20 July, 2008

Little advice here?

I have a feeling I'll get plenty of advice here!

Here's the deal. My husband is close to getting an offer for a 2-year gig in Dubai. So I'm completely confused about maybe a million things.
  • First, regarding the offer, I've heard that he should ask for double his currently salary. That sounds awesome. Is it realistic?
  • We have a little house that is not in saleable condition as far as I'm concerned. Do we off-load it because it's too much of a nuisance to maintain it from so far away or is renting better?
  • Do people typically get enough in these packages to maintain a home in the US while living in Dubai?
  • How much can we expect in the relocation package?
  • For 2 Americans who would expect MORE than the comforts of home, how much can we reasonably expect to pay for rent and can we reasonably expect his employer to pay it on top of his salary?
  • What necessities should we ask for from his employer that they may be willing to pay but not willing to offer up without us asking?
  • What do we do about cars?
  • Can I get Comedy Central and/or BBC on TV there?
  • We are definitely middle income people with substantial but not debilitating debt. Is it realistic for us to have enough spare cash on hand to get out of debt if we're reasonably careful about spending while there?
  • Are there any furnished apartments anyone would recommend?

I'm sure there are a million more questions, and I know I'm a little vague, but maybe you can answer the questions you wish you'd asked before going.



DUBAI JAZZ said...

Hello Leslie,
I may not be able to answer all your questions, however, I have in possession a detailed list of projected living expenses. It was prepared by an American friend with a family who was about to relocate to Dubai last February but eventually couldn't for personal reasons. It's not up-to-date but it should give you an idea on what to expect.

Email me at: dubaijazz@gmail.com and I shall send it to you asap.

leslietfj said...


We're both excited about taking on this new adventure but giving up our life at home is pretty daunting. If I didn't work, I'd say take a couple month gig and I'll go with you. But alas, I don't think my employer would think too highly of that. Sp we have to dive in head first or say no altogether, which would distinctly limit our chances of the prestige gigs his company offers of England and France. They would obviously be easier, but maybe not as lucrative.

By the way, is there any chance of telecommuting to the US for me?

leslietfj said...

Thanks, Jazz!

One of the elements I'm wondering about is the cost of housing. You have the yearly rent for a 3-bedroom apartment as $15000 AED, but noted the spreadsheet is a couple years old. Does anyone have any estimates on what that might be currently?

I used to be a project management assistant in construction. I suppose if I can't do what I WANT to do, which is continue being a travel agent, I can always go back to that.

Tainted Female said...

leslietfj, go to www.gulfnews.com and check out the classifieds for a more up to date picture of what rent is really like in the UAE. There's not a chance in hell you're going to get even a studio for 15,000 Dhs a year right now.

Anonymous said...

15000$ possible only if you are sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people

DUBAI JAZZ said...

I am sorry I didn't elaborate that the expenses sheet was made on the monthly basis.

redstar said...

I've heard that he should ask for double his currently salary. That sounds awesome. Is it realistic?

Depends of course, but sounds a bit unrealistic. My experience is that people get an uplift on what they would have taken home after tax in their home country, with the added benefit that living costs here are cheaper. I'm basing that on Northern European living costs though. The advantages come later, or at least they have up till now - you have more opportunity to rise up through the ranks quickly here.

We have a little house that is not in saleable condition as far as I'm concerned. Do we off-load it because it's too much of a nuisance to maintain it from so far away or is renting better?

Keep it and rent it out - you need somewhere to go back to.

Do people typically get enough in these packages to maintain a home in the US while living in Dubai?


How much can we expect in the relocation package?

Not sure - this will depend. I wouldn't bother bringing much stuff with you though if you are here for two years and don't where you're going. Furniture's cheap, shipping it's expensive.

For 2 Americans who would expect MORE than the comforts of home, how much can we reasonably expect to pay for rent and can we reasonably expect his employer to pay it on top of his salary

For a US, married middle manager I would expect at least 120,000Dhs as a housing allowance and I wouldn't expect it to cover the actual price you pay to rent somewhere here. Five years ago it was different, things have changed now.

?What necessities should we ask for from his employer that they may be willing to pay but not willing to offer up without us asking?

Ensure you get a car allowance, flights home for both of you once a year at least and a housing allowance.

What do we do about cars?

Buy one when you get here and are settled. Rent a car when you arrive and before you have submitted your passports to have your residence visa. Buy one after your formalities are sorted. Plentiful supply, good prices new and secondhand, easy access to car loans.

Can I get Comedy Central and/or BBC on TV there?

You can get BBC, not sure about Comedy Central. Hopefully, like many people who come to Dubai, you'll have too much to do to waste your time sitting indoors watching rubbish TV!

We are definitely middle income people with substantial but not debilitating debt. Is it realistic for us to have enough spare cash on hand to get out of debt if we're reasonably careful about spending while there?


Are there any furnished apartments anyone would recommend.

When you arrive it's normal to be put up somewhere for three months or so - that's the company's responsibility. Don't go for furnished accommodation to live in - most places are rented empty and Ikea will furnish you more cheaply than paying for furnished accommodation.

leslietfj said...

So I think it's pretty clear now that a furnished apartment is going to cost about $4000/month USD. That will be very helpful when we get our housing allowance to know if it's a good offer or not. We only pay $1000 for our mortgage! But that's Kansas City, not Dubai, and even for here that's pretty cheap.

Now, to figure out if the salary will be good.

But on to another question. I'm a travel agent. Anyone know of any agencies that might be looking for an experienced corporate/leisure agent and willing to pay a decent wage for her? My husband keeps hearing, oh, she won't have any trouble finding a job. But I don't know if any of these guys understand that I'm an actual professional and not a house wife who has a little job for entertainment.

I've gotten lots of help already! Thanks for the continued input...

leslietfj said...

Thanks Redstar. That was a lot of great input.

Here in the US the only news I trust is on The Daily Show which speaks volumes about how lousy our news is here. But yes, hopefully we'll have the opportunity to experience all Dubai has to offer.

I particularly like the suggestion about Ikea. How do people re-sell their stuff? Do you have some version of a garage sale? Can we pick up other people's cast-offs?

rosh said...

Leslie, quick response: in terms of cost of living, Kansas City equates to Ajman, an Emirate 25 kms off Dubai. Dubai's cost of living, in many ways equate to Manhattan. Most of it isn't justified, but that's another topic.

There is a post by Dubai Warrior, "Rental Analysis" (a few posts below) on this blog. Should give you some perspective

Hatem said...

Leslie, I can’t add much to the above advices, but the only thing I can add related to your job search is to check www.bayt.com
It has many opportunities and will give a better idea of how easy you can find a job in Dubai.

Anonymous said...

a word of advice: even reputed employers sometimes lie to oversees candidates on actual cost of living, they may try to convince you that cost of living here is cheap, but in reality its not. best way to find out is to visit Dubai.....

Smith said...

For western standard apartments in the mall of the emirates (Barsha) & dubai marina area you're basically looking at a base cost of $25,000 a year for a studio, and an additional $10,000 for each additional bedroom.

For a townhouse in 'the springs' you're looking at prices starting at about $45,000 for a 2 br, if you have time to wait, I've seen these starting to go for $55,000 / year lately though.

Rob said...

I am going through some of the same choices as you right now. Look at www.bhomes.com for a good listing of properties. My housing allowance for just myself is 36k usd per year, keep in mind you have to pay that entire amount up front typically so make sure the company knows this. I also got 3600per year for other expenses and another 3600 per year for car allowance. I think that if you get double your current salary, say for example you were making 50k and now you are making 100k in dubai and living rent and expenses free you should be able to live resonably well and pay off your debt. This is also my plan. Once you guys get into town drop me a line. I haven't met many americans here and would be happy to make some new friends, seems most of the expats I have met so far are british males and I don't get their personalities, going to take some getting used to I suppose.

the real nick said...

Salary: I think double your husband's US salary is in order considering that he will be taxed in the US on his foreign / expat earnings. The package should cover your tax + standing expenses such as healthcare and pension in the US, plus your life in Dubai, plus provide you with a nest egg at the end of month of maybe ten to twenty percent.
Relocation should be paid by the company door to door, whatever it may be. For a two year stint you may limit this to personal effects. If you owned your cars in the US for more than a year you might find it cheaper to ship them over. Cars are cheap here, both new and used, because nobody wants them. This will hit you when you try selling yours when leaving.

I think everything else has been covered above ^^

Mars said...

sad truth: you're american (presumably white), a professional (a good thing) - you will get a job quite easy, and a good salary too.

Seabee said...

Each employer gives a different package, so there's no 'normal' or average to work from. You need to negotiate the best deal with the most inclusions that you can. Go for the highest possible salary, especially as Americans get slugged tax on overseas earnings. If you can get accommodation provided rather than an accommodation allowance you'll be doing much better. Rents are going through the roof with huge increases each year.
In the near future, private health insurance will be provided by companies by law but at the moment it's not a must - so make sure you both get good cover included in the package.
Appoint an agent to manage your existing house and lease it out. (If you try to sell in the current climate you'll get nothing for it anyway!)
When you're here you can look for a job. Thousands of people are going for each job and you really need to be here to talk to people, attend interviews, sell yourself to the company.

Dubai Entrepreneur said...


What your husband can ask for a salary largely depends on the sector he is in. Generally though, there is a severe shortage in talent. Western middle management get paid well enough to cover expenses and more (in general). Having said that, there are many high-level Western managers whom have left Dubai for better offers in the Far East.. as Dubai's prices spiral out of control. Perhaps the fact that you don't mention kids makes a difference (school can be very expensive here).

Something to seriously consider is this: monthly rent payments is non-existent here. Expect to be asked to pay for a full year, up-front. Either have the cash or make sure the company provides it.

IKEA is crap. If you want cheap furniture and feel adventurous, go into the smaller furniture shops in Karama and have them whip out whatever you like from any furniture catalog you pick up. They're quire handy.

Otherwise, get your furniture from Home Center. It's 'slightly' more expensive than IKEA, but the quality different is substantial.

Showtime is the cable service you probably want to look into, which has ShowComedy.. as close as Comedy Central as you can get. At least The Daily Show is on it :) (I love Jon Stewart). I think SNL is on Orbit.. you have to figure out what you want (Look into both their packages).

As rosh pointed out, this is definitely not Kansas City. It's going to cost quite a bit more. Going out for drinks, etc. is going to be more expensive, that's for sure. But I would suspect that you will develop a taste for the finer things in life when you're here :)

B.D. said...

You should definitely expect double your current salary, actually triple. Dubai is a very expensive place, so you need all you can get. It doesn't really matter what your qualifications are or what you may be able to contribute to the organization. It's all about you and how much you can get! Your employer will be more than happy to compensate you fully, cover all your past debts, house you in a palace and set you up with a pension for life. What might I do, I wonder, for the honor of being your employer?

leslietfj said...

Thanks for all the great help! (well, except DB who appears to be a smidge bitter)
If I told you the guy who's writing the offer got the chicken pox and has therefore been out of commission, would you find this out of normally annoying? I'm just figuring it's par for the course.

So here's what I'm getting from this other than housing which has been covered extensively:
We can expect to be offered a very generous offer from his American employer that should include full relocation and additional funds to cover living and other expenses.

I should be able to enjoy some of the comforts of home, like The Daily Show, when so many other things in my life will be in turmoil.

Buy a used car for each of us and expect to get rid of it for peanuts when we leave.

Get an unfurnished apartment and shop for furniture, etc., instead of getting a furnished apartment or shipping our crappy stuff to the other side of the planet.
(Will we be able to sell that stuff at the end? And thus, will we be able to buy used stuff?)

People are generally quite pleasant and welcoming, with the occasional crankypants trying to bring everyone down. (yes Rob, maybe we can get together once we're settled!)

Let me know if I've missed the point.

So here's another question. What about personal computers? Do we buy new ones? If not, do we have our current ones rewired or do we just use converters?

And the one my husband is worried about... It appears easy to bring a dog to the UAE, but is it hard to get it back into the US? We have a 25 pound dog. What's the best way to get her there?

Thanks again to everyone and their input. You've been invaluable!

Dubai Entrepreneur said...

I don't know about dogs or pets in general.. but electricity here is the same as in the US, so there is no conversion needed.

secretdubai said...

Plug converters are needed but you can get them here: the UAE uses a mix of UK three-pin and European two-pin (round pin) sockets. Also any two-pin device can fit in a three hole socket with a simple plastic converter, or eg a plastic chopstick shoved into the bottom safety hole (earth?) but that's probably not the best way to do it ;)

Anonymous said...

you're obviously up for the move but some words of advice from a serial ex-pat now in Dubai:

1.) talk to your accountant before you leave and map out the tax implications... see if it is really worth it $wise. Brits and Aussies are here because they don't get taxed on what they make back home-- that's why it is worthwhile for them to make the move. Americans are granted no such relief by the IRS-- which is why there are considerably fewer of us here

2.) forget the exoticism-- you'll get over that in 2 weeks. after that, this will be a hot, dusty alien place with not a lot to do.

3.) any job which can be done in Dubai cheaper by educated non-Western ex-pats-- will be. this applies to a lot of professions which are much better compensated in Western economies. i don't know of a lot of western travel agents here, unless they are in management. yes, western ex-pats do, rightly or wrongly, enjoy employer preference in many instances-- but only if they have hard skills, sales experience and/or management creds.

4.) unless you are both working, or your husband is looking at 35K dhs per month, i'd say frankly it isn't worth it. what with the cost of living, the frustration, the traffic, the weirdness of it all... i'd take the UK or France w/less $ in a heartbeat over Dubai +$. maybe you won't bank anything, but you'll have a much more enjoyable lifestyle than you would here. for all the pr, dubai is still a "developing" nation.

5.) If you can hit 50k+ dhs per month, you'll look at living well + annual savings of approx. $100k+ USD (pre-tax).

6.) Note on the used cars-- get a good one and it will hold its value a lot more than you think. Go japanese-- they re-sell well here

Good luck with it all!

Mme Cyn said...

You may have difficulty having a 25pound dog in a flat -- either with his comfort or him being permitted to live there-- and you may have to look into a villa (house). Your rent has just gone up.

Also, the electricity is NOT the same as in the US. It's 220 here instead of 110. Your laptops will work as they have converters, but don't count on anything else working. I agree with everyone else -- bring a few personal items, but furnish your house here, since you're only staying a couple of years.

Rob said...

You can bring your computer. The power supply of every computer I have ever seen is multi-voltage, just move the switch in the back and you you are set. Laptops are are also multi-voltage through their power supply.

Can't help you with your dog, but I will certainly enjoy meeting him/her :)

Anonymous said...

Kansas!? Isn’t that where Dorothy has started her journey with the Wonderful Wizards of Oz? :)

Kyle said...


Seems like everybody here beat me to it in dispensing advice to you.

I go along with Anonymous at 22 July, 2008 12:13.

Depends on when you people intend to move here, I'd say fly down for a week (wait, make that two - to get adjusted to the time zones) and check out the place for yourself. Get a first hand feel, kinda like first impressions count - something like that!

Ignore the glamor!

If it clicks, go back, pack and move back.

If it don't, go for Europe - like Anonymous at 7/22 12:13 says - 'on a heartbeat'.

May the wind blow in the right direction for you guys!

Anonymous said...

A couple more things:

1) Daily Show - available on iTunes with many other shows from the US. They are about a day behind but nothing tragic.

2) If you have solid program/project management background & skills, that might be better than travel agent work in Dubai. The former is in very high demand and there are many western expats at the high levels.

Definitely check with the accountant (www.harveycpa.com is one I have used - they are reasonably priced) since your salary, living allowance and any in-kind benefits are taxable for US citizens.

Also, take a visit. The flight is long but there is no better way to see it.

Lastly, if you are going to do it, mobilize soon. Our office found that the washout rate was much lower for people arriving in July-August v. the pretty months. That way the weather only gets better.

leslietfj said...

Interesting that the washout rate is lower if you come when it's beastly. But I can see your point. We will have no choice on when we leave, and it looks highly probable that there will be no advance visit to decide if we want to do this. We have to do it blind.

However, I spoke last night with a co-worker of his in India (at midnight... thank you very little) about her transition overseas. The company has a whole legal time that covers a ton of stuff, and they will pay the differential in taxes, plus all the housing, etc. But it sounds like we will have to negotiate stronger than we ever have before regarding salary and benefits. She said (she's an executive) that they were offered about half what it would take for housing in Bangalore. Thankfully she had done her research and was able to justify the additional expense. She said she had to fight against a perception that it was going to cost peanuts to live there. Yes, there's open sewage in the streets, but it's still London-esque housing costs.

Of course, I'm not worried about open sewage in Dubai.

So regarding the computers, we can buy adapters for the plugs, and the computers should have a switch to convert the electricity. And no, I won't be moving lamps and toasters, but there were a couple items with plugs I was concerned about.

Oh, and as a "trailing spouse" I apparently can negotiate a car for myself too, so that should make this whole expense issue a bit easier.

Thanks to everyone for all your help! I'd like to reserve the right to hit you all with more questions in the coming days.

Rob said...

Fire away with the questions, we have all been in your shoes before. I have only been in Dubai for 5 days now so anything I can answer from a newcomers point of view let me know also.

Good luck on the negotiations!

Seabee said...

There's a report on rents in today's papers. In spite of the rent cap of 5% they've risen an average of 22% over last year.

The cheapest 1 bedroom apartment is given as between AED60,000 and 80,000 a year. That's in Deira, in the city of Dubai. They're generally older, smaller apartments.

In 'New Dubai', where the buildings are new and the apartments generally larger, expect to pay from AED100,000 up to 230,000.
(AED is pegged at 3.678 to the US$).

rosh said...

OK that's just plain crazy & beyond greedy!

leslietfj said...

Rob, if you could provide me with a list of the costs you incurred (because last week is going to be more accurate than any other information I have!) getting moved and set up, I'd really appreciate it.

We'll plan on a 2-bedroom apartment, but if you can only provide information on a 1-bedroom, I understand.

Rob, where did you come from? I'm trying to figure out a cost of living differential, beyond direct housing costs.

You an email me direct at leslietfj@gmail.com if you'd like.


And yes, greed is bad. For proof of that, look at the housing crisis in the US. That's 100% greed based. Home owners got greedy for houses that were beyond their means, and lenders got greedy charging ridiculous interest rates on people who shouldn't have qualified for mortgages. And eventually, the house of cards will tumble. Even in Dubai.

A Blessing in Tragedy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hi Leslie,

Here's the link to a similar question in Yahoo Answers. I replied and included a sample monthly budget and outlined items you should have included in the benefits portion of your package. It is crucial to get the finances right or you will be leaving your home for nothing. Good luck to you. http://tinyurl.com/6nk45g

If the link fails, you can email me at ereuter@earthlink.net and I'll send it on that way.

leslietfj said...

Just wanted to let everyone know our Dubai move is a dead issue. His company has apparently tightened the screws, and they weren't willing to pay for my lost salary, a car, we weren't even sure if they were going to pay for my ticket! Plus a 2 year gig suddenly became an 11.5 month gig to avoid all the tax issues.

John is considering a 2-3 month gig so he can get to know Dubai, but it will unfortunately have to be without me, since I have a job I'd like to keep.

I'd like to thank everyone again for all your input and advice. Maybe our paths will cross again...

Anonymous said...

consider yourself lucky-- you dodged a bullet

dubai on a budget is a nightmare and it is only getting worse

BuJ said...

isn't a gig supposed to mean a "concert"?

man.. american english!

Anonymous said...

You'll do well to avoid the place in my opinion. What was sold as a dream lifestyle when I took a job here 5 years ago has, in the last 2 years, become nothing more than survival as many people's wages have not kept up with rent or living expenses. Construction on the apartment block adjacent to mine starts with concrete blocks and screamed instructions to the crane operator at 6am every morning and at 8am on a Friday. Perfectly legal according to the Municipality. We chose our current building over one opposite, which was priced slightly lower, because it has the pool and gym. Both were decomissioned the week we handed over our rent cheque (a whole year up front) and since those features are not specifically mentioned in our contract the landlord is under no obligation to (and says he has no intentions to) re-open the facilities. Sounds rather spoilt to whine about one's pool and gym doesn't it? But due to spiralling rent costs and our old place being sold to a developer and demolished it's the only place we could afford (a third of the size of our former home and double the rent) and it's relatively cheap because it's in the middle of nowhere with little to do within a close radius, so we told ourselves we'd shed the "Dubai stones" and save money by not going out. My wife grew up here and her whole family is now paying off loans (mainly taken to be able to pay a whole year of rent up front) and tying up their loose ends as quickly as possible to leave Dubai after 20 years of calling it home. The rules frequently change without warning or logic and you must live with it or leave. Sorry to be so negative, but since construction started next to my building I'm averaging 5 hours' sleep a night and I'm a touch frazzled.

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