The Minimalism Game in Preparation for the New Year

I am not sure where 2017 has gone, but then again, the last 4 years have been a blur. In Abu Dhabi it seems that one summer blends into the next and time just flies by you. And so we find ourselves on the 1st December, 2017. 2018 is right there ahead of us, with all the hopes and worries that new years may bring with them. For us, I think 2018 will be a year of big change. Much needed change. And with that looming ahead, and having spent the last week in simpler living conditions in India, I feel the growing urge to simplify life  further and to eliminate unnecessary items from our lives. Continue reading “The Minimalism Game in Preparation for the New Year”

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Abu Dhabi & Dubai – There is always something on!

There’s always something happening in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and although you could always spend a fortune on the luxuries of life, there are in fact a lot of activities available for free. Two free events that we enjoy going to every year are certain exhibitions held at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center), which always display some weird and wonderful things, and the Red Bull sports events.  Continue reading “Abu Dhabi & Dubai – There is always something on!”

Like to travel? Check out the Etihad Guest Frequent Flyer Program

We travel quite frequently, especially since we moved to the UAE. Abu Dhabi (as well as Dubai) is a hub for international flights, and a lot of expats who live in the UAE make good use of this fact to ‘decompress’ in a different country every three months or so. Also, we are lucky to have a lot of public and religious holidays, that allow for several long week(end)s throughout the year 🙂  Continue reading “Like to travel? Check out the Etihad Guest Frequent Flyer Program”

Alcohol in the UAE? Get a Liquor Licence.

Buying alcohol in the UAE? No problem.

Most of our friends abroad think that living in the UAE means that alcohol is as rare as a tropical rainstorm over here, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Just ask anyone who has been to a brunch in Abu Dhabi or Dubai before…. There are numerous off-licence shops around Abu Dhabi and bars, nightclubs and restaurants located within hotel complexes sell alcohol.

Here are some key things to consider, if you want to purchase alcohol in Abu Dhabi:

  • Alcohol may only be purchased by Non-Muslims who are over 21.
  • You should not be seen drinking or acting drunk in public. Penalties can be severe, including jail, fines, and deportation. Zero tolerance.
  • Do not drive after drinking any alcohol. Zero tolerance. If a police officer believes that you have had alcohol prior to driving, you will be charged as such. No “but I only had one a few hours ago” will get you out of jail. Literally. Again, penalties are severe.
  • If you are a tourist, holding a tourist visa, you may drink alcohol in your hotel bars and restaurants. You may not purchase alcohol from off-licence stores.
  • If you are a resident, holding a resident visa, you have to hold a valid liquor licence in order to drink in hotel bars and restaurants, and to purchase alcohol in an off-licence.
  • Note that restaurants located outside of hotel complexes are generally not licensed.

Warning: Each Emirate has ist own liquor licence and variations of this law. Sharjah, for example, does not permit any alcohol at all! If you plan to travel around, do your reading!

If you reside in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, you can apply for a liquor licence at the Special Licence Office online. You need the following documents (see full length pdf for more detail: liquor-licence-requirements):

  • digital passport picture
  • scanned copy of your Emirates ID
  • scanned copy of your Passport front page and visa page
  • salary certificate addressed to the Special Licence office (min. salary AED 2501) or other proof of income.

Go to www.auhsl.ae, register, and upload all of the above documents. After a few months (yes, months!) you will receive your license at your selected location.

Bottoms up! 

 

 

 

WARNING: Expat Pension Schemes & Life Insurances – Beware of the hidden costs!

In the past I wrote about our experience with financial advisers, and the pension schemes and life insurances of large insurance companies that they sell to expats (Standard Life, Zurich, Generali, etc). If you live in the UAE, ask around – most expats fall into the trap of investing into at least one of these products. So did we. (Un)fortunately, after 3.5 years, we have finally come across a book that answered all the questions our financial adviser didn’t answer, confirmed all our concerns about the pension/insurance schemes we were buying into, and finally led us to a more enlightened path for investment. This book is a must read: The Global Expatriate’s Guid to Investing by Andrew Hallam.

If you already have an investment portfolio, are thinking of investing your money, or even if you are not interested in investing at all – it doesn’t matter. Just spend an afternoon reading this book, as a guide on how you can invest money for long-term saving goals without being taken to the cleaners by ridiculous hidden fees. All written in language that a lay person can understand. It also provides examples for people of different nationalities / countries of residence, which I found very helpful.

Some key insights we gained from the book:

  • Always be cautious of people who contact you. Reputable financial advisers will not be the ones cold calling you.
  • Stay away from complex pension schemes and life insurances, even from large and well known insurance providers, which are full of hidden charges that will eat away at your investments like a caterpillar. No matter how high the market growth may be, this will seriously reduce your profit. And if the markets don’t do so well, the fees will end up eating up all your hard earned savings. Don’t feed the caterpillars!
  • Alternative investment strategies exist. Without hassle, hidden cost, or experience in the stock market, you can make up a simple portfolio of index funds and bonds, that offers you a safer and cheaper way of accumulating long-term savings. The book provides a step-by-step guide, based on your nationality. Investing is still gambling, but if the fees are low and understandable, the stakes are different.
  • Buy from USA exchanges with limitations. If you buy anything through a USA-based exchange, even if it is stocks from e.g. New Zealand, you will be charged tax on these investments by the USA after you die. Even if you have no other connection with the USA – no passport, no residency, no green card. They will still ping the person who inherits your investment.
  • The book provides a list of international, expat-friendly banks, with exceptionally low fees. You can pick one that suits your nationality/location.
  • A clear translation of financial terms is provided that a layperson can understand. I had no idea what an index or hedged fund is before I picked up this book…

Read the book, do the math, and research your alternative options, such as those suggested in this book. If you are already invested in one of the greedy caterpillar-like pension / life insurance schemes, it may still be better to pull out of the contract now and cut your losses, than to keep it going for another 10++ years.

Other countries, such as the UK, have already started cracking down on cold calling and the sale of these high-fee pension and life insurance schemes. Hopefully the UAE will follow suit soon. Upon meeting with our ‘financial adviser’ to cancel our pension scheme contract due to the ridiculous fees, he did sheepishly admit that the law was cracking down on them, and that this will affect the products being sold in the UAE as early as next year.

So, read the book. Or go straight to the author’s webpage at www.andrewhallam.com to find out what his approach and his warnings are all about. Even if you don’t follow his advice on index fund investments, it may still save you money simply because you’ll be wise enough not to invest in the dodgy schemes that are being sold to expats like candy.

[As the original post about financial advisers was graced by one of Ryan McGuire‘s awesome photos, I had to go with another one of his that sums up the story perfectly. Thanks Ryan. I owe you coffee!]

 

Buying a Car in the UAE

After three years, I finally decided to buy a car. I saved up money and eagerly waited for Ramadan to start. Why buy a car during Ramadan? The car showrooms put on great deals during Ramadan, including significant savings on the car price, and freebies such as several years/km of service, extended warranty, roadside assistance, insurance, registration, etc. As I didn’t have a particular car model in mind, I shopped around most of the dealers in Abu Dhabi. These are the lessons I learnt as an unexperienced car buyer in the UAE. Continue reading “Buying a Car in the UAE”

The 30 Day Minimalist Challenge

We move frequently, especially now that we are in the UAE where the yearly rise in rent has us looking elsewhere year in, year out. And although our moves usually only involve us transporting a backpack of stuff each, they are always preceded by the hassle of getting rid of all of the stuff I managed to accumulate in our apartment while we were living there.

On a mission to avoid this recurring scenario, I set myself the goal to declutter our household once and for all and rid us of unnecessary stuff. Continue reading “The 30 Day Minimalist Challenge”