Dubai a Magnet for Thousands of Expatriates

Maybe you’ve seen them in action on YouTube? The window cleaners of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest man-made structure. The iconic Dubai skyscraper stands more than 2,700 feet tall and its estimated 24,000 windows spread over 206 storeys take around three months to clean using nothing more than good old fashioned soap and water. Incredible. Frightening.

Dubai is a modern city like no other, a metropolis fringed by deserts and the deep blue seas of the Persian Gulf. It’s a magnet for both the tourist and expatriate alike and little wonder. You want to shop in the largest mall in the world? You got it. Or shop 124 floors up in the Burj Khalifa’s At the Top boutique? You got that, too. Want a choice of the best of personal banking from multinationals you already know and trust? And be able to apply for a credit card, loan or open a current account? You’ve got all of that and more.

If you can’t go there in person, YouTube is also the place to see Dubai’s spectacular dancing fountain. The fountain, which literally basks in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, is one of the most spectacular water displays to be seen anywhere. Covering a distance of more than 300 metres and combining water, light and sound, the fountain sprays 22,000 gallons of water into the air at any one moment. Some 6,600 lights and 25 colour projectors create the variety of heart-stopping patterns for which the fountain has now become so famous.

Looking out across the vast expanse of the city, it’s not surprising visitors find it hard to believe there was only desert sand to be seen a few short decades before. No Burj Khalifa. No modern gleaming steel, concrete and glass structures. No man-made islands. No highways. No businesses or banks. No HSBC credit card or cash machines. No tourists or first class hotels. No homes or people to live in them. Oil changed everything and propelled the United Arab Emirates (UAE) into the modern world. The UAE has never looked back since.

If big banking has made a home in Dubai, then so has international business, encouraged by a government fully aware the country’s vast oil wealth cannot last forever. So diversification has been the watchword for quite a number of years now. And with diversification has come the development of a taxation and regulatory regime which has encouraged thousands of international companies both large and small to set up in the country.

And why wouldn’t they given that there are no direct taxes levied on corporate profits or personal income and full foreign ownership is allowed. Other benefits include low or zero customs duties; 100% repatriation of capital and profits; and no foreign exchange controls, trade quotas or barriers. Visa regulations are relaxed enough to allow expatriate workers to be hired with relative ease.

Add to all of that high quality infrastructure, low levels of crime, a clean environment, excellent weather, and a friendly, tolerant and cosmopolitan population. Is it a wonder then Dubai is such a popular destination for the thousands of expatriates from around the world? Hardly. Click here to see the window cleaners of the Burj Khalifa in action. Only those with a strong stomach should watch!

How Expats Go Christmas Shopping, Part 2

The “Less Is More” Edition of Christmas Shopping

In a previous post, we talked about shopping online.  Shopping online lets us buy & deliver straight to the recipient’s door.  And that’s the greatest thing since sliced bread for expats.  No sky-high postage, no language struggles at the post office and delivery time is days, not weeks.

However, for some people buying anything can be a downer because, a gift means just another thing to own, shelf and eventually get rid of.  So, let’s talk about options.

Continue reading How Expats Go Christmas Shopping, Part 2

How Expats Go Christmas Shopping, Part 1

Is it that time of year again?  Great!

Oh wait, you live an ocean apart from your friends and family?  Not great.

How Do Expats Shop For Christmas Gifts?

The problem is when you’re exchanging gifts across the ocean, you can’t do traditional shopping.  For one thing, paying postage across the ocean is painful.  You could pay as much or more for postage and insurance as you did for the gift itself.  Then there’s the trust factor – do you trust the post office to not “lose” your package?  That question goes for both your ‘home’ PO and your home PO (you figure out which is which; I can’t.).  And how about your language skills – are they good enough yet to handle that needed dialogue at the post office?

Here is your expat solution: “local shop, local delivery -regardless whether you’re local or not.

Yes, we’re talking about shopping online.  Of course, buying online is no secret.  I’m sure many of you buy online.  I also hate trips to the mall.  But how often do you shop and deliver direct to the gift receiver?

To the expat, online Christmas shopping saves money, time and risk.

Time For Some Questions & Answers

Q: How do I save on international postage?

A: Buy online and ship directly.

Q: But won’t my friend see the price?

A: If you select “It’s a Gift,” then the package comes with no invoice or receipt.

Q: How can I personalize a message with the gift?

A: Many shopping sites will include a free gift note. Amazon is one example.

this will be a gift

Then there is the question of But isn’t it suspicious that I’m delivering to an address that’s different than my billing address? No, it’s perfectly fine.

Amazon doesn’t care if you’re delivering to a different name and address.  In fact, if you’ve selected “This will be a Gift,” I think a different address is reasonable to expect, right?

More Online Shopping Tips & Tricks

Here are a few take-away pointers for when you do your next shopping online:

  • Shop at known, reputable sites.
  • If possible, use a credit card based in the same country or at least currency as the site.
  • Purchase as a gift, but don’t do the “wrap your gift?” offer – expensive and the gift arrives in a box anyway.
  • Comparison shop on sites like BizRate, NexTag, or PriceGrabber
  • Don’t wait too long. Otherwise you’ll need Express shipping, costing way more.
  • Some sites request you register. Don’t bother, unless you enjoy e-mail marketing.
  • Do your shopping in your pajamas, because …you can.  🙂

More to Come – Less is More

In an upcoming post, I’ll share more Christmas gift ideas (read: alternative gift ideas).

For now, while you shop and deliver online, consider how much you saved on postage toward another vacation.

Expat Coaching – Investing In Yourself

A while back on a expat-related LinkedIn group, a guy asked “Is expat coaching worth it?” I was stunned; I think I actually swore at the screen.

(Yes, I believe expat coaching is worth it, 100%.)

But the guy’s question made me go find a couple coaches and sit with them (over skype).  And I did.
Below I include a video snippet from meeting with one of 2 coaches I found.

Continue reading Expat Coaching – Investing In Yourself

How to Transfer Money Internationally, Part I

For almost anyone, the idea of transferring money can be stressful. If you’re like me, you’re triple-checking it “went through” even if transferring money between accounts of the same bank.

But this article is not about accounts in the same bank, nor about banks in the same country. This is about international money transfers.

I’m talking about doing it across the ocean,

    when source and/or destination doesn’t speak English,
      and you’re not a financial guru anyway. …yup, stressful.

    Well, stress no more.

    Continue reading How to Transfer Money Internationally, Part I

    Moving to Spain?

    I want Expat Yourself to be more than information. It needs to provide value, to you, the expat or expat to-be.

    So, one idea I had to give added value is expat-related discounts, incentives, more external help, etc…
    To get this means talking to companies to create some advantages for ExpatYourself visitors. Of course, nothing comes for free, so my offered end of the deal is a nice big post about that company.

    Here is the first one: Solucion Relocation Services.

    What do they do? Relocation services.
    For an expat, that means “everything you need, but don’t know how to do for yourself.”
    Having someone who’s “local” help with relocation can be incredibly time-saving.

    For example, Solucion starts helping you before you arrive and welcomes you when you get there. They offer help with legal, housing, moving, even setting up schooling for your little ones.

    To Spain only?
    They aren’t limited to Spain – they actually have offices all over the world.

    How are they priced? They target executives and families
    Targeting executives tells you they may be on the high end of some budgets. I can tell you that they are worth it. That assurance might not help, but 10% off should help.

    Yes, Solucion is willing to knock 10% off any and all of their services for you. When you write to Solucion, tell them you’re an ExpatYourself “client” and you will receive a 10% discount.

    How’s that? I’m fairly excited about it and I hope you are too.

    And in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t get any payment or reward for posting this.

    Hey- An ExpatYourself Forum!!

    I’m not just adventurous in real life (yeah, right), I’m adventurous in website administration.

    My dream of helping people live overseas suddenly found a glass ceiling – enough time to answer e-mails.
    So, one idea I came up with is to create a forum where people could ask questions (and I still answer them), but future people could see the same questions (& answers!).

    A central place for questions. Easy access to (everyone’s) answers. It’s a win-win idea.

    I present the world’s newest Expat’s Questions and Answers forum:


    You may think it’s light on the questions so far…you’re right. You need to ask them first.

    Please post your questions there and I will be very diligent about answering them.

    Tipping in Different Countries

    Tipping - extra or mandatory?
    Tipping - extra or mandatory?
    If you’re from the US, you likely tip. Not just any loose change, but a healthy 15%. You may even believe that 15% is mandatory and extra good service warrants a bit more.

    Fact #1: Only in the US do we tip 15-20%.

    Fact #2: Tipping is not expected in all countries. In fact, not in most countries.

    Fact #3: In many Asian countries, tipping can be insulting.

    Continue reading Tipping in Different Countries