Living in Dubai, you may find yourself missing friends and family more than you had anticipated.
It is natural to feel intimidated when striking out on your own in a new place. You will encounter social norms that are different from yours, and this is the result of living in a multicultural environment.
Dubai is a fantastic place to broaden your horizons, but you may feel that positive relationships are hard to find in Dubai. You are not alone – many people experience feelings of isolation and anxiety when they move to Dubai, and many are just as anxious to find real friendship.
Here are seven easy tips to help you carve out some great friendships in Dubai.
Tip #1: Know Yourself
Some people are shy, and the thought of creating a new social network fills them with dread. Others are natural extroverts, and think nothing of striking up a conversation with complete strangers. Evaluate yourself in order to come up with a plan for making friends.
Many people are relative newcomers to Dubai, so it is safe to ask a person how long they’ve lived here, and what they find interesting about the place. Talk about the neighborhood you live in (Dubai is very spread out) and where you hope to travel whilst in the region.
If you are more of an extrovert, then consider that some people might be reticent about giving a lot of detailed information about themselves at first.
Take it slow and give your new acquaintance time to get to know you, so that the friendship develops naturally. In Dubai, topics to avoid at first meeting are those to do with politics and religion.
Tip #2: Join a Group
A great way to meet like-minded friends is to follow your interests and hobbies. Try joining a group where you get to learn a new skill. Here is a list of 40 meet-up groups in Dubai.
The beauty about joining a group activity is that you’ll have met someone who at least shares one of your interests, which gives you something to discuss.
There is pretty much a group for everything in Dubai, and make sure you give the group you choose more than one chance. Nobody will be able to get to know you if you only show up once and don’t speak!
If you are a woman and find yourself isolated, there are many coffee groups all around Dubai organized expatwoman.com, and these are nearly every day of the week, in nearly every Dubai neighborhood.
Tip #3: Give People a Way to Contact You
You will meet a lot of new people in Dubai, and before you know it, you’ll have many new friends and acquaintances. For women especially, it is useful to have a non-intrusive way to get to know others, without handing out your new Dubai phone number.
One suggestion is to have an email address that you can give to your new acquaintances, so that you can take your time in getting to know them.
Tip #4: Make Friends With People of Different Nationalities
Your challenge is to move out of your comfort zone and discover new people in the city you now call home. The first thing you’ll notice is that Dubai’s expat population is huge.
Over 80% of Dubai’s population is made up of non-Emiratis. However, the common thread that links most people is that English is widely spoken.
If you are open to making friends with people of different nationalities, then you’ll find that your time in Dubai will be both enjoyable and rewarding. You can see international movies in Dubai, create a language-exchange group, or just spend time learning about the lifestyle of someone with a background different than your own.
If you are interested in learning about the religion of your host country, take advantage of the “Open Doors Open Minds” program at Jumairah Mosque. It is the only mosque in Dubai that is open to the public.
Tip #5: Start Something New
The minute you move to Dubai, you’ll notice that the neighborhoods are spread out.
Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residences, and Downtown Dubai are popular areas to live, as are Mirdif and Arabian Ranches, however, heavy traffic means that you might want to stay in your neighborhood for socializing after work.
Why not start something new? A popular group activity these days is supper clubs. You don’t need a huge place to throw one – just some friends and some food inspiration. You could even have a supper club event on the beach.
Tip #6: Become an Outdoor Enthusiast
Between November and April the weather in Dubai is warm, sunny, and great for outdoor activities. Joining a cycling, running, or swimming group is a great way to meet the sort of friends who like to get out of the mall, beach, and brunch scene.
The cycling trend is taking off in Dubai, and there are many safe places to ride. Dubai Roadsters has training nights, and there is a fantastic 86km cycle-only track in al Qadra – and a new 8.4km loop at District One that offers scenic views of the Burj Khalifa.
The full list of all cycling, triathlon, and aquathon events in Dubai and the UAE is at premieronline.com.
For women’s rides, Liv Cycling UAE & GCC has a Facebook page where you can check the details of the latest rides, which usually go out twice a week.
Tip #7: Keep in Touch
You and your friends may not live in Dubai for a long time. The city’s appeal is that it offers a transient lifestyle. That being said, some of the best friends are made in Dubai, and it is worthwhile staying in touch.
Social media and postcards can suffice, and you may find yourself back living in the same city later in life.
By the same token, don’t take your Dubai friendships for granted. Choose friends that treat you well and understand that, although you are not the same as family, you are a great companion worthy of respect.