I REFER to “15% income tax rate ‘not a game changer’” (The Star, April 16).
The 15% income tax rate for returning expats will only attract those whose contract overseas have expired or are about to retire. It is unlikely to bring many home as it is not a big incentive.
Furthermore, only those meeting the minimum requirements of stay overseas qualify: two years for a PhD holder, four for a Masters holder, six for a first degree holder and 10 for a diploma holder.
And even if they meet the requirements, they may not want to return as they will lose too much.
A returning expat Malaysian who earns, say, RM10,000 a month equivalent overseas – like in the Middle East, where there is no tax – will immediately take home 26% less, being 15% tax and 11% EPF deduction.
And he or she will have to fork out for accommodation, utilities and schooling, which are paid for by the employer overseas. Which means those returning can expect to take a pay cut of at least 30% to 40%. And those coming back may not want to continue working as they would already have plenty to retire on.
Two years, that’s it. I’ll be gone after that. How often have you heard this refrain or thought in such terms?
Often enough, it turns out, for us to track down residents — from a mix of nationalities — who have been in the UAE long after the date that they had stamped on their lives to leave.
What made them stay, especially when they had such specific plans? The answer lies in the way the world is changing or, perhaps, not changing.
Home is where the heart is. Today, people seem to be crossing oceans and continents with ease; adaptability has become second nature, so the heart is finding new homes, places, people and friends that become their own.
A psychiatrist has explained it as “global nomadism’’. We call it the expatriate syndrome. We spoke to 16 individuals to know what had stopped them from leaving. Here’s what they had to say...
Developed work environment
Having worked in Jordan for 15 years, I came to the UAE for one year on employment in the contracts and procurement sector. But the company shut down and I had to go back. However, I decided that I had had enough of the working environment in Jordan. So, I came back to the UAE in 2002.
The reason I stayed on is because I enjoy the challenges my work presents. There is never a dull moment. I also appreciate the size of the projects I handle — the smallest of which is no less than 10 times bigger than any huge project I would have dealt with back home. Now my life and that of my wife and three children is based around the UAE and its various institutions. I have been here for 10 years.
The love of Salsa
I’ve been here since I was 14 years old. I came with my family. I went to school and university here and got attached to the UAE. It’s home for me even though my family is in Belgium.
I’ve been here for so long and started many projects after graduating, including salsa. I started dancing eight years ago, performing professionally in 2007 and now with my dancing partner we teach and create teams. That’s a project that keeps me going in Dubai, especially with the wide variety of people we meet. I am so passionate about it. I am only connected with my home country with a passport. Everything for me is in Dubai!Alex de Smet
It is all about the job
I moved here 11 years ago and expected to stay for two to three years and then go back home. I postponed my return when I found my current job as an office manager eight years ago, which I love and find very interesting.
I work in a project management company that worked on the most interesting landmarks in the UAE — Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Emirates Towers, Emirates Palace, to name a few. I love the sunny days and the multicultural spirit of the UAE. I could imagine my future here, but everything depends on having work and the fact that my experience will be of value to my employer.
Good quality of life
I arrived in December 1998, so I’ve really seen the UAE grow. At the beginning I knew I wanted to stay in Dubai. It is a good place for me and my wife.
Now I’ve been here for almost 13 years, and I expect to stay for 10 more. The place offers a good quality of life, and I will probably stay here until I retire. I go home to France every year, but I prefer to work in Dubai.
It works to my advantage
My parents brought me to the UAE a year after I was born. I’ve been here for 29 years. I never thought that this would be my home and had always thought about leaving the UAE one day and moving on in life. But the thing is that I do not think I will be able to.
It is so easy to live here because everything that I need is available. I do not have to pay taxes, the telephone rates and petrol are cheap, services are fast, and I feel safe here. I got used to this kind of lifestyle. I work as a master of ceremonies and started my own events company, so I do not see myself leaving the UAE any time soon.
The sun and security
In 2002 a colleague asked me to replace him at a hospital in Al Ain in the paediatrics division for two-and-a-half months. In October 2003, I moved here permanently. It has been eight years now, and I don’t know how long I’ll stay.
My family is spread across the world, so I’m free to make my own plans. The UAE has a high level of safety, which is a great thing when you come from a country like South Africa. And now I’m used to the climate. If I go to any place under 25C I feel cold.
Dr Gabriel Ionescu
Time flew by
I arrived in the UAE on November 11, 1976 to work in Sharjah. I was destined for a project in Peru due to my language capabilities, but it never happened. And, like several colleagues, I hoped for a maximum four-year contract and then I would leave and settle in the UK. However, the job, the lifestyle, the people and the payment package I was receiving, all combined to make me stay.
Now, 34 years later, I love every moment. I have so many beautiful memories, a rewarding and satisfying job at an auctioneering business, super people to deal with and lots of laughs. How fast a six-day work week has made it [life] go by!
The luxury of living
I am still here after 10 years as I won’t be able to live anywhere else because of the high quality of living the UAE offers. From roads to malls and hotels, everything is luxurious comparable to other Arab countries.
Also I have to highlight the respect, security and safety I have in this country as an individual. I work in the environment sector. Of course, the UAE offers me, as a young man, tremendous opportunities career-wise, and high job security in a stable, sound economy.
Feels like home
I came to Dubai from Iran in 1977, with my parents, and I remember that my father spoke very highly of Shaikh Rashid and that Dubai was very advanced even then. I was 14 years old. Our plan was to stay a few years and go back to Iran, but after 33 years I still live here.
I met my husband when I got my high school diploma. We moved to the US for education and came back for good in 1993. Through my marriage I got UAE citizenship. After so many years here I can truly say that I love this as my home country.
This has become my home
I am 32 years old and have been in the UAE for almost 16 years now. I first came to Dubai in 1995 for just 37 days. The standard of living back in Mumbai, India, never seemed satisfactory after my UAE visit. So, I took the risk and chose to work here rather than stay home and complete my studies.
Wanting to be an artist, I found joy in henna designing. I now have a salon of my own in the UAE and I definitely feel that my profession has a better future in this country. I never expected that I would go this far in life and stay for this long and now this is home to me.
Many good things happened
At first I thought I would only stay in Abu Dhabi for five years. Based on my computation, I could save the amount needed to start up a small business back home in the Philippines. Lots of things have happened since; my children have grown, I have had a career advancement, and my salary has been raised.
I have already spent 16 fruitful years as an event administrator in the UAE. Now I do not know when to stop. I do not know when I will finally be able to say ‘it is over’.
Not planning to move
When my family and I arrived in Dubai in 2002, we had a two-year plan in mind. I had a mandate to turn around a stagnating interior design family business. If I was successful then we would stay.
Nine years later we are still here and though there have been ups and down, our company is thriving. Dubai certainly has its positives and negatives but at this point we have no plans to move and will be here as long as they will have us.
Rick J. Advano
The warmth has made it home
I got married, and came to the UAE in 1996 from Pakistan having this feeling in my heart that we would only stay for a couple of years and then go back. It was the warmth of Dubai that made year after year pass by, making it our second home. I am truly thankful to this city that gave me a tremendous amount of confidence, adding financial stability and better future prospects for me and my family. I thank the UAE for a wonderful 15 years.
Plenty of opportunities
I came to the UAE on New Year’s Day of 2004. I was posted here by my Singapore office that looks at exhibitions to manage their office here. I thought maybe after three years I would go back to Singapore to be with my family.
I resigned from the company after two years and decided that there were still lots of interesting opportunities in Dubai. So I decided to stay on and have been here for seven years and three months. I still feel there are a lot of opportunities in the future.
Short-term plans extended indefinitely
I first came to the UAE in March 1990 to take up a new job with an engineering consultancy company. My wife moved here with me and the plan was to only stay for two years and then we would go back to Sri Lanka. I decided to stay because there were more opportunities here and the work was demanding, challenging and financially more beneficial then any job I would have had at home.
I didn’t mean to stay for a long time, but now more than two decades have passed, and I am still here. We like it here, and I have no plans to leave at the moment, at least not until my retirement.
Built a high-profile career
I came to the UAE to complete my university education. But on the eve of graduation, I realised that I had built a big network of friends, a network I won’t find anywhere, and it just felt like the UAE was my home. I could not leave.
Also, weighing my options in the IT industry back then, I found that the country had the most competitive and mature market compared to Syria or Saudi Arabia. It’s an emerging market, rapidly growing, giving me the opportunity to grow and build a high-profile career. So, I’ve been here for 10 years now.
As told to Mohammad Jihad, Community Web Editor, Heather Madore, Community Solutions Editor, Sara Shurafa, Social Media Editor and Cecilie Kallestrup, Community Journalist