Isabelle has been Trainer Manager for Nuxe in Dubai for two years. We interviewed her during our annual visit to Dubai aiming to meet our local partners.
Isabelle, you are a woman, and expatriate for a French company; could you share your first professional feelings?
It is essential to adapt to the local way of working, without trying to use our European standards. For instance, you won’t find here the same rigor than in France- however, Emiratis praise our rigor and our knowledge. Everything is done at the last minute, as a matter of urgency. Planning is not the local key point, so I plan, prepare, and follow-up our projects. On the other hand, Emiratis are joyful, kind, and will do everything to finish projects on time, just to please us!
Relations with people are very important. I keep a close watch having good relations with my interlocutors; I don’t hesitate to give positive feedbacks. This is unfortunately something we are not used to doing in France… Compliments are useful; insistent acknowledgements for thinks we would consider secondary are essential if you wish to create links.
It is necessary to take time and understand your new environment. This doesn’t happen immediately. For instance, I learned to accept people being late for an appointment: one hour, and even one hour and an half is absolutely normal! This is why it is better to learn and accept!
Status is important, even more than in Europe. Diplomas are praised, the name of professional positions is significant (for example “area manager” should be preferred to “sales manager”; it is more prestigious even if it covers the same responsibilities).
What would you add, as a woman?
Woman is highly respected; she gets a lot of help but should hold her position according to standards. A female “General Manager” will have to show her authority. Saleswomen are particularly sensitive to their manager’s status, especially if he is a man. However, I never had any professional problem being a woman.
What are your life feelings in Dubai after two expatriation years?
Life is very nice here, there are many activities and people are more open-minded than in Paris. There are so many different cultures that we understand each other much better, we learn from each other. In the end, we accept better differences. Personally, I belong to both French and Lebanese cultures. This helped me to make friends very fast in both communities. Both have many members in Dubai. Nevertheless, this needs efforts to reach out to others, meet people, invite at your own place, go to expats’ associations. The Alliance Française is a great network, even if, unfortunately, activities take place during working hours. I cannot participate!
Associations also propose to expats’ partners assistance in looking for job: CV advisory, speed dating; this is how you can meet the expats’ community! I also attend to some Meet Up meetings. The last one was a wine tasting, I loved it!
I found two Emirati friends I met first in Paris. They teach me the culture of their country, the importance of family, or marriage. They are around 35 years old and “should” marry, even if they are not in a hurry to get in line.
Are living conditions nice?
Housing quality is very variable. The quality of the apartments depends on each building: some of them very often have leaks, or pestilential smells coming from poorly isolated rubbish chutes. This is why it is most useful to benefit from the assistance of a specialist of the market. Prices vary a lot, and very fast! It is also advisable to look around the building, in order to avoid discovering the beginning of the construction of a building in the neighboring wasteland: this means noises 7/7, 24/24! Building never stops in Dubai!
Generally speaking, as a Westerner expatriate, I am a very lucky person. My life cannot be compared to the situation of the young women coming from the Philippines, driven by poverty at home and by the need to feed their family. They work during two to four years as cleaning ladies, nannies or saleswomen and make 2,000 to 3,000 AED (500 to 600€) per month. They live as frugally as possible, in community, and save as much money as they can in a country where everything is expensive, sending a part of their salary each month to their family. They are really very brave. I admire how serious they are; they are devoted to their boss who often exploits them and uses them above reason.
As a conclusion, do you wish to come back to France soon?
Certainly not! Actually, I do not plan to come back to France at the moment. I found my place; Dubai is a really cool city, open minded, welcoming, and cosmopolitan: I feel good here!