Opinion

The curse of being born as a UAE expat

No one gets to choose where they get born. Don’t get me wrong, UAE is a great country, and I’m sure there are worse places and circumstances to be born in. However, being born in the UAE as an expat is so destructive to a person in so many ways that it almost feels as if it’s a curse.

Whenever a UAE expat complains, he is quickly fired upon with the same answer: “if you don’t like it then leave”. If you’re a UAE born expat, I’m sure you have gotten used to hearing this phrase. It’s hard to explain to the regular expats how that is not an entirely valid solution.

From the day you are born until you reach 18, you have practically no option to make any sort of critical life decision. It’s true that you grow up and reach puberty, but the more you grow up the more you feel tied up to the status-quo.

By the time you reach 18, you would become so infused into the life you are in that you are only faced with one decision: find a college in the UAE, which is the natural progression for every 18 year old UAE expat. Unless your parents decide to save the rest of your life and send you to a college outside the country, it would be an extremely difficult task for you to either convince yourself to leave or even convince your parents to let you leave.

Growing up in the UAE, you start to be exposed to racism, descrimination and favoritsm at an early age. If you’re an Indian, I apologize on behalf of all the other Expat races for the overwhelming sadness and self esteem attacks that you probably had to go through. Getting titled as a ‘Hindi’ and being made to feel racially inferior has become something so normal that the Indian community has started to separate their kids from others and place them in “Indian Schools” that are officially everywhere in the UAE.

The Emirati kids eat most of the pie. Their position as the most superior human-child-being is unanimously agreed upon by the school, the teacher, the class mates, the janitor, the law and the government. Even your own parents will teach you that you must not get in any trouble with the Emirati kids.

While the other Arab kids do have their strong standing, they’re all automatically categorized into the inferior ‘Zalama’ that may only get an upgraded social standing by having a second foreign passport such as American, Canadian or British/Australian.

At school you are regularly made to recite the national anthem. You didn’t know any better. So you proudly sang it and even stomped your feet for what you considered “your country”. You were also made to write poems to be sent to “your king, the Sheikh”. You had a lot of love for Sheikh Zayed (may he rest in peace), but you never really knew why. Your parents told you he was great, and so did everyone. But did he personally benefit you as a UAE born expat? Not really. He left and left us and all our poems with us. His son took over with the mission of raising his real people, and he is raising them climbing on our backs.

As soon as you finish school, you are slapped with the reality that you must find a college or else you must leave the country. Your daddy can’t sponsor you any more, and the Sheikh doesn’t give a damn about you – regardless of how many love poems you sent his late father. Leave the country? And go where? Where can you go when Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the only two places you know after having lived 18 years in the ‘UAE bubble’? Are you “crazy” to leave this “heaven”?

Usually at the age of 21, life begins, but it seems that in the UAE, that’s when life ends. That’s the point that you realize that all your life you have been slowly built to become nothing more than an expendable robot who’s mission is to serve the Emiratis.

Getting a job exposes you to a life that is no different from how things were in school. You’re still inferior, and it is clearly shown on your paycheck. Racial inferiority has become so official in the UAE that it has become quantifiable.  Your value becomes nothing but a number on your salary certificate.

The starting salary for a fresh non-Emirati graduate is about 3000 – 5000 dirhams. It’s not too long before you find out that all the money you paid for school and college, about hundreds of thousands, results in you probably working a job outside your field, and getting a pay check that isn’t enough to get back your education investment even if you work for 10 years. How exactly can you make your parents proud if you did have a connection or a 4.0 GPA? On the other hand, the Emiratis and kids who did college abroad and got foreign citizenships are rolling in money and experiencing the true feeling of being in an advanced rich metropolitan city.

That’s when you start getting forced into the loan culture. Forced to be socially accepted by having a car and wearing branded clothes and accesories. Taking that first car loan is so easy that they are willing to come to your room for your signature, and come back after a few days with the car delivered right to your door. Next step is getting that iPhone X, that fancy phone, so when your friends or acquaintances sit with you, you can flaunt it on the table. There are monthly payment packages  from Etisalat or Du that only needs your ID, signature and a 30 minutes waiting time.

A loan here and there and you are finally settled with a car, phone, place to stay and absolutely no future other than working like a donkey watching Emiratis get promoted, while you stay in the same position for years until you finally wake up and decide to make a change. Can you leave? You can, but who’s going to pay the hundreds thousands of loans you accumulated?

And in case you ever forget. You will never be a citizen or get recognized in any way, not even a residence permit. Obey your boss, because if you get fired, you’re back into the forest hunt. A 2 month grace period to find another job so you can continue living in the country you were born in and not get jailed for unpaid debt. That’s when you get some dinner, go to sleep, go to work, obey, do what you have been programmed to do, and teach yourself not to think outside the box, and simply wait for a time that this curse gets lifted.


27 Comments

  1. Superb truth said..i passed through all these phases of life and now im in mid 30s and must why i born in UAE !! Regret of life and waste of life.. racism and discrimination !! Dont talk about it !!

  2. The other stuff has elements of truth except for loans. So many expatriate people have never taken loans. That instantly eliminates half of the write up.

    That said, majority of the children leave at 16, 18 or definitely 21. As visa sponsorship becomes impossible for males. Then you can enjoy the अच्छे दिन thanks to Modiji in India. Or go elsewhere and repeat the struggle in an European country. Grow yourself and when you become a good professional, come to the UAE with a powerful passport because it is still the most comfortable and best place to live. You cannot grow in the UAE as fresh graduates have a low demand here.

    This is a reality check. Peer pressure and living beyond your means is your problem. Buy a Nissan Sunny, not a Mercedes or Dodge Charger and live within your means. Or even use public transport.

    1. The loans was an actual statistic that you just can’t “eliminate half of it”.
      “Come back to UAE with a powerful passport”, there you go.

  3. Not true. Studiying in Indian school in dubai taught me my best qualities. I have no stage fear. I can deal with multiple nationalities and cultures with confidence and respect. Especially going back to India to do college opened my eyes to how much better of a personality development you get from attending school here compared to those who attended school in India.

    You may not realize this now since most young people do not have it easy in the job market nowadays. But trust me, you have a better chance of doing a job interview better than the person who studied in india, based on communication skills alone.

  4. The writer is most probably suffering from a very low self esteem of himself. The world is full of opportunities for an optimist. We are not restricted by race, religion or the place we are born. There are plenty of stories of people from the Sub-Continent who have made it from rags to riches.

  5. I beg to differ this sounds really bad and extreme on the local community here. I am an Indian and I was born and brought up here in Dubai. I’m 24 and I continue to survive here all by myself, I did my bachelors here and started with a basic pay scale you mentioned for a ‘Non Emirati’ and I have fortunately worked my way up to 5 figures and continue to go further up.

    Unlike any other city in the world, this city teaches how to live and work in a multi cultural environment and respect each other. Yes, cant deny the lifestyle here is opulent and there is some amount of peer pressure to get your hands on the coolest gadgets or drive in fancy cars looking at the people around us but what makes you think that this city is to blame ? Ultimately, you’re seemingly an adult who is responsible for your own choices and decisions. It is up to you if you want to resist yourself into buying that iPhone X on installments or investing that amount of money into something useful that could give returns in the future or probably save.

    And on the Emirati community here, I have had few friends from my college days and they are very geniune and helpful people. Yes, they get the advantage in their own country when it comes to jobs or scholarships but why shouldn’t they? It’s their own nation and their government is helping them build their future. This is what most developing countries around the world do for their own citizens. I have seen so many Emiratis working hard towards their college degrees and progressing in private companies.

    In all countries there are some set of flaws and gains, but this country has given us so much to learn from each other’s struggle and love each other. In a land where everyone comes to fulfill that dream, what could be more beautiful than this place where we will once achieve what we want and go back home proudly gaining what we couldn’t find our home countries

  6. Well, I am Pakistani born in UAE expat, for Indians its still better than us atleast you get a still somewhat decent paying job with us they think of us as drivers, truck drivers, farmers or helpers, Yes and I am an Engineering degree holder so I managed to escape the paradigm a little bit only to get stuck in it again, when I started working, don’t worry Oil days are numbered as evident now eventually they again like in the 1960s will come to us seeking jobs then probably we can show them that human beings with their talent and character are more valuable than their ethnicity and it was human beings collectively created every industry in the world thats the reason why its called Globalization.

    Bro that saying “if you don’t like than leave”, they know that unfortunetely we can’t because we were born here and raised here we actually in reality don’t know any where else to go too.

  7. This is a good article that focuses on the realities that every expat child needs to face.

    Of course, it differs from situation to situation, but the general issue is Dubai is a great city but it might not be the best city for our generation.

    In terms of the visa, employment flexibility and eventually raising a child here, there are many issues that expats must consider and balance with their job market and skills in the industry.

  8. Yes I accepted this comments. As a father for my three kids who were been born & brouht up in Abu Dhabi, UAE, I am facing the same problem and falling under the same category. This country should recognise the children who has born in this country. Which ever nationalities they can be but in the end they were born in UAE soil. Should be proved. End of the day they are also like local, talk like, act like, behave like local , spend like and live like local. Inshallah one day they are going to help this country since they don’t know about there origin. Why this country dont come up atleast with new system for those non arabs born in this country atleast to have a second type of citizenship like Europe and America. So that they will be proud and will have hopes of there future. I am really suffering every year for there visa status. There should be easy way to process visa for those children who brought up here, schooling here and born here please.

  9. The article is bullshit. If you want to know the meaning of racism go to Europe lol 😂Dubai is 100 times better than those countries. UAE has changed life of millions of Indians but then a d**k head comes and writes this kind of crap which doesn’t make sense. No one attacks you in Dubai for being an indian no Emarati can harm an expat there is a law here which is same for everyone. No one is gonna tell you if u don’t like leave the job lol
    Stop writing crap and lying to people
    Indians who moved to Europe and Canada mostly regret few had better life but most of them are regretting

    1. “No one attacks you in Dubai for being an Indian”
      “No Emirati can harm an expat”
      “No one is gonna tell you if you don’t like leave the job”
      😂

  10. looking at the statistics and demography in the region, let me ask you a logical question:
    What is the expat population of UAE ?
    What is the combined population of India,Pakistan,Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Phillipines, Nepal,Egypt,Jordan,Lebanon,Syria and Morocco, not taking into account, rest of the world ?
    Would it be logical to conclude that there are much more people working in the above countries than the UAE ? Are they surviving and happy in these countries?
    Therefore, what is the problem ?

    1. This article discusses those born in the UAE, and as the article discusses leaving somewhere you are born is hard. Getting the statistics required to support this topic would require a complex surveying project that will definitely be illegal in the UAE.

  11. Firstly, let me wish the author of this article ‘good luck’-because he/she won’t be able to live here for much longer by writing stupid articles like these.

    Secondly, the author has made a rather rash assumption that “Since I am Indian and I am suffering from racism, every other Indian also suffers from racism in the UAE”. This is the biggest problem in this article. The generalization that the author made is invalid and hilarious. I can assure you that there are many people who haven’t faced racism and even if they have, it is to the bare minimum.

    Thirdly, if you think the UAE is racist, I have bad news for you snowflake. Places like USA, Canada, UK and many more are much, much worse when it comes to discrimination according to race. Tell me, have you ever almost gotten stabbed because of your religion here in the UAE? I don’t think so.

    Another problem with this article is the fact that this author thinks that whoever was born in the UAE is doomed now. oh how sad?! I was born here and I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and I can assure you that you can still lead a very good life if you’ve actually paid attention in high-school. I agree that there are better universities abroad but there’s no denying that UAE is a great place to live especially because of its safety. The opportunities you can get here are still pretty high.

    Another thing I would like to mention is that it’s not only the Emiratis that are getting promoted. Yes, there are cases when they do get promoted without any valid reason but are you gonna complain about it and get fired? or maybe you could actually work harder and act like a responsible worker as you should be rather than being a snowflake.

    To conclude, whatever the author has mentioned in this article does apply to people who don’t have enough chances due to certain circumstances, but to act as it happens to everyone in the UAE is stupid and the author is clearly thirsty for more clicks so he/she can buy a new phone.

    1. 1- Thanks for the good luck. I don’t live under slavery rules. I’m sorry if you do, and hope you can be free soon.
      2- The generalization can be valid even if only 20% suffer from that (and it’s the majority that do).
      3- US, UK, Canada have complex and deep laws against racism and are strictly enforced, the UAE doesn’t. Getting stabbed is related to crime levels, and is a totally different topic. There are people in UAE who have been stabbed for 50 dirhams.
      4- I never said I thought they are doomed. Heavily disadvantaged from reaching full potential for sure. And I don’t know who you are to trust your “assurances”.
      5- Equality at the workplace has nothing to do with working hard.
      6- Chance and circumstances are external variables not related to the topic. I’d love a new phone and thanks for your clicks.

  12. Well I agree to most of the contents in this article. Been living here for 38 years and don’t know to call anywhere else home except UAE. As you started, nobody chooses the place of birth but I can conclude everybody has an option to choose their life they want. Most of us endured what you are going through but this is life and every place throws it’s on challenge. We have to accept it and hustle. On the bright side every good thing you give into life it comes out in another way to us. It may not be exactly what we were waiting for but never mind . I have friends and relatives scattered all over the world. When I speak to them their lives are not exactly bed of Roses despite having the passport or equality laws. Just to enlighten you and rest of the readers about Arab or GCC culture- the hosts have a strong cultural belief in treating their guests as God. Say if you visit an Emirati household their hospitality is beyond amazing. The same is bestowed upon the large expat community by the ruling families of UAE. But what is not acceptable in their culture that the guests can’t be part of the household. It is very disrespectful to them. Hence we are all Guests in this great country who help in building the house of the hosts and in return we should try maximum to explore avenues where our imagination takes us.
    I absorbed everything you said long time ago. I leave it at peace because nobody else will bother to change yours or my life. Except us who decide on how we should move forward. That is my recipe for happiness and tolerance. I wish you all success and keep Trying. This article must have helped you let out that long compressed frustrations but don’t let it be your foundation of life. You write very well and a proven deep thinker. Thousands of undiscovered opportunities lies out there for you. Your skills will help you ❤️God bless you

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