Living as an expat employee
Seeking a job abroad is not an easy decision. Not only do you want to have a lucrative job, but also want a country where you can have a decent living, enjoy a variety of amenities, and live in harmony with both the nationals and foreigners. This post aims at giving you information on expat workers life. You will be introduced to the experiences of some people talking about how they perceive the different aspects of living as a foreigner in the Gulf Cooperation Council (abbreviated as GCC) countries.
Why GCC countries?
KSA, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, and Oman represent a globally unique case. Although these countries had for long been negatively stereotyped as the hot sand dunes where Bedouin lifestyle prevails, these ambitious countries have become an outstanding symbol of cultural accommodation.
Over the past few decades, GCC countries have been an avid workforce-seeking spot. Eventually, these emerging societies have become a wide harmonious spectrum of people where the foreigners might even outnumber the nationals. From their side, the governments of these oil-rich countries have managed to leverage their massive natural wealth in building gigantic infrastructure and diversifying their economy. Consequently, GCC residents enjoy a high standard of living, as well as a lively labor market that's constantly creating job opportunities.
Friendly, peaceful, and prosperous business environment
Asif Osman is the former consultant, agent, supervisor, and manager at SNTTA (Sharjah National Travel Tourist Agency) during the period 1989-2002. In the post below, Asif shares his experience as he lived in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat, and now living in Bahrain.
Asif attributes the great infrastructure in the GCC countries to the far-sighted leaderships that have harnessed their national massive wealth to diversify the economy and build a prosperous business environment. Now that Asif has been living in Bahrain for more than 20 years, he shares his experience in this post.
Asif extols Bahrain's liberal environment for being able to accommodate a great diversity of nationalities and cultures and providing a perfect ambiance for expat families. Asif also admires the fact that it's easy to save money in Bahrain.
Vigilant governance and tolerant society
Manish works at Landmark Group. As a Bahrain-based expat, he shares is an experience.
Manish gives kudos to the Bahraini powerful government for making the kingdom a stable and safe atmosphere. Hence, they have given rise to a vivid and evergreen business environment.
Along the same lines, Zishan Beg shares his experience. He works at Al-Futtaim Group and lives in Bahrain.
Zishan admires the complete coexistence between people from all walks of life especially that expats make more than 50% of Bahraini population.
Affordable living and vivid social life
As an expat worker in Bahrain, Stephen Crosthwaite says it's "Definitely the best place to live in the Gulf."
Stephen points to the vivid social life and the variety of activities that expats can join. Commonly, expats join one of the sports clubs such as the Rugby club, British Club, and Dilmun club. Stephen also admires the high standard medical services with a diversity of options depending on the insurance policy that the employer provides. Low price of petrol is another advantage of living in Bahrain, as it contributes to making the cost of living rather reasonable. Also, safety is another feature of the Bahraini society that Stephen deeply admires.
Reasonable cost mentioned, here is what Arzan Ali says about living in Dubai.
Arzan is doing company internships. He describes living in Dubai as "a broad concept." Meaning that regardless of the economic class, ethnicity, or religious affiliation, life in Dubai satisfies everyone.
Dubai has an active social life. There are restaurants serving a full diversity of cuisines. Public parks, clubs, and all similar amenities are available as well. It's an extremely safe city administered by a corruption-free government that keeps all people from almost 200 countries living in complete harmony.
Likewise, Ahmed Suliman, the former sales manager at ZoroTech who lived in Dubai shares his positive experience with the UAE government.
Ahmed gives the thumbs up to UAE for being a country where bureaucracy is largely absent. That liberal administrative attitude resulted in a robustly growing financial system where job opportunities are constantly created.
Liberal orientation alleviates cultural difference
Although Saudi Arabia had for so long been perceived as a monotonous environment where reserved cultural traditions are strictly followed, the kingdom now is moving towards a more socially liberal attitude, which results in expats having an easy-going cultural adaptation. In this respect, Sankalpa Patil shares his experience as a blogger and programmer that has been living in KSA for over two years.
Sankalpa talks about the confusion that he experienced because of prayer times. In KSA, shops close five times a day in accordance with the five prayers that Muslims perform. It was somewhat problematic for him especially when he sought a coffee shop for a quick break in the afternoon. However, it just took some time and he adjusted himself to the prayer timings.
Another cultural difference is the separate areas designated for women in public venues such as shopping malls and restaurants. If women were to move outside of their designated areas, then they would have to dress modestly. However, in residential compounds, women can move around freely without restrictions on their attire.
Along the same lines, Cemal Basaran, the professor of engineering mechanics who lived in KSA for seven years, shares his experience about living in residential compounds.
Cemal says that residential compounds are similar to country clubs in the USA. They include a variety of amenities such as swimming pools, exercise rooms, social rooms, tennis courts, basketball courts, libraries, restaurants, kids' playgrounds, etc. In these compounds, foreigners enjoy a joyful life that sounds like home.
As an expat, Anubama Vikraman describes his experience. He has been living in Kuwait for four years, working at Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research.
Moneywise, Kuwait offers a big bonus. Anubama attributes that remunerative nature to the fact that Kuwaiti dinar has a remarkably high exchange rate compared to the other currencies. Hence, it's easy for an expat worker to make sizable savings.
Also, Anubama praises the lively social life in Kuwait with its well-diversified activities, especially during the annual Hala February celebration. It's the time when Kuwait shines with multiple glamorous events towards the Independence Day and Liberation Day on Feb 26th and 27th. Besides that massive carnival, people also like to enjoy a wonderful day in Failaka Island, and take a boat ride in Marina Crescent. Moreover, taking a relaxed walk in the parks is another thing the Kuwaiti residents enjoy.
Dana Salman, as well, admires the vibrant social life in Kuwait. Dana is a marketing manager who has lived in Kuwait for more than 25 years.
Dana talks about the various places where people can enjoy their time such as shopping malls, beaches, cinemas, and cafes.
Placid diplomacy and well-diversified economy
Amongst the oil rich GCC countries, Oman has a distinct situation being the country with the, relatively, smallest oil wealth. However, Oman is a flourishing business environment that comprises various vivid business sectors. What makes Oman a favorable destination for worldwide expat workers – in addition to the numerous career opportunities – is being an affordable and very safe country to live in. Koushik Venkatasubramanian who lived in Oman for 5 years talks about the factors that contributed to making Oman such a prosperous country.
Koushik praises the ambitious plans that Omani authorities are pursuing to diversify their economy. In this respect, Omani government is exerting keen efforts to develop their infrastructure through developing their airway services and building an extensive network of roads.
Besides developing the infrastructure, Omani government is extremely vigilant in keeping their frontiers secured. Thanks to its wise leadership, Oman has quiet borders with KSA to the west and UAE to the north. And they are keeping their southern borders with Yemen strictly guarded as well. This cautious preventive approach makes Oman one of the safest countries in the world.
In addition, Oman is a globally privileged maritime location. It lies on the Strait of Hormuz – one of the world's most important seaways – and has long shores and potential deep sea ports near India. Moreover, Oman is a beautiful country rich in scenic places, which have given rise to a thriving tourism sector. In terms of mineral resources, Oman enjoys a prospering mining sector based on the extraction of limestone, bauxite, chromium, and gypsum.
As to international relations, Oman is an extremely diplomatic country. The monarchy is keen on maintaining friendly relationships countries all over the world. As an intuitive result, Oman has become an encouraging ambience for job seekers throughout the world, and a safe country with harmonious society as well. Actually, safety is the major characteristic praised by expats in Oman such as Vageesha Jajuru who worked as a mechanical engineer in Oman during the period 2011-2016.
Vageesha gives Oman a big thumbs up for being a very safe country. Foreigners, including single women, can walk around safely. And all they need is taking the normal precautionary attitude such as keeping their resident card with them.
Likewise, James Romanow, a writer and journalist that lived in Oman, shares his positive experience with Omani society.
Talking about expat women's outfit, James says that women should be dressed modestly. His wife, for example, used to wear elbow length blouses and below the knee skirts. In rural areas, though, it's preferable that women cover their heads. However, in Muscat (the capital city), there are almost no restrictions on women's attire.
Bottomline: Economic diversification is the overwhelming trend
Although the vast majority of GCC countries have a massive oil wealth, yet their governments are keen on diversifying their economy instead of counting on petroleum industries alone. This fact is what John Burgess talks about. John is former US diplomat in the Middle East who lived in the enormously oil-rich KSA.
John points to the KSA government's attitude towards increasing the production and export of minerals such as bauxite, aluminum, phosphates, and precious metals. Moreover, KSA is gearing itself up to become a regional powerhouse for electricity. The kingdom is moving towards constructing nuclear power generating facilities and solar power farms. This fast-paced economic development reflects well on the labor market and the available job opportunities throughout the kingdom.
By Dua | On 2018-01-01