I recently spoke with Jayna Jervey, 28, from Melbourne, Florida. She moved back to the U.S. after spending several years living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I asked Jervey about her experiences there.
NEWSREP (NR): What brought you to Dubai? Did you speak the language?
Jayna Jervey (JJ): I always had an urge to travel and see the world, and was given the opportunity to move to Dubai in 2016 with my company that I’ve worked for since 2011. I don’t speak Arabic, but the funny thing about Dubai is that not many people speak Arabic there. Everyone speaks English, and about 80 percent of Dubai’s population is expats. We outnumber the locals by quite a bit.
NR: What was the immigration process like?
JJ: It all depends on your home country. For Americans, it’s pretty easy. Since I already had a job, my company took care of a lot of the paperwork stuff like getting my visa. My boss at that time was an American already living in Dubai and helped make sure I found an apartment in the right area. You really only have two options: either live in a high-rise apartment, or in a villa, which is like a town home. I lived in a high-rise and it was really trippy living on the 47th floor, we were above the clouds some days! Being up that high was a bit worrying though because lately Dubai buildings have been prone to fires. The Torch Tower, which was a few buildings down from me, caught fire three times in three years.
NR: What was the most shocking part about living there? What did you miss the most from the U.S.? What do you miss most about Dubai?
JJ: We used to joke that when weird or shocking things happen, it’s “just Dubai.” There wasn’t much culture shock though. It really just felt like a big U.S. city with more diversity. I was surprised at how certain businesses have to be run. For example, for a business to operate in certain areas of Dubai, you must have a local Emirati sponsoring your business. And for a bar or restaurant to serve alcohol, they must be associated with a hotel. I really missed my friends and family from the U.S. while I was there, the time difference made keeping in touch really difficult. I’ll definitely miss how easy it is to travel to other parts of the world from Dubai. In the three years I lived there I traveled to more than 20 countries.
NR: How did the locals treat you? Were there other expats? Did you develop a friend group?
JJ: Most of the “locals” work in government, so I worked solely with expats. There are parts of the city that are exclusively expats, so you can meet up with people from all over the world. People also tend to meet up with their own looking for a little piece of home. I had a small friend group of expats from the U.S., and we were all relatively like-minded.
NR: What’s the dating scene like?
JJ: Online and app dating are big in Dubai. A lot of people date outside their own culture. It’s interesting to see how these people mesh.
NR: Would you go back? Why or why not?
JJ: I don’t think I’d move back to Dubai, but I would definitely move internationally again. Dubai is almost surreal. I didn’t want to be there long term or settle down there, but I would definitely go back to visit.