According to last year’s census, there are 1.9 million people living in Dubai (1.4 million men and 400,000 women), alongside another 1 million people who reside in other emirates and commute to Dubai every day, and an estimated 200,000 people who move here each year. Why? Because the city affords a better lifestyle for many, the ability to send money home for some and the end of a long period of joblessness for others. Most of us living in the UAE are following a similar dream, and many of us have left other dreams back home to do so. We met four of the city’s citizens who now work in completely different jobs – a reminder that behind every waiter, housekeeper and taxi driver, there could be another story.

Rey Edward Docena, 25, Filipino
Back home I was: A theatre actor
Now I am: An air steward
Time in Dubai: Two and a half years
In the Philippines, Rey worked for two years at theatre company Repertory Philippines (which saw the rise of famous Filipino actress Lea Salonga), but chose to move to the UAE because his father and sister both live here. He first visited the UAE when he was on tour with The Little Mermaid. ‘I visited here in December 2008 and never planned to move here, but then I joined flydubai in February 2009.’

Rey finds similarities between working as a flight attendant and being on stage. ‘I just have a different audience!’ he explains. ‘I enjoy flying to different places every day with a different crew. I do miss the theatre, but I take dance classes here and will do a musical theatre show and course at Ductac this summer during my annual leave, so I haven’t left the stage behind.’

While Rey enjoys Dubai’s easy access to the beach, as well as the discounted travel he gets thanks to his job, there are aspects of life here that frustrate him. ‘It took me a while to adjust to the cultural sensitivities. Also, I was used to walking everywhere in the Philippines so it was difficult to adjust to the lack of pavements – I can see The Dubai Mall from where I live, but can’t get there without driving.’ He also wishes there was more musical theatre in the city. His parting note to people who have just moved here is to open up to those around you. ‘You have to accept people for who they are and their culture. Dubai really opens your eyes to different cultures, and we should embrace that.’