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Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Old Apr 11th 2015, 12:39 pm
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Default Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Hi,

My family are moving to Abu Dhabi this June as I took a job offered. I am currently in London UK. I have read a number of posts here, but still have some questions. I would be grateful for thoughts and answers please?

1. Property/nursery recommendations - We are a family of 3 with a 2 years old son. We are looking for a 2 bed condo not too far away from the Corniche area. The ideal would be one where there is a quality nursery within short walking distance. I have heard the Sun towers (and/or the block next to it) has a nursery within the complex itself... something like that would be great. Any recommendations or experiences please?

2. Banking - I am aware of HSBC and the local ones. I bank with Barclays so would expect to open a new account with a new bank. I have read about the expat/offshore bank account and local vs HSBC... Any latest recommendations? I don't quality for premiere HSBC as I don't have any mortgage or investments via them... I haven't heard if Standard Chartered or any other international banks apart from HSBC...

3. Business attire - Suits, shirts, shoes for business... I know the usual shops are there, but should I get them whilst I am in London or are the prices and range of options the same there as it is here?

4. Ramadan - as I will be arriving in mid June, right at the start of Ramadan, who much will it be an issue with things taking a lot longer? Also I am thinking of buying a new car, visa for family, settling up internet at home...etc. Also how do expats practically adapt to Ramadan? Do expats also not eat or drink during the day or where there are lots of expats working alongside the locals, it is ok for them as long as it is indoors (company cafeteria)? Also smoking in public is also a no no?

5. Internet access - do they really 'spy' on internet usage at home? Does VPN really work adequately to circumvent the restrictions without getting into problems as I hear they are not really allowed?

6. Documents and things to be prepared with - I have heard about bringing lots of passport size photos for various administrative forms and so on... Are there any other documents and materials which you could recommended to have originals for ( eg marriage certificates...etc. I already have the legalised documents for degrees and so on for the company already done). Also as this will be my first real move away from UK, anything you might suggest I do before leaving UK to tidy things up from this end as well (eg tax returns)?

Quite a few questions here. I would really appreciate any answers or suggestions please.

Thanks!
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Old Apr 11th 2015, 2:31 pm
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Posters in AD are better suited to your questions about accommodation and nurseries but...

2. The main local banks are fine and have modern banking systems. It can be handy to use the same bank as your employer as not only can money be transferred quicker but you may be on an "approved" list when it comes to getting credit cards and loans. Be wary of borrowing unless you need to as the consequences of not repaying debts are severe.

3. You may find your UK suits too heavy for the climate here. Plenty of options to get suits made to measure at reasonable prices but most basic items will be more expensive here. probably worth bringing plenty of shirts with you. Not least as you may want to wear more than one a day in the warmer months.

Note that children's clothes and other bits tend to be more expensive here even if there is plenty of choice.

4. Things will definitely take longer. Often because they can! It is forbidden to eat, drink or smoke in public during the daylight hours of the holy month. Some companies will have a room set aside for those not fasting but it varies a great deal. Most hotels will have an area where non-Muslims can eat and drink during the day, as do many food courts, but always check. Children are exempt from fasting but you are not expected to feed them in public. No alcohol can be sold until the evening.

5. Spying? Not really but many sites are blocked. Set up a VPN on your laptop(s) before you come.

6. Keep your UK bank account running. Will you be letting a property? Get your post redirected to a family member or friend. Set up Skype. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of money getting set up. Bring plenty of patience and do not expect things to be like the UK, even if they appear that way superficially.

Above all retain your sense of humour. You'll need it!

Good luck.
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Old Apr 11th 2015, 2:59 pm
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Get your marriage certificate attested and bring the original with you, too. I couldn't tell you if birth certificates have to be attested as it's never been an issue for us. Perhaps someone else will know. You should really bring the originals of any and all official documents with you - you simply never know when you may need them.
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Old Apr 11th 2015, 4:17 pm
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Lots of good advice above already.

Passport photos are available here in any of the many professional photo studios, and as you'll be buying in bulk (I'd start off with a run of around 20 for each family member) will work out much cheaper than in the UK.

Suits: As mentioned above, if you need more, get them made up here which will cost less than 200 quid made to measure.

Arriving at the start of Ramadan is going to be a fairly harsh way of adjusting to Abu Dhabi, but at least it'll be all uphill from there. Seriously though, do your family a big favour and leave them in the UK until September at least. You'll be OK because you'll be working and sorting out vast quantities of bureaucracy, but Ramadan will be no fun at all for them.

Accommodation is going to be your big issue, and it's going to be hard for anybody to give good advice without some idea of what you hope to (or are willing to) spend. Also bear in mind that "within walking distance" is not always a helpful concept in Abu Dhabi - just because somewhere is within walking "distance" doesn't mean that you will actually be able to walk there - intervening highways with no means of crossing them, lack of pavements, 50 degree temperatures can all conspire to make what looks like a short walk all but impossible. Better to get used to the fact that you will be doing a lot of driving (or taking cabs, which are fortunately very cheap).

Good luck and keep us posted!
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Old Apr 12th 2015, 5:20 am
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Various further thoughts...
1. Property - what's your budget? Sun Towers are at the back end of Reem Island, which is certainly not easy walking distance to the Corniche (just about walkable in the winter, definitely not in the summer).
2. HSBC will give you premier for one year if your salary is above a certain level (AED60k?). That being said, I'm not sure premier really gives you much more than a smarter waiting room.
3. Business attire - personally, I'd get most of it in the UK, at least to start you off. Yes, you can get suits made up over here, and during Ramadan there are always offers on - but you'll have to hunt a bit to find a tailor who uses decent fabric, and you might find that you are too busy to do this in your first few months. They do exist, but many will horrify you with the shiny/patterned abominations on offer. I've not, in 5 years, found a decent quality/decent price men's shoe shop - you either pay a lot more than in the UK for good shoes, or end up with cheap rubbish. But if you get a suit in the UK ensure it is of lightweight fabric.
4. Ramadan. As said, assume everything will take longer. Work does go on, but for much shorter hours. Visas, driving licences, everything will take more time.

I also agree about leaving your family at home till the end of the summer. If you are working for a local company, you'll presumably be on a probation period of 3-6 months, and many won't pay for flights, insurance etc of family members until you complete your probation. Summer is hideously hot, and if you have small children they will find it a real shock to arrive in June, and then for it to get hotter and hotter for the next few months. Come out on your own, live in a cheap hotel for a while and use the time to get a feel for really where you want to live (visit nurseries etc).
Finally, if you have a wife and 2 year old son, and especially if you persist in bringing them across for the summer, I'd strongly recommending thinking of joining "The Club" (The Club, Abu Dhabi). It has a lot of activities, creches etc suitable for small children, a toddlers swimming pool and so on - and is, by UAE standards, very cheap.
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Old Apr 12th 2015, 9:58 am
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

I'm assuming you've already been to AD for interviews.

Despite the appearances of being a proper city with a proper city centre, Abu Dhabi is a very quiet place. And I mean quiet. Some people like it, others will find it boring. It won't have the hustle and bustle of London, let alone Dubai up the road.

Most of the towers along the Corniche are now fairly old and many won't have pools or even garage parking! Finishings can be a bit grotty now. And as the city is so sleepy you may not necessarily want to live alongside the corniche, so you may want to consider places like Al Reef, Al Raha, Khalifa City etc, off island, which seem to have tons of families with young kids. Reem Island is a vast construction zone and hardly walkable and feels rather isolated despite proximity to the corniche. If you have the budget, go for Saadiyat Island.

Last edited by DXBtoDOH; Apr 12th 2015 at 10:00 am.
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Old Apr 14th 2015, 4:25 pm
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Thank you so much for your response so far. Some follow on thoughts based on comments so far:
1 Property - Proximity to Corniche area is not that important. My company is based there and I intend to drive to work. The critical thing is that my wife doesn't feel comfortable enough (at first any way) to drive in Abu Dhabi and wants our housing to be within walking distance (less than 5mins) to our son's potential nursery. So something like a condo complex with a good nursery within the complex would be the ideal scenario - hence the mention of the Sun/Sky towers at Reem island. Not sure if anyone know of similar properties? The likelihood is that we will select from the company owned properties so may not have much of a choice, but thought to ask early on... On Saadiyat island, I have heard it is one if the nicest place, but also most expensive and more importantly largely made up of villas. Given the size of the family, our intention was to go for a 2 bed condo (no maid as my wife really doesn't fancy the idea) with expected spend of 150-180k.

2 Banking - The reason I mention HSBC is because I heard that their Premiere account would give automatic access to the 'expat offshore account' which has benefits in fund transfers and exchange rate/fees. Given the recent issues they have had with offshore accounts, I am not sure if they are scaling back from their offering or if other banks offer similar accounts and benefits? The worst scenario is that I will just do regular bank transfers from the local banks to say my Barclays UK current account. Interested to know how the experienced folks out there manage their accounts and funds (specific banks and accounts). I know the recommended way is to transfer funds away from the domestic banks on regular basis... I don't intend to have direct bank loans...etc.

3 Business attire - Thank you. Good advice from you all.

4 Ramadan - If for example, I am smoking (unfortunately I do) or say my toddler was eating or drinking something small, who people take deep offence? Would they be compelled to come up to me and tell me off? I am trying to get a feel for how much of an offence or issue it will be - granted if avoidable I shouldn't...

5 & 6 - thank you. Well understood.

7 Behaviours and Religion - Perhaps linked to the Ramadan point... One thing I would like to gauge is the practical application or manifestation of the religion on business and social life in reality. For example, at work and socially in conversations, people are known to use swear words without meaning to offend (at least in UK in my circle of people )- I do it some times and my friends and colleagues do as well. Is that much of an issue over there and if say the locals heard , would it be a great negative thing even in an environment where there are lots of expats? I don't mean that I intend to ignore the local customs, but years of habit and so on May be difficult to change overnight.... Also how does one reconcile for example the bikini clad beach culture (albeit largely in hotel beaches and so on) with the recommendation not to holds hands or kiss in public? Please don't misunderstand, I ask as I have never lived in the region and trying to understand what it really is like to live there.

Thank you again in advance!

Last edited by bt_pooh; Apr 14th 2015 at 4:31 pm.
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Old Apr 14th 2015, 4:30 pm
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Oh, on property point, I was given a tour of a flat at the WTC. It was a 3 bed place and too big for us. It seemed pretty nice (nice finishes and new...) although it was way too high for my liking.
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Old Apr 14th 2015, 5:40 pm
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

1. I strongly suggest you head over to Abu Dhabi Woman: living, working in the UAE and ask there about nurseries - there's a lot more people there than on this forum who know about AD nurseries.
2. I do exactly what you suggest (bank with HSBC, shift money offshore asap etc). HSBC are not fantastic, and some people love to hate them, but I've not found them too bad, and have heard horror stories about most of the other oft-recommended banks also (ADCB, NBAD etc). I know you said you won't qualify for premier status, so I'm not sure exactly how it then works, but for premier accounts you can negotiate far better exchange rates, especially if you move larger amounts (if less frequently) - but you have to do that over the phone to your relationship manager, not online. The last few times I got a rate almost as good as the professional money-movers, and the lack of hassle made up for the marginally worse rate (I think I got back about £20 less, from a £30k transfer, than I would have with MoneyCorp). The other way is simply to draw cash and go down to the local exchange - again, if you have larger amounts you can negotiate much better rates than on display.
4. Don't smoke publicly in Ramadan. Most offices will have a room where you can go to eat and drink, but certainly in mine you cannot smoke there. I'd be amazed if anyone complained about your toddler - children are not required to fast in Ramadan.
7. I'd avoid swearing around anyone until you know them well enough to know whether they'll take offence (and it is not a local versus expat thing... there are loads of moslem expats also, who are just as likely to take offence, and some of my american colleagues can be a bit up-tight also). AD is more conservative than Dubai, and most of those photos you see of bikini clad celebrities are taken in Dubai. That being said, one does see women in tiny bikinis on the public beaches, sometimes blissfully unaware of the stares they are getting, and hotel/club beaches are pretty relaxed. People won't worry about you holding hands with your wife, but I would minimise the kissing in a public place. By and large people won't take offence, but occasionally someone will, and then there could be a fuss. And that does happen in Dubai also.
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Old Apr 15th 2015, 5:17 am
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

I suffered through Ramadan in Dubai for several years and keep in mind Dubai is a bit more laid back than Abu Dhabi when you read my post, so things may be stricter for you.

People went to a closed off conference room. It was actually fairly nice because of the convivial atmosphere. Whenever you wanted a drink, you just nipped down to the conference room. And most people's offices close two hours earlier than usual, so by 3:30/4:00 we were all heading home. Very little serious work gets done during Ramandan.

In my apartment building, people still drank/ate in the pool area during the daytime hours during Ramadan. I was surprised at first, but no one batted an eye, and fasting Muslims wouldn't be in the pool anyway. I imagine that as long as no one seems to complain, it's fine.

As for smoking, in my office the smokers nipped down to the basement garage to a certain area out of sight. Most people usually waited until they got home. People still smoked on balconies or in their garden.

I would still drink water in the car whilst out during the day.

Hotel beach and pool areas still sold non-alcoholic drinks and food and allowed smoking as well.

Otherwise, no eating or smoking in public for adults. Ramadan is only four weeks and the time goes by quickly enough. Given that it overlaps with the summer months, you'll be indoors most of the day, especially on weekends.

Originally Posted by bt_pooh View Post
Thank you so much for your response so far. Some follow on thoughts based on comments so far:
1 Property - Proximity to Corniche area is not that important. My company is based there and I intend to drive to work. The critical thing is that my wife doesn't feel comfortable enough (at first any way) to drive in Abu Dhabi and wants our housing to be within walking distance (less than 5mins) to our son's potential nursery. So something like a condo complex with a good nursery within the complex would be the ideal scenario - hence the mention of the Sun/Sky towers at Reem island. Not sure if anyone know of similar properties? The likelihood is that we will select from the company owned properties so may not have much of a choice, but thought to ask early on... On Saadiyat island, I have heard it is one if the nicest place, but also most expensive and more importantly largely made up of villas. Given the size of the family, our intention was to go for a 2 bed condo (no maid as my wife really doesn't fancy the idea) with expected spend of 150-180k.

2 Banking - The reason I mention HSBC is because I heard that their Premiere account would give automatic access to the 'expat offshore account' which has benefits in fund transfers and exchange rate/fees. Given the recent issues they have had with offshore accounts, I am not sure if they are scaling back from their offering or if other banks offer similar accounts and benefits? The worst scenario is that I will just do regular bank transfers from the local banks to say my Barclays UK current account. Interested to know how the experienced folks out there manage their accounts and funds (specific banks and accounts). I know the recommended way is to transfer funds away from the domestic banks on regular basis... I don't intend to have direct bank loans...etc.

3 Business attire - Thank you. Good advice from you all.

4 Ramadan - If for example, I am smoking (unfortunately I do) or say my toddler was eating or drinking something small, who people take deep offence? Would they be compelled to come up to me and tell me off? I am trying to get a feel for how much of an offence or issue it will be - granted if avoidable I shouldn't...

5 & 6 - thank you. Well understood.

7 Behaviours and Religion - Perhaps linked to the Ramadan point... One thing I would like to gauge is the practical application or manifestation of the religion on business and social life in reality. For example, at work and socially in conversations, people are known to use swear words without meaning to offend (at least in UK in my circle of people )- I do it some times and my friends and colleagues do as well. Is that much of an issue over there and if say the locals heard , would it be a great negative thing even in an environment where there are lots of expats? I don't mean that I intend to ignore the local customs, but years of habit and so on May be difficult to change overnight.... Also how does one reconcile for example the bikini clad beach culture (albeit largely in hotel beaches and so on) with the recommendation not to holds hands or kiss in public? Please don't misunderstand, I ask as I have never lived in the region and trying to understand what it really is like to live there.

Thank you again in advance!
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Old Apr 15th 2015, 5:49 am
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

One minor point worth mentioning. Other than bespoke tailors, most shops here seem to cater for small to average sized men only. I am not massive but need to buy 3XL shirts, which only some outlets of Splash seem to supply. If you are on the tall or large size then I would definitely buy in advance. Also buy only 100% cotton or linen, as the humidity gets unbearable here.
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Old Apr 15th 2015, 7:37 am
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Default Re: Another moving to Abu Dhabi (in June) questions

Maybe, but the average waist here appears to be about 36" as with a 32" waist I struggle to find trousers small enough that don't also end mid calf.
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