20 Signs You’ve Been in Dubai for Too Long

20 Signs You've Been in Dubai for Too Long

Last Updated on February 3, 2021 by Natasha Amar

This one’s for those who grew up in Dubai or those who came and loved it so much that they made Dubai their home, thanks to year-round sunshine, its great cosmopolitan vibe and skyscraper views, and more.

20 Signs You’ve Been in Dubai for Too Long

You’ve attended more than a few Diwali, Christmas and Eid celebrations at a friend’s house.

You’ve been part of a traditional Diwali pooja, enjoyed a home-cooked Christmas dinner and relished spicy lamb biryani while attending an Eid celebration because your social circles (from work, University or Zumba class) comprise of people from all over the world. You now know at least a few words each of Hindi, Tagalog, Arabic, French and Spanish.

You know that ‘Habibi’ can mean many things.

You’re not one to be fooled by Habibi that literally translates to ‘my dear’ but can be used to mean different things.

Habibi, where were you? I missed you yesterday.

Habibi, you do not understand what I’m trying to explain to you for the last hour.

Habibi, do you think I am stupid?

Habibi, please shut up.

When getting outdoors in summer means walking to the Al Maya Lals supermarket just around the corner.

It’s as far as you’re willing to go in temperatures over 40°C and that’s only because their only delivery guy went home early.

Your idea of relaxation involves blowing rings of smoke in the air.

All the time you’ve spent hanging out over shisha and Moroccan tea at Reem Al Bawadi with your friends means that you’re now a self-proclaimed king/queen of smoke circles.

Bling does not dazzle you anymore.

How can it when you’ve seen things like a gold Lamborghini or a diamond-studded Rolls Royce Phantom? In the land of the Burj Khalifa, nothing is ever too over-the-top.

You actually know what Sheikh Zayed Road looked like before all the skyscrapers.

You’re secretly hiding a photograph of it from back when the World Trade Center was the only major building and you know that people would pay big bucks to see it at an exhibition.

You wouldn’t think of wearing a sweatshirt to the mall.

Because seriously, have you looked at the crowd in Dubai Mall? You’d get a severe complex just looking at the impeccably dressed retail staff in Sephora.

You’ve stopped trying to make it anywhere on time.

Why stress when you can blame it on the slow rush-hour traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road? You couldn’t reach that meeting on time even if you tried. And in case you live in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, you might as well throw your watch away or if it’s expensive, try to sell it on Souq.com.

You’re a pro at giving death stares to potential taxi thieves.

In a city with a low taxi-to-people ratio, you’ve dealt with enough sneaky guys who slyly begin to brisk walk to get a few steps ahead of you as soon as a taxi pulls into the lane. Now, they can sense from a mile away that they better not mess with you. Alternatively, you could call a taxi through the RTA or Careem but where’s the fun in that.

You’re met with a confused look when you say you’re ‘from Dubai’.

Maybe you were born here or moved to Dubai and never left, unlike most expats who leave in a couple of years. Either way, you know you belong more here than in a country you haven’t lived in for a long time. At your new job, every time you introduce yourself as ‘from Dubai’, your colleagues ask, “No, but where are you from?”

November makes you happy. And it’s not just the temperatures.

Your running crew reunites for night runs on Jumeirah Beach or around Downtown Dubai after the long summer months. Nights of dancing away at Sandance Beach on the Palm Jumeirah are back. Al fresco brunches on the Marina Walk are fashionable again. And Christmas is just around the corner! What’s not to celebrate?

You have a go-to Middle Eastern restaurant bookmarked in every neighborhood.

In Deira? Go to Aroos Damascus. In Satwa, stop by Al Malla. In Karama, pick up a manakeesh from Al Reef. Thinking of shawarma? Why, Automatic in Jumeirah is just five minutes away!

The slightest drizzle becomes the topic of excited discussion.

It rained for all of ten minutes. And you slept right through it. Yet, when you wake up, your friends and you can’t stop talking about it and your phone is bombarded with Whatsapp images of shiny wet streets everywhere from Al Nahda to Satwa.

Your workout regimen changes every single week.

Zumba, Pilates, Kickboxing, Hot Yoga, HIIT, Running, and Jazz-ercise, there are way too many options at the neighborhood Fitness First and you find yourself both confused and entertained.

You find yourself picking cold countries to go to on vacation.

You could really use some snow (you don’t remember when you last saw it and Ski Dubai does not count). And rain. Bring on the umbrellas, scarves, jackets and beanies, you’re going to Georgia for a ski vacation.

Your fridge has tomatoes from Holland, avocados from Kenya, and oranges from South Africa.

And it doesn’t ever bother you anymore that a trip to Waitrose or Spinneys is always more expensive than expected. At least your smoothies are truly international.

You’re home as soon as you land at Dubai Airport.

You might have enjoyed a month of skiing in the Swiss Alps or partying in Ibiza, but nothing beats the feeling of home when you swipe your E-Gate pass at the Passport Control terminal and walk through, leaving behind long queues of tourists. Marhaba indeed!

You can name at least five new restaurants you’d like to try.

And if I ask you next week, you’ll have added another five to the list. You can’t help it, there are way too many amazing and award-winning restaurants opening up in Dubai every other day.

You always know when there’s an important India-Pakistan cricket match taking place.

You don’t watch cricket, you’re neither Indian nor Pakistani and the match isn’t even at the Dubai Cricket Stadium. But you have colleagues from both countries who’ve been taking digs at each other for days in the build up to this all-important life-event. On match day, they don’t even acknowledge each other’s existence, their eyes glued to their computers as they pretend to work when they’re really following minute-by-minute match updates.

You know better than to drive to Dubai Mall on a Friday evening.

You’d rather watch re-runs of Desperate Housewives on Dubai One than spend hours on Sheikh Zayed Road getting into and finding a parking spot in Dubai Mall, only to be jostled by the thousands of people who make it to their sole mission to visit on a Friday.

Additional Reading

UAE Travel Blog

The Best Time to Visit Dubai

Where To Stay in Dubai: The Dubai Hotel Accommodation Guide for Every Budget

What to Wear in Dubai: The Ultimate Guide

Best Places to Visit in Dubai for Cheap & Free

Should You Rent a Car on your Dubai Vacation?

13 Countries to Visit From Dubai On Your Holiday

Stay at the Only Wildlife Safari Resort in the UAE

20 Signs I’ve Been in Dubai Too Long

A Guide to the Holy Month of Ramadan

Dubai Through the Eyes of an Old-Timer

Almost Wonderland at Dubai Miracle Garden

Visiting Dubai? Check out my tips for what to wear in Dubaitravel to Dubai on a budget, or see the Burj Khalifa through the eyes of an old-timer. For general tips, check out my UAE Travel Blog.



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  1. says: Syeda Hasan

    Having lived in the UAE for 8 years, I can totally relate to almost all of these points! Especially the drizzle one! When it rains, everybody gets so excited like it’s the single most amazing thing they’ve seen in their entire life, but then again, what can you expect from a desert land! But I tend to get suspicious because I heard that if it hasn’t rained for a long time, then they’re forced to create artificial rain. Also, THANK YOU for acknowledging Dubai Mall dressing. Whenever I go, I always have this fear that if I don’t wear a fancy outfit with heels, then I won’t fit in with the crowd, and I guess almost everyone follows that because I don’t think I’ve seen anyone dressed in their PJs yet.

  2. Awesome post, Natasha! Very inspiring…I’m almost done packing my bags after reading your article. I’m sure my sister is going to love it too! Cheers and thanks for sharing.

  3. says: Mar Pages

    Loved this! It was humorously written but had many local tips and warnings hidden in them! Now that I know of taxi thieves, they don’t stand a chance.

  4. says: Megan

    A fun post. Would love to visit there some day. Fun to hear what it’s like living there. The death stares to taxi thieves is a great one.

  5. Now this is an insightful post! It’s great to learn more about stuff like this. I personally have a ton of cousins living in Dubai and some of your points are things that I hear from them as well :))

  6. says: Jenna

    Too funny–life in Dubai sounds like quite an adventure! Would be fun to visit sometime! I can understand the not going outside in the summer–we did the same during the Florida summers, but I know they aren’t even close to as hot as the weather in Dubai!

  7. says: Jackie

    Haven’t visited Dubai, but love hearing the local perspective! It sounds like you’ve mastered all the city norms. NYC is the same…there are some very particular dos and don’ts!