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Are you on Dubai time?

Posted on by from First Data International

Moving regions? Joanna Zadkovich has five handy tips to help you get to grips with a transition to Dubai.

The importance of ‘the network’

Dubai is a brilliant city for networking. Nearly 90% of the population were born elsewhere who have moved to Dubai to work. Therefore many have had to start from scratch and are willing to help others. Networking is the way business gets done - it’s how everything gets done. I used this method alongside traditional recruiter/search firm contacts and found that the network was faster and generated more tangible opportunities. Those with great apartments shared their landlords’ details who had properties available or coming up but never advertised. We wouldn’t have known without it. From finding a job, buying a car or even a great property - the network is king.


Emiratisation is a government initiative to increase the number of Emiratis employed in the private sector. Those organisations outside the economic free zones have a minimum Emirati hiring target of 40% and HR is often the first department affected by this initiative. While important for workplace diversity and a strong local labour market, it has impacted the number of mid-senior level HR roles available for non-Emiratis. In some organisations, expat HR professionals have been hired as consultants to shadow the Emirati colleagues which can be a great opportunity to learn more about organisational complexities.

‘Dubai Time’

This bustling metropolis with its gleaming skyscrapers and gliding metro suggests a world of precision and efficiency. But the notion of being ‘on time’ in Dubai is slightly different, indeed in the Middle East generally. A 4pm meeting could happen at 4:15pm or even 5pm, sometimes to the frustration of the uninitiated. One should build in time either side of meetings to accommodate the more fluid sense of timing. It’s not because people are ‘late’ as such; commentators have referred to a strong sense of fatalism evident in Arab culture and defined by the phrase ‘inshallah’ or ‘God willing’. The message – things happen because they happen so don’t get too upset about it- tardiness included. It made for more relaxed encounters as people weren’t so hung up on timings.

Dubai traffic

The traffic in Dubai takes on a life of its own. While the public transport gets better every year, taxis are cheap and the metro is first rate, the need for a car is paramount, such is the size and scale of the city. But in a city of 2 million people that’s a lot of cars on the road and if there’s a snarl, game over. Further, if motorists have an accident they are required by law to stay with the car until authorities arrive. Neither car, nor person can be moved which reduces the flow to a crawl. Be warned…and take the metro.


These half day marathons of all you can eat and drink in some of the most exquisite hotels in Dubai have become the stuff of legend, described by some as an essential initiation for newcomers. While some enjoy the gathering of friends and family as a way to wind down after a busy week, others take it to extremes of gluttony and drunkenness which does nothing for the reputation of expats abroad. I had strict instructions from well-meaning folk on which to avoid and which were more civilised (hint, the more expensive were more subdued). If nothing else, they’re another vehicle to network, even on your day off!

Joanna Zadkovich

By Joanna Zadkovich

First Data International

First Data International

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