-furnished. Expat compounds tend to be self-sufficient, with shops, restaurants and other services on-site, which is a great advantage in a sweltering climate. It is not uncommon for expat housing to include an on-site gym or pool.
- ServicesMost of the major services are available in major cities. Hospitals, supermarkets and medical facilities are all on par with what one might be accustomed to. However, if living outside a big city, this may not be the case.