The Honest Expat: Sid in Dubai

Today in my Honest Expat series I’m interviewing a South African, Sid Zulu, who has recently left South Africa for a job opportunity and new experiences in Dubai.

Where are you originally from?

I am originally from Durban, but have called Cape Town my hometown after living there for 7 years.

Where did you emigrate to?

I emigrated to Dubai, UAE in Dubai in May 2017. I’ve also emigrated to the UK in 2007 for two years, but returned to Cape Town.

What was the catalyst/s for your emigration decision?

It happened by a chance, I had previously applied for job a year before but it wasn’t successful. Then last year I was headhunted by the same company that I applied to the previous year and I got offered a position. I saw this as the opportunity to make a change in life and it was an easy decision to make since I am single.

How long had you thought through the emigration process?

Initially it took less then a week to process, after sending all the documents for a temporary working visa to my current employer. With the residence visa and Emirates ID (which you apply for in Dubai), it took another week to process. An Emirates ID is the equivalent of a South African ID so you won’t able to open any accounts or get a driver’s licence without it.

How easy/ complicated was the application process to emigrate and how long did it take? Did it require certain qualifications/ documentation/ finances etc?

It was fairly easy process to go through as my potential employer was handing all the paperwork, from compiling all the documents of the temporary working visa to applying for the residence visa and Emirates ID. Even during medical exemption for the Residence Visa, my employer’s government representative was there to assist me in order to avoid long lines etc. Normally this process could take a day. I was even assisted with setting up my bank account and my first accommodation!

What was your first year like after emigrating?

I’m nearly onto my tenth month here and I can say it’s be both an adventure and a challenge. My first three months were certainly challenging, as I had no close friends to have a quick chat with over coffee and my family is now even further away than before. There was also a bit of a culture shock to deal with even though Dubai is an international city. And the heat over summer is insane. Luckily there is aircon everywhere. Winters are so good in Dubai, especially outdoors, as there are amazing festivals and you can enjoying running without being soaking wet from sweating in minutes.

What have you loved about your new home?

One of my favourite moments is meeting and interacting people from various cultures.

Easy access to public transport from metro to cabs is also great.

It’s always clean and there is hardly any litter. The safety and security is pretty good.

The exciting thing is being much closer to all travel destinations. I’ve also been able to focus on my illustration skills more and they have greatly improved since I have arrived here.

What have you found hard about your new home?

I do miss my family being nearby and friends spontaneously popping in. I’ve found it hard not being being familiar with the local culture.

What have you NOT missed about South Africa?

I haven’t missed crime, it’s always a shock if anything like that happens here. There is no constant fear of being robbed or making sure your surrounding are safe. I feel at ease when I go anywhere. The poor public transport, constant delayed trains or the minibus taxi queue!

What have you missed about South Africa?

I have missed the outdoors, doing summer runs, forests walks and mountains hikes in summer or winter.

Getting inspired by views of the sea and mountain when I was living in Cape Town.

Street side restaurants and cafes. And the art scene.

Knowing what you know now – would you emigrate again? To the same place or to a different place?

To be honest, I am likely. I feel like I am in transit at the moment and I’m not sure where my life will take me. As I am single I think it’s easy for me to make decisions to move spontaneously .

If you could, would you return to South Africa? What would make you consider returning to South Africa?

Yes. If there is a good opportunity to grow within my career and earn a livable wage.

What makes it hard to return to South Africa – for you and your children?

I’ve built up a good home base for myself living by a canal with peaceful neighbours and I feel safe wherever I go so there’s no daily stress about safety. To be able to use safe and reliable public transport is a win . My career is also in an interesting time and although it’s busy, it has also been a fruitful time.

What were the unexpected (good and bad) aspects of emigrating that you’d wished you’d known about before going. Do you have any advice for those contemplating making this huge move for their families? 

I would advise people to not make the same mistake I did when I moved to Dubai within a month after I go a job offer.

The packing, selling car and cancelling all the accounts within one month was so stressful. I didn’t recover properly for three months!

I would recommend doing a lots of research about any country you are considering moving to, either word of mouth or by reading blogs etc.

Look into what the local culture is and what experiences expats living there have. Double check all the documents that are required in order for you to move there.

If you considering moving to Dubai, make sure you look at the areas you choose to live in based on the transport route. Also research what the required documents, fees and accounts to open are. That will be your biggest expense in Dubai.

Also no one mentions that in Dubai, depending on what job you do, you won’t able to save that much in your first year!


Thanks so much Sid for sharing your expat story!



If you enjoyed this interview with a South African expat be sure to read the other interviews with South African expats in The Honest Expat series.


If you are (or have been) a South African expat and are prepared to share your story please drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you!

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

  1. Hi Kathryn

    Good article. Moving abroad is not easy. I believe quite a few people try to leave the heat in Dubai and the Emirates in the very hot summer. We have 2 1 bedroom cottages at our home in Cape Town and we travel to Europe in the summer to escape the winter. I wondered if you can suggest any expat groups where we can advertise our cottages and 2 bedroom house in case anyone is looking for a lovely spot in the Cape this winter?



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