Chinese expats in Dubai

As the UAE's 180,000 strong chinese population looks forward to the Beijing Olympics we talk to a small percentage about their life in Dubai

Chinese expats in Dubai
Liang Xiaoqian, 42

‘My events company, Hafeet Events, specialises in Arabic weddings. We do everything – decorate the houses with lights, arrange the parties and set up a stage with decorations.

I like the culture in the UAE. It’s very similar to traditional Chinese culture – even the style of dress. The way Arabic people treat their guests is akin to Chinese hospitality, it’s very civilised – so it’s easy for us to understand each other. But obviously modern China is now more like Europe.

I have been here for 20 years. I’ve got one boy, who is 12 years old and was born in Dubai. I originally came over to work for the Chinese government here, when my husband got work with a construction company.

I took over my current company in 2000 – when there were just 10 of us. Now there are 40 – Filipino, Indian, British. With the help of my hardworking staff I have managed to develop it so we do all sorts of events, such as the Olympic-themed shows running at Dragon Mart over the games, as well as fashion and art shows. I think most Chinese people live near Dragon Mart and in International City – there aren’t many in Mirdif, where I live.

I’m originally from Beijing. I go back nearly every three months. Not just for business, but to visit. Everybody’s so excited and proud about the Olympics. I think China deserves it. Anyone from China now feels how it’s changed in the past 20 years – every year I go back and it’s different. They’ve improved the traffic, the pollution, the security – they’ve prepared for them in every field. But not only that, there are so many artists and creative people there – it’s a very international city. I eat different food every day – Western, Arabic, anything – but I think I still enjoy Chinese food the best. I really like China Club because of the atmosphere.

Sometimes we go to the Madinat Jumeirah to Zheng He’s. There are some other Chinese places purely for Chinese people – like the one in International City called Chinese Noodle House. They serve very authentic food from Western China there, and normally there aren’t many foreigners, just Chinese. I think there’ll be lots more Chinese fashion designers coming here. I’m holding a Chinese Fashion show in Dragon Mart on August 25, where the designers are opening a shop. Chinese fashion is not at all traditional now, it meets international standards.’

Robert Wan, 47

I am vice chairman of the Chinese Business Council. I arrived in the UAE in 1990 – 18 years ago! At that time an old friend of mine had just established a factory in Ajman. He told me that, although the weather wasn’t great, the UAE was great for business – there were no taxes, just two per cent on imports. So I persuaded my company to move to the UAE.

In 1994, I brought my wife over. Then, a year later, I started my own company, METCO, importing construction vehicles from China and distributing them from here to Africa and central Asia. We had five years in Ajman, four years in Sharjah and in 1998 we moved here – so now we have offices in each place. I much prefer being my own boss.

I have two children now. My first wife passed away in 2001. My son was 13 years old at the time. After three years, I got remarried to another Chinese girl. My second wife gave me a daughter. My son is now 20 years old and studying at a business school at Oxford and my daughter is nearly four years old.

I’m ready to go home, but I have to wait until my son comes back in two or three years, when I will train him in the family business. After that I will go back to north western China. I have another office to run there.

I miss the food from China – although I like Emperor Chinese here, it serves pure mainland Chinese food. I’ve been to Dragon Mart – but my business is very different to that. My Chinese friends are all owners of their companies. We have different bars in China – not like the UK or the West. When you finish your dinner or drink, you have a massage. Then we like to go for karaoke, but in Dubai there is nothing like this. Only the few Chinese restaurants provide karaoke.’

Anny Lao, 22

‘I wanted to come to Dubai because it is very special. I like all the different people who live in Dubai. The local people, and the American and British people are all so nice – and some of them are so rich! There are so many rich people in Dubai, I can’t believe it. I first heard about Dubai from friends in China who had visited. I don’t know a lot of English, but I have learned a lot and very quickly since I’ve been living here.

The shop I worked for in China decided to open up here in Dubai and so I came over to work in it. People in China work very hard to make a living and in Dubai it is the same. We have to work all week with only Friday morning off. When I do have some free time I try to explore as much of this wonderful city as I can. I love Jumeirah Open Beach and the hotels down there, though it’s very hot right now. I also like going to Deira, which is close to my work, anyway. In China there is more for me to do for fun, but I still enjoy all my time out here.’


Hafeet Events,

Dragon Mart,

China Club,(04 205 7333), Radisson SAS Hotel, Deira

Zheng He’s, (04 366 8888), Mina A’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah

Chinese Noodle House, (04 223 2565), International City

Imperial Chinese (04 227 4849), Deira

Country profile

With more than 1.3billion people China is the most populous nation on earth. It is also one of the oldest – first unified under the Qin dynasty in 221 BCE, with the last dynasty, the Qing, ending in 1911. In the 18th and 19th century China suffered war, poverty and invasion. During the Second World War, the country was invaded by the Japanese, then subjected to a civil war, won by the charismatic Communist leader Mao Zedong in 1949. He led the country through the Cultural Revolution – an attempt to reignite revolutionary fervour and expel bourgeois influences, with forced labour camps and the execution of thousands of people. Since the late 70s, when Deng Xiaoping started to take control of the government, there have been a series of reforms, helping to make China the economic powerhouse that it is today.

Be the first to get all the latest Dubai news, reviews and deals into your inbox by signing up to our free newsletter, click here to sign up.

More from Community, Things to do, Culture

How a Facebook page grew to help more than 6,000 families in the Emirates – and how you can help

Ready to hit the gym? Here’s how health and hygiene are being prioritised

For little ones to learn how to better communicate with their four-legged pal

If you’re in need of grooming, here’s how the city’s establishments are keeping you safe

Dubai’s integrated travel network makes it easy to get from A to B

Three UAE cities named in the top ten safest


Follow us