Pinoy Life in Dubai

Burj Khalifa covered with SMOG
Dubai photo
Photo by M.A.J Photography

Shock. Feeling inferior.

Those are the first negative feelings I felt during my first few months in Dubai. I am a registered nurse in the Philippines. I have two years experience in our city’s government health institution. I could say that I am a happy-go-lucky person. I don’t entertain problems. I treat them as challenges. My friends kept on asking me why I came to Dubai. They were telling me that I don’t need to. Our family has a 24 year old business already in the Philippines. I could be helping them grow the business. But there is something inside of me that keeps telling me to “go”. The reason? Well, personal reasons. I was running away from an old romance. Enough. Move on. 🙂

I was 25 years old when I decided to come to Dubai. I told myself I will be a nurse in Dubai but due to lack of preparation, I came unprepared. I don’t have a DHA license for me to practice my profession here in the UAE. But still, I kept applying to big hospitals hoping they would consider me to have them in their team and later on acquire my DHA license. I even got a salary offer of 12,000 AED as a Delivery Nurse in Abu Dhabi. But things turned out pretty bad. I admit. I came unprepared. I didn’t even authenticate my documents or the so-called “RED RIBBON”. It was a battle for me.

I have no choice but to get other jobs. I applied in Event Management. I applied in Sales. I applied in Government sectors. I also applied in Gulf News to be a feature writer. But I wasn’t lucky to find a good job with a good salary in that case. They would offer me 1,500 AED and worse — a salary as low as 1,000 AED. What was that all about? Is it because of my nationality? Hmm. I’ll have to find that one out.

When the time came that my 1 month visa is near expiration, I cried. I cried so hard. I called my mother in the Philippines. I called my cousin to find me a work. I asked her if she has contacts here in the UAE. She was working before here in the UAE for 7 years — that’s why. I kept crying until there was no more tears to shed. A day after my dramatic moment– I got a call from an Indian guy based on his accent. I was scheduled for an interview. At first I was hesitant to come to the interview because they were telling me to meet them at Starbucks in Burjuman. But, I have to take a risk. How will I know if I won’t go? To make the story short, I went there and it turned out pretty good. After an hour of going home from that interview, I received a message from my “employer” that I was hired to be an Office Administrator.

From hospitals to corporate world– what a turn over. Life is a ferris wheel. Indeed. But that is okay for me. I was a National Champion in Literary Feature Writing in the Philippines. I can be in front of the computer. I could write. I have a good command of English. I could not be mistaken as a Pinoy with my American accent. I was an asset to my company.  I think I’ll just simply be an “office woman” but not. They say Filipinos here are jack of all trades. You do things that are not included in your scope of work. Pero wala silang reklamo na maririnig sa atin. Innate na kasi sa atin ang pagiging matulungin at matiisin. (Hoping for a salary increase this year! Ahaha)

Months have passed and living in Dubai is somewhat different from what I have lived in the Philippines made me realize that life is meant to be appreciated. I am spending what I just need to spend. You cannot spend half of your monthly income in just one blink of an eye or else you’ll end up with nothing. In short, I knew the value of money. I don’t value money so much but I know how to be thrifty which is not in my “personality” before.

Every time I go to malls, I always keep in mind of my “times twelve rule.” Conversion. I admit I still do convert until now. In that way, I could save my money! Hahaha!

So, my question is… Is it because of our nationality that Filipinos are not being paid well in the UAE? How do they look at us? Well, I now know the answer and I think only Kabayans who are here in the UAE can testify to the answer to my question. Mind boggling. Good thing: Kabayans are hospitable and has a fun-loving persona according to my Indian friend. Mabuti na lang at bumawi si kabayan sa pagiging masayahin at positibo.

I am still new here. I am almost on my first year here in Dubai. Loving the place and the independence Dubai has given me. I know I have lots of things to experience and I am open to those things that might have to change my perception about that one question in my mind.


  1. Thanks for this blog. Now I could say, I am decided. No more doubts to say Hello UAE by 2017.. May God allow me to do so.. 🙂

  2. Hi I am a single mother 38 graduate of bshrm currently subject matter expert in a call center here in Manila .I have a competitive salary here but my eldest is graduating in highschool and I need to help my ex husband pay our kids education. I never thought of going overseas before until I have met up with a grade school mate last December . He is working in Dubai as a lifeguard for more thab 14 years now. He urge me to apply for a job in Dubai and said there are lots of opportunities.I am just anxious coz at my age, Iam not sure if , I will land a job there .I am browsing online sending my resumes so God help me.

  3. I admire your courage but I think you have to know yourself more. If going abroad is your means to moving on from a breakup, then you made it doubly hard by trying to adapt to a new culture, new work and new acquaintances while at the same time unavoidably crying or deeply thinking about what happened between you and your ex. You were just a couple of years practising nursing when you went there and yet, with rashness of the youth, you insist to land on a well- paying job even if you don’t have the proper papers/ documents. You’re a greenhorn compared to the loads of nurses who go there equipped with their colorful professional experience from years of working. You think you can conquer the world…well, perhaps, but not yet. Pray what God wants from your life. Invest on yourself by educating yourself with proper languages used in your place of work and get the skills necessary to standout in whatever work you want to do. Why will they pay you much if what you’re doing is no different from the others? But get to know yourself and know who you really are so you no longer be shock nor feel inferior to anyone…ever!!! – tinarx

  4. I am an Indian national, ethnically Nepali. Dubai suffers from racism, not extreme but enough to ensure that salaries are defined by the nationality and not the capability/experience. Are all companies/organisations like this? No they aren’t. The Majority, overwhelmingly is. I have a lot of kabayan friends, my girlfriend is pinoy. I think Pinoys face the brunt of the racist mentality of the people here. I dont even want to mention the harassment pinoy women go through, its sickening.

    But, I like to think that the things are getting better. New businesses are increasingly understanding the fact that talent and effectiveness have nothing to do with nationality.

    Keep strong friends.

  5. I come from the Philippines, too. I moved to Dubai in 2008 and I have since been grateful for all the blessing and opportunities that have landed into my hands. Perhaps it is also worth mentioning that I did not finish my studies and until now do not have a bachelors degree but I have had the opportunity to work for 4 years in semi-government companies (3 yrs in a financial sector and 1 yr in a hospitality/development sector) and presently work with the largest local law firm across the GCC as a team leader to 5 legal assistants and simultaneously a legal assistant myself to a partner,senior associate and associate. I appreciate that the salaries offered to those who come from the Phils are in some cases less compared to other nationalities even though you have the same position, qualifications and experience but that is something I have learned to accept. I don’t dwell about it, rather I take it as a challenge to do better and prove my capabilities. I am confident that I can create my own success story regarless of what nationality I hold. I guess what you failed to acknowledge are: you have no relevant experience in the GCC to support your application and success does not come at first hand. Everyone starts from the bottom and walks up to the ladder one step at a time, that requires time. How much time, that is a question for you as it is in your hands. Your abilities, skills and passion to grow will set the time. Dubai, its people and the opportunities it offers have been great to me and could be to you, too. Keep trying. Don’t let yourself down. Work more than question. #iloveDubai

  6. I was not going to comment on it, but when you called attention to the fact that you were a national feature writing champion – in both the article and in your bio – it magnified your writing errors all the more. Try to not point out the award too much and just let your writing speak for itself. This one screams dull and amateurish.

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