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I had never moved away from home up until now. Whatever little I knew about moving to a new place was through friends who had experienced it. I used to listen to them about how difficult it was to find a place to live in, how much of your salary gets sucked into paying rent every month, how they miss home food, how complicated it is when there’s no one at home in case of emergent situations like a burst pipe or a simple one like awaiting an important delivery. But there was one thing that made it all worthwhile: having their independence. Being independent isn’t always about having freedom to be who you are and do what you want, when you want. It’s the freedom from dependency in its true sense. It is about being self-reliant. Each step you take, big or small, when you’re building a life by yourself feels like an accomplishment—a new learning experience that is incredibly gratifying. I wanted to experience that for myself.
Living with my family meant living in comfort. Even though I’d help around, my parents would do the heavy-lifting; paying the bills and managing the house overall. I truly wanted to be able to do it all on my own. And after moving to Dubai, I had the chance to learn all those things.
Finding a place
The first thing I wanted to do when I arrived was find a place to live. It was the most crucial necessity for me. Like most people about to start anew in another country, I had a vision of how my life here would be. Especially the kind of home I would live in; the way I would decorate it (it will be travel-themed of course), and how I’d buy half of the IKEA store! But in reality, I wasn’t going to get close to that vision just yet.
There were many obstacles. Some I was warned about, but didn’t pay heed to. Almost all of my friends living in Dubai suggested I consider sharing an apartment with someone initially till I find a place, and also so I save some money in the process. Great advice. But I was swept away into dreamland when I arrived.
I began searching for a place on Dubizzle.com, the go-to website to look for accommodation options. You can find an apartment to rent, a villa, a private room or even a bed space in the many areas that constitute Dubai. You can mention your budget to ensure you get results that match. I was told rents in Dubai are very high, and that they are often the biggest chunk of your spends here; other things being relatively affordable. And that’s exactly what I saw. I looked for studio apartments first because that’s what I wanted. I went to see one of the listings. Loved the place; it was fairly spacious, well-equipped with basic furnishings. However, not only was the rent quite high, the amount I was asked to pay when taking the place was really out of reach. You are typically asked to pay the first three months’ rent, a security deposit and the agency fee (if you found this place through an agent). The electricity bill and the Internet charges are separate. Seeing how I had only just arrived, I didn’t have enough to pay the asking sum. In addition, if you take on a one-year lease—which is usually the case—should you leave unexpectedly for whatever reason (like leaving your job through which you got your resident visa), you would have to pay two months’ rent as compensation. And knowing how high the rent is, it isn’t worth taking that chance. This instantly eliminated the possibility of renting a studio right away.
My second option was to rent a private room, which proved to be a huge problem. The rooms I saw were incredibly small and highly priced. Other than that there was just the option of sharing a dorm-like room with multiple people—an option I did not want to even think of. It’s a different thing staying in hostels when travelling, but living in a dorm long-term was something I wasn’t personally comfortable with. Having my own space was my priority. And after agonising over numerous options that just didn’t come close, I finally got lucky with a room that was decently spacious.
Finding a place seemed like the biggest stress point for me. Once I crossed that hurdle, I was much more at ease about living away from home. Well, until the next hurdle...