Irish eyes are smiling in the UAE

Irish eyes are smiling in the UAE

Irish eyes are smiling in the UAE

Over the past few years, the Irish expat community in the UAE has expanded from around 4,000 to 11,000, mostly due to the construction boom in the Gulf region.

It’s not just the UAE that’s become a magnet for Irish construction professionals, with Saudi Arabia now home to 2,700. Qatar hosts 2,000 and the smaller emirates of Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain are home to 1,000 Irish expats between them. The construction boom across the Gulf States has provided lucrative opportunities for expat professionals experienced in the sector, with the region also opening its arms to welcome qualified expatriates in the fields of finance, healthcare and education.

One thing’s for sure – it’s the generous, tax-free salaries that are the main attraction for top talent from the Emerald Isle, with recruiters offering relocation packages including private health insurance, accommodation and education allowances as well as a free flight home every year. However, Irish professionals have to prepare to embrace a totally different lifestyle, including the Gulf States’ extreme summer temperatures. Many take extended holidays during July and August, simply to get away from temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius.

Sales of alcohol are severely restricted, and pork simply isn’t on the menu. The social standing of women in Arab countries is a problem for female expat professionals as well as for trailing spouses, and those wishing to work will have a hard time finding a suitable position. Work opportunities are limited, and conservative dress in the workplace is a must. Expat accommodation is mostly found in gated communities with every amenity laid on, but there’s a disturbing similarity to village life in the last century as regards socialising.

Looking on the bright side, all the region’s major cites have thriving Irish societies offering cultural and networking events a well as vital support for newcomers. The island archipelago of Bahrain is an expat favourite for its quality of life and superior working culture, and it’s easier to blend in as the local language isn’t necessary. Saudi has the strictest Islamic regime, needing more time to adjust as a result, and many of its expat community take regular trips to less strict neighbouring emirates where they can have fun and a lively social life for a short while.

Qatar is mostly desert with skyscrapers, but it’s looking forward to the 2022 World Cup, and the Sultanate of Oman isn’t as crammed with people as are the other Gulf States. It’s also a spectacularly beautiful region in which to live, with mountains, pearl-white beaches and plenty of greenery. Omanis also seem to have a special affinity for the Irish, making settling in far easier than elsewhere in the region.

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