You may well have seen in the new year at another pricey all-you-can-eat affair, and now are trying to think yourself into a slightly healthier 2012. But do you ever think about the resolutions you made when you first came to Dubai? The really big ones, such as saving enough cash to change your life? According to a study by UK insurers Aviva, 89 per cent of British 18- to 45-year-olds are considering a move overseas, mostly due to the declining economy and job market.
With Europe braced for another recession, unemployment at a record high and the weather still as unpredictable as the lending, Dubai is a great place in the world to be – especially when there’s talk of rents dipping even further next year, allowing you more disposable income. To help you reconnect with those reasons you first came to our fair city, here we bring you some new and expert tips on getting your goals back on track to make 2012 your best year in Dubai yet.
To soar up the career ladder
Fallen into a rut at work? Feel like you’re not progressing any more? Career and executive coach Paul White at Sandpiper Coaching has a few tips for how to make the most of your job here. ‘A common mistake that people make with regards to their job in Dubai is not planning ahead, because this is a place where you can very easily get stuck in your career,’ he explains. ‘You should evaluate whether or not your job is fulfilling the objectives of your career plan and if it’s not, think, “do I need to look for another job here or is it time to move somewhere else?”.
‘Take up opportunities that you’re given to branch into new areas so that your CV is broader – offices are typically smaller in Dubai so there are more opportunities to experiment. It’s also a good time to consider education, to develop yourself in new skills. To identify which courses to take, know your profession and watch what’s going on in the world through your networks back in your home country or companies at which you’ve worked before.
‘One of the ways to explore a career change is what’s called a “portfolio career”: this is where you’re in a job, but you start something else on the side. It’s a bit like an investment strategy where you spread your risk. Through that, you may discover something you’re very good at that may turn into your whole career.
‘Also, I think people underestimate the importance of relationship building. Focus on that in your work – most businesses run through relationships even if you’re in a technical field.
‘Finally, your company will always offer opportunities and make recommendations on ways you can improve. Whether it’s through a professional coach or through a friend or colleague in the industry that knows you well, it’s very important to check where you should be professionally so you can develop yourself.’
For more information on career coaching, contact Sandpiper Coaching (04 311 6888).
To save money
Dubai’s competitive salaries attract many expats to the emirate, with tax-free wage packets offering the perfect chance to squirrel away a nest egg for the future. But as one of the fastest and most glamorous cities on the globe, it’s notoriously difficult to keep an eye on finances, and many find themselves engulfed in a world of expensive brunches, club nights and spa treatments that can easily gobble away any pay packet (even a tax-free one).
‘It’s a slippery slope for some people; they get carried away with the lifestyle,’ says Rupert Connor, a financial planning advisor at Acuma. ‘I don’t want to stop anyone having fun, but you should always be putting something away.’
It’s not a city that promotes saving. The UAE may be the second richest country in the Gulf, but just 14 per cent of residents believe they have adequate savings for the future, according to the National Bonds Savings Indices 2011. And of those who do save, 64 per cent admit they put away less than a fifth of their income.
Connor says the only answer is to commit to regular monthly saving. ‘People have no problem spending Dhs1,000 on a night out – but they can’t commit to putting that much away a month,’ he explains. ‘I met a guy who came to Dubai five years ago and bought a Porsche – and now he’s lost everything and is about Dhs200,000 in debt. He’s 31 and has nothing to show for the past half decade.’
If you came out here to save cash but are finding it harder than you thought, here are three quick tips to curb your spending.
Pay by card: the monthly statement is the best way to keep an eye on your outgoings.
Use the metro if you can: with journeys starting at Dhs2, it’s a lot cheaper than taxis.
Stick to happy hours and ladies’ nights: the city is awash with drinks deals, so plan ahead to save money.
For the constant hot weather
Moved here to escape the rain, but keep forgetting to go outside? It’s worth remembering that sun exposure allows your body to produce Vitamin D, which helps prevent several illnesses and ailments, including high blood pressure. Exposure to UV rays from the sun can also encourage the production of endorphins. Just remember, as Baz Luhrmann says, to always wear sunscreen, though we’ll go a step further and specify you choose an SPF15 or higher at all times for maximum protection. Here are five ways to get more sun into your routine.
Walk to work instead of taking a cab. If it’s too far (or there aren’t any pavements to walk on), get out of your taxi a few minutes from the office and stroll the rest of the way. Buy your lunch from outside. Even if you have to eat it at your desk, buy your lunch from somewhere that requires a short walk for another 10 minutes of sun.
Exercise in the morning before work …instead of in the evening when the sun has set. If you usually hit the gym, do your workout outdoors instead – there are plenty of running tracks, or try resistance running on the beach, which is even better for you.
Eat al fresco. Opt for a table outdoors rather than inside if you’re eating out. Alternatively make the most of the weather over the next few months and always have breakfast or lunch in your garden or on your balcony.
Hit the beach. It may sound obvious, but you probably don’t spend as much time on the beach as you thought you would before you moved to Dubai. Just one or two hours every Friday morning will give you a boost for the rest of the week.
To travel to new and far-flung destinations
Take advantage of the travel hub in which we live by jetting off to the locations most popular with the city’s residents (you can’t leave Dubai without ticking these off!).
Bustling Beirut has long been a favourite getaway for Dubai’s party animals – the city’s vibrant nightlife has everything from superclubs and hideaway bars to rooftop restaurants. Hotel 35 Rooms (www.35rooms.com), which features 35 rooms with 35 different concepts, is well-placed to explore the city by foot. A one-night stay in a standard room starts from Dhs348.
Middle Eastern Airlines flies direct to Beirut for Dhs1,360 return (www.mea.com).
For a relaxed beach break, head to Unawatuna Beach in the south of Sri Lanka. Norlanka (www.norlanka.com) is a decent mid-range hotel with rooms from Dhs180 per night, while there are a myriad of cheap beachside dining options, including the Wijaya Beach Restaurant or the colonial-style Amangalla Hotel in Galle Fort for a special occasion (www.amanresorts.com/amangalla).
Fly Dubai flies direct to Colombo for Dhs1,618 return (www.flydubai.com).
The hustle and bustle of Stone Town in Zanzibar and the island’s serene shores are also a must – head to the Dhow Palace Hotel (www.dhowpalace-hotel.com), which offers rooms from Dhs183 a night, and also provides transport to the island’s beaches.
Emirates flies direct to Dar Es Salaam for Dhs3,480 return (www.emirates.com).
Just six hours away, Bangkok is a heady, chaotic mix of nightlife and culture, while nearby Koh Tao (www.kohtao.asia) offers a serene island escape with plenty of budget accommodation. For those who want a city break but don’t fancy slumming it with the backpackers on Khao San Road, stay in boutique hotel Davinci Suites (www.bangkok.com/davinci) from Dhs144 a night.
Thai Airways flies direct to Bangkok from Dhs2,600 return (www.thaiairways.com).
Istanbul is a hugely popular city break for Dubaians, and for good reason: not only does the city boast all manner of cultural and historical grandiose, it’s also home to some of the coolest restaurants, bars and galleries in the region. The A’jia Hotel (www.ajiahotel.com) provides a comfortable (not to mention rather beautiful) base for your adventures, with rooms from Dhs694 a night.
Emirates flies direct to Istanbul for Dhs2,030 return (www.emirates.com).
To enjoy the ‘expat’ lifestyle
You moved here to enjoy the pools, sun and the permanent holiday feeling, but work seems to be taking over your life… Have you become a workaholic? It’s hard not to in hardworking Dubai. ‘The term “workaholic” describes an addiction, therefore workaholics feel an obsessive need to work,’ explains Dr Amy Bailey, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist. ‘Workaholics will often deny there is a problem, despite feedback from loved ones and deteriorating relationships – they will neglect family and friends.’ Bailey lists a number of common workaholic traits, including the lack of separation between work and home, an urge to talk about work constantly, a reluctance to take sick days even when ill because of guilt about not going to work, and an urge to be busy all the time, ‘to the point that they may complete unnecessary tasks and are not able to delegate work,’ she continues.
If you identify with some (or even just one) of these traits, what can you do to redress the balance? ‘To have a full and balanced life, it’s important that we have both a sense of achievement and happiness,’ Bailey explains. ‘Both of these need to be felt across the four quadrants of life: work, family, friends and self.’ You should find time for all four every day, starting from today. ‘Try to prioritise what is most important, both
at work and at home, and focus on achieving it. Create boundaries around your work, such as having a designated time that you do not check your emails,’ concludes Bailey. Unless you’re reading this in the office, why not make that time now by switching off your BlackBerry? We guarantee you’ll feel better.
To experience a new culture
If you came here with the goal of learning to speak Arabic or pictured yourself with a more international social circle, you’ll need these tips to get you away from the TV…
• You may not need to use the language in Dubai often, but learning to speak Arabic will bring you closer to the culture. Plus, it could be a good way to strike up a friendship with some Arabic-speaking residents. Eton Institute in Knowledge Village offers 30-hour courses for beginners for Dhs1,350.
Eton Institute, Block 3, Dubai KnowledgeVillage (04 360 2955).
• Falconry is one of the UAE’s oldest desert traditions, and you can attend a two-day introduction to falconry course with Shaheen Xtreme Falconry. Located at the Banyan Tree Al Wadi Falconry Mews, the course covers topics such as food, handling, and basic training.
Dhs4,000. Shaheen Xtreme Falconry (07 206 7777).
• For something more interactive, join an Arabic tabla drumming class and impress your new friends with your beats. Sessions cost Dhs60 per person.
Ductac, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4777).