Top 7 Myths About Relocating To The Middle East

Top 7 Myths About Relocating To The Middle East

If you’ve pondered the thought of relocating to the Middle East but have some underlying concerns, we are here to abolish those reservations and give you the confidence to take the leap of faith and kick start an exciting career move.

1. I Can’t Move, I’m not Muslim

Religious freedom is a point of concern for many individuals considering a move to the Middle East. There is a fear of discrimination and persecution if one chooses to practice their faith openly.

While the same freedom seen in the West may not be presented throughout the entirety of the region, there is still a great deal of tolerance and open-mindedness in many of the region’s countries. Qatar, for one, has legally established freedom of religion, and has established the Doha International Centre for Inter-Faith Dialogue.  

While Islam is the official state religion of Bahrain, bibles and other Christian publications are displayed and openly sold in public spaces.

There are acknowledgements of expat holiday times such as Christmas with many shop windows decorating with Christmas like themes, however, don’t expect it to be embraced and celebrated like it would at home. In fact, don’t anticipate to get the day off either, Christmas is a normal working day in the ME.

The Top Locations In The Gulf – Career & Lifestyle Considerations

2. It is Not Safe

With the recent political turmoil going on the greater Middle East region, safety for yourself and family is of primary concern.

However, most of the political unrest is occurring in areas far away from the gulf nations and those regions seeking an expatriate workforce.

In fact, the main 6 nations in the gulf were ranked very safe walking alone during both the day and night; safer than many of the largest western cities in the world.

If you would like to find out more on just how safe each city is, read our blog 6 Safest Cities In The Middle East

3. I Won’t Have Any Friends

Anytime you may relocate this will typically be a concern. Due to your move heading to a country where they will most likely speak a different language and practice a different religion to you, this heightens the anxiety.

The great thing about the Middle East is the high numbers of expats, both from western and eastern locales. This means that there will be plenty of others that will most likely come from the same country as you and share common interests. For example, over 90% of the UAE population compromises expats. 

Furthermore, expats tend to live in gated expat communities, making it easy to find those who have similar interests and speak the same language. 

4. Obtaining a Visa Will Be Difficult

Depending on which country you enter depends on how easy it will be to obtain a visa. In most cases you will need a company to sign off on your employment visa for you. Once they have indicated they would like to hire you, typically the HR department will look after the details for you. See what requirements you need to obtain a visa by clicking here. 

Visa requirements

5. I Can’t Afford Housing

Certainly, in some areas, the UAE in particular, the housing market is more expensive than many other places in the world. But it is by no means unreasonably expensive.

Saudi Arabia has remarkably cheap housing prices to rent in the inner city (check out Riyadh here and Jeddah here) and so do many of the other gulf nations. 

The UAE is an exception, but there are outer city apartments to rent for a considerably lower price than inner city apartments. A lot of the times your employer and sponsoring company will either help you find an apartment or have living arrangements sorted by the time you arrive. It will all be negotiated when discussing your contract.

Largely, the tax-free income and higher wages offset those housing prices anyway. 

6. No One Speaks English

English is typically not spoken often around many parts of the Gulf and learning Arabic can be advantageous for an expat seeking to move. But as mentioned earlier, due to the heavy expat population the region sees and also the influence of large multinational companies, English is never too far away.

In the national capitals and major cities- such as Muscat, Doha, and Dubai- a significant percentage of the population understands English or other western languages. Many of the road signs and other official buildings feature writing in both English and Arabic. Keep in mind that the farther away from these cities that you travel, the necessity for Arabic increases. If you desire provincial living, then Arabic will be required.


7. Everything Shuts Down During Ramadan

As a western expat, the Islamic culture is somewhat of a foreign and unknown religion, with the most significant time in the Islamic calendar being Ramadan.

During this Holy Month, much of the Arab nations slow down due to the heavy fasting that is taking place. Eating and drinking in front of Muslims during this time can be seen as offensive, so ensuring you understand the customs is an appropriate necessity before you make the move. However, many multinational companies cater for those westerners within their ranks by allocating special food rooms to eat during the day. As long as you are prepared for such customary differences, everyday tasks are not so problematic.

Many shops and stores open at night time so claims that “everything shuts down” during Ramadan is a slight exaggeration. During Ramadan, things tend to simply slow down during the day and come somewhat back to normal in the evening.

Do you have any more concerns before you make the move? Then why not upload your CV and discuss it with one of our personal job hunt manager’s that will be assigned to you?

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