Living and Working in Dubai and Abu-Dhabi

What is it like to live and work in the Middle East?

Ever thought about taking your events career to Dubai? The events industry in the Middle East is a hugely popular destination for ex-pats, the Brits in particular. So, aside from the hot weather and low taxes, what’s it really like to live and work in the UAE?

Terri D’Elia handles both business development and account management here at tfconnect. She spent many years in Dubai and the UAE within her own career at Informa Plc, working on the Arab Health exhibition.

We asked her about her own experiences and what she has learned from others about their careers in the Middle East.

What’s happening right now within the events industry in the Middle East?

The Middle East, particularly Dubai and Abu Dhabi are global exhibition hubs for international events. Expo 2020 has just been won by Dubai and is expected to attract 25 million visitors, 70 per cent of which will be from overseas.

How has the area developed to become such a huge global business destination?

20 years ago, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s main thoroughfare, was mostly sand. It is now one of the most modern urban landscapes in the world, linked by multi-lane highways, an advanced Metro system and trams. The area has been described as one of the most hyper-connected places on the planet, playing host to people of more than 200 different nationalities every day.


What is the cultural experience like in Dubai? Who would enjoy living there?

While Dubai was very different to the UK – there is a large Expat community, which makes for a less daunting experience than being fully immersed in an entirely new culture. It’s quite likely that you’ll find yourself socialising with people from hundreds of different cultural backgrounds. You may need to adjust to a few things – for example that Friday is a religious day, when some business and offices may be closed.

It’s a great jumping-off point for travelling to other parts of the world and the area does tend to attract adventurous singles and couples, with sport, leisure activities and plenty of night-life. However, it’s also very family-friendly with good schools, shopping malls, parks and play areas for young children.

Does money go further in the UAE / what are the living standards? 

The living standards are very good, and in fact could be considered quite luxurious in that having a swimming pool or a gym as part of your apartment building is quite normal.

Money goes further in some ways, in terms of shopping and luxury goods but education can be quite expensive for parents of small children, as schooling is private.

Of course, living an income-tax free lifestyle makes for a good opportunity to save and I’d say it’s not too difficult to pay off your mortgage if you live sensibly!

Is there a language barrier?

No – English is the business language across the Middle East.

What are the career benefits as a result of working in the Middle East?

Many of the events in the region are global leaders and the experience of working on some of these shows may well be a big plus for your CV. Also, as many of the leading organisers have offices in the Middle East, you may have the potential to repatriate without leaving the company you work for!


What are the drawbacks?

The biggest issue is definitely the heat in the summer from June to September, although the country caters well for it! With air-conditioned offices, apartments and shopping malls – it can, in fact be more comfortable than many countries in Europe!

In terms of safety, the UAE has been designated one of the safest destinations in the world by the international travel industry on two occasions. Each country within the Middle East has its own way of dealing with security and there are rigorous safety checks at country borders.


How easy is it to find a really good opportunity in the Middle East in the events industry?

It is a competitive job market, as this is a key business destination for some of the largest organisers in the world. We’re always happy to speak to potential candidates about their options, including opportunities in the Middle East. Our close relationships with clients operating in the region make it easier for us to secure new roles as they become available.

If you would like to find out more about working in the Middle East, get in touch with Owen Mills for an informal, confidential chat. Call +44 (0) 1442 818 005 or email

Events Careers, Sales Talent