Surviving the sandpit - week 1

As most of you are probably aware by now, i've moved to Dubai to work for VMware. By now, it's been a bit over a week so i thought i might as well provide everyone back at home (or wherever you are) with an update.

Hit the ground running

While obviously I was well aware that there'd be a lot to arrange, the migration process certainly isn't going at a snail's pace. Straight out of the airport - before even clearing customs - I was able to pick up my temporary work permit at the immigration office in the wee hours of midnight, allowing me to actually enter the country and work.

After a few days of acclimatisation time (I entered the country amidst an especially humid week), the first few days of work consisted of forms, forms and more forms. The middle east sure loves their forms. While it's becoming more and more then norm to register and manage things online, it's not uncommon to send signed and stamped contracts, documents and forms - including your actual physical passport, which is still a bit of a strange sensation - back and forth with express couriers zipping accross the city on scooters delivering your forms as fast as they can. Kudos to the VMware MENA team (and Linn, a special thanks to you) who are already used to the process.

Paperwork, paperwork everywhere

Before the end of the first week i actually managed to get my medical and e-ID registration sorted, which - considering the amount of paperwork all the processes involve - is nothing short of impressive.

A non-exhaustive list of the various procedures that require paper forms in one way or another:

  • Bank registration
  • Visa registration
  • Medical exam registration
  • e-ID registration
  • Eye test for the driver's license
  • Driver's license registration
  • Salary transfer permission form

Despite all of this, the whole system seems to be built around this. Registering your e-ID and visa is literally a matter of going to the medical center, picking up your document in room 1, going to room 2 for the blood test, going to room 3 for the X-Ray, going to the next building for the e-ID registration, then back to room 1 to hand in all the forms. An entire production line of forms flying back and forth, if you will.

The same applies for the bank account. In less than 8 days after landing i've managed to get my bank account sorted, and now it's just a matter of waiting for the cheque book and debit card. It took some pushing with the bank - as payroll needs the information before the end of the second week - but everything got sorted in time. A bit of corporate "wasta"" does certainly help in speeding up these kind of things.

WhatsApp's the word

The thing i was already aware of through working for different clients here is that WhatsApp is huge. I'm not just talking "chat to friends and post random crap in WhatsApp groups", but more "official communication from the bank regarding your account". I had a relations manager from the bank introduce himself over WhatsApp because he didn't have my email address yet. It's not even considered that strange to send official documents over WhatsApp, though personally that's something that makes me a tad nervous.. In this case i'm just glad i decided to get protonmail a long while ago, as the secure email functionality is certainly paying off. The idea of sending copies of official documents over WhatsApp or unencrypted mail is probably something that i'll never really get used to.

Collect all the cultures

So even though i've had a decent amount of experience with the country, most of that was in Abu Dhabi, where cultural diversity was a given. But Dubai - compared to Abu Dhabi - has to be the one of the more interesting places when it comes to different cultures living and working alongside eachother. In the first week - besides the obvious English and Gulf Arabic - i've had people talking Hindi, , Lebanese Arabic, Italian French and even Polish just on the street and in the office. And if we're talking food, as i was too lazy to cook i've ordered some takeaway from an Uzbeki restauraunt, which should hopefully be interesting..

In any case, it's been a busy week, and most things have been sorted in a very expedite manner. The long wait is now for the e-ID, and we're going to switch into high gear again as that will finally allow me to rent a place, get my driver's license converted, and get my utilities sorted out.