Dear Ali: I recently moved from Montreal to Dubai and have been looking for an apartment to rent. Can you please explain why I have to pay a year's worth of rent at once instead of paying monthly installments, like in other cities outside the UAE? What is the logic behind this? I don't get paid a year's salary in advance, do I? NM, Dubai
Dear NM: Congratulations on moving to the UAE and I hope you are adjusting well.
You do have a valid question, although kindly bear in mind that during the Eighties and Nineties, most government-backed companies in the UAE recruited expats and covered their accommodation expenses. Therefore, they had a separate department that dealt with employee housing. This practice continued for years and landlords felt it was only appropriate to charge a yearly rent from their tenants, since it was taken care of by their employer. Nobody had an issue with this, therefore there were no laws against this practice.
A few years ago, however, when the real estate boom started, things changed: more private companies started up in the UAE and some didn't have the same policies as governmental companies do regarding staff accommodation. Depending on whom you work for, most companies will usually agree to loan you the annual rent amount, and then deduct it from your salary every month. If you are not planning on staying here for a year, there are plenty of options to rent furnished apartments for a few months. The property section of the daily newspaper is filled with advertisements for short-term apartment rentals.
Property laws are being reformed to improve the housing situation and fairness to tenants in this country. My best advice when it comes to anything related to renting a home is get to know your landlord. Form a positive relationship so that he or she sees you as a friend who is renting, rather than as a complete stranger. By the second year of tenancy, your landlord may accept annual rent divided over two or three cheques, or even let you pay month to month.
Dear Ali: I have recently graduated with a degree in event management and am interested in working in the travel industry in the UAE. I would really appreciate any advice you have on how to go about finding a job. EM, Dublin
Dear EM: The first thing to know about working in the UAE is that the recruiting market depends primarily on relationships, and without direct connections you might be hired only via recruiting agencies. So I recommend that you get in touch with as many people as possible from a variety of businesses and learn more about events that happen locally. Start by researching the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec), the Dubai Convention Bureau, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Flash Entertainment. These are companies and organisations that always look for new talent from your field.
Of course the other good thing to do is to work with a very active and trusted headhunter that can recommend you to some of his or her contacts. So I suggest you make a few calls before sending your resume out. Even better, if you can, try to make a trip over here and check out the market for yourself. A face-to-face introduction is always the preferred way of getting a deal done successfully.
More advice, tips and cultural facts at Ask Ali.
Arabic: Chan zain
English: If only
This is a popular Emirati phrase used by adults and youngsters that indicates wishful thinking. It means "If only" or "I wish". So for example if someone asks whether you won a million dirhams, you could reply, "Chan zain".