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Relocating Overseas with Katie Read

Katie Read will be well known to many AXIS members having previously been Vice Chair and involved in the AXIS Network from its inception. 

We posed a number of questions to 32 year old Katie about her recent relocation to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.  Before her transfer, Katie had been in Aberdeen for 10 years working as a Drilling Engineer with Lloyd’s Register.  

Q:  Firstly, how did the relocation come about?

It came about, unfortunately, due to a last minute let down. I originally was set to go and work in Senegal on a month and month rotation but unfortunately 10 days before I was supposed to fly to my first rotation the client changed the resourcing requirements for the project, so I was left without a project and with the flat I own packed up as I had planned to rent it out whilst I was away.

What followed was a turbulent couple of weeks while I tried to adjust the plans that I had made and get my head back around staying in Aberdeen.  However, luckily for me, the Regional Wells Manager in the UAE had a resourcing requirement for the Dubai office and I had already put in motion a lot of what was required in order to relocate.  So I jumped at the chance to take an adventure and a new challenge when he offered for me to move to the region and work in Dubai.  Really, I have to thank that one person for making my relocation happen and for fighting my corner throughout the process.  It really is the adage saying that as one door closes another opens and what is for you won’t go past you and all such wise words. At the time of being told that I wasn’t going to Senegal it was hard to see that but hindsight is a wonderful thing and now sitting in Dubai, I’m glad that the resourcing requirements were changed for that project.

Q: How does your new role differ from the one you had previously?

The role itself isn’t too dissimilar. The difference is the companies that are clients in the UAE are different to the clients I am used to in the UK; culturally the way that business is conducted in the region is different and there is more of a focus on land drilling as opposed to offshore operations.  What it does offer me is a chance to experience and learn through international operations and gives my C.V. some more diversity in a global industry.

Q: How does the working environment and business culture in Dubai compare with what you were used to in Aberdeen?

Well to begin with the working week is different; in the UAE it is Sunday to Thursday.  I have managed to get my head around having Fridays off but working on a Sunday still throws me every week.

Currently it is Ramadan so there are strict rules with regards to drinking and eating in public, which also applies to the office environment. I go to the closed off kitchen area to consume any food or water, it’s just culturally different from home.

Q: How easy has the relocation process been?

I would say the relocation process wasn’t smooth.  I had to deal with a lot of internal obstacles although these may well just relate to the company I work for as other companies may have different systems.  There was a lot of frustration with the process of getting all the paper work for the UAE for my working Visa and residency. It took a couple of months to have everything and a delay in getting residence and my Emirates ID card meant a delay in being able to secure housing out here.  I would say that anyone moving to the UAE should expect a few months of getting everything in place but again maybe other companies have a better system so it won’t take as long.

As for settling in out here, that has been the easy part. I was lucky as I already knew people that lived out here and they have been a great help in making sure that I navigated all the different departments to get set up in Dubai as well as showing me the reasons why life in Dubai is a change for the better.

Q: How are you finding living in Dubai?

Initially it felt very much like I was on holiday but had to go to work every day, as I was living in a hotel and having to eat out every night plus the warm weather helped.  Now I have my own villa it’s starting to feel more like home and I’m able to get into more of a normal routine.  The weather out here is great but it is starting to get to the point where it is really hot. I have been told that in high summer it’s like stepping into an oven when you head outside and you need to lunge from an aircon house/office to an aircon car and back again.  Alcohol and food are expensive but the quality is very good. There appears to be a different ladies’ night on somewhere in town every night where ladies get at least three free drinks if not unlimited and discount on food so it doesn’t have to be so expensive.  Shopping wise there is pretty much any UK retail shop you can name out here, so that helps make it feel a little like home. The supermarkets also stock a lot of brands from back home but you obviously pay more for these. 

Q: What aspects of working and living in Dubai have surprised you so far?

The traffic and driving - The traffic in Dubai is always busy and you take your life in your hands when you drive out here. There are some crazy drivers that swerve in and out of traffic. I am surprised there aren’t more accidents. It definitely takes some getting used too.

How safe the country is - There is virtually no crime here and I feel incredibly safe even at night.

How friendly and helpful everyone is - everyone so far has genuinely wanted to help. 

Q: What do you wish you had known beforehand? What advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

  • Don’t expect things to happen quickly, especially if it is Ramadan.

  • Stay calm when driving.

  • Find someone who lives here already that can guide you and help you through the different processes.

  • Someone brought me the Residence guide to Dubai book and it has some really good info in there too.

  • Spend time to find the right place to live and don’t expect it to be like back home. The maintenance and workmanship on properties in Dubai can be wanting.

  • Have some savings ready for when you first move out as everyone wants a deposit and your rent in Dubai is paid up front sometimes for the whole year. You can get more cheques but it means you will end up paying more.

  • Credit cards are not protected in Dubai so if someone uses your card fraudulently you have to pay for it.

  • Bank transfers are not common; here everyone loves a cheque.

  • Bouncing a cheque and being in debit is a big no here and can land you in jail.

  • Wait for the sales to buy things; they have big sales at certain times of the year.

  • Enjoy yourself: experience things, try new things.  Dubai has 1001 things to do.

Here is a quick summary of my pros and cons of living in Dubai so far:


Tax free

Very diverse place and accepting

Good location for exploring the rest of this region. Short hop flights to lots of places.

Liberal but strict – Dubai is becoming more liberal with its views as it is influenced more by the West

Amazing sites – Burj Khalifa, Grand Mosque, Burj Al Arab to name just a few

Top restaurants

Outside living most of the year.


Very hot in the summer

Crazy driving

Traffic – lots of it

Noisy construction everywhere


Outside living most of the year.


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