This post should help any americans with questions about Dubai.
I just returned from a two day inspection trip for a job I am considering. I spent alot of time looking through these forums but never saw much advice from americans so here goes.
Driving...Is a mess to say the least. Roads are congested and people are fighting for every inch of road space. I rode around with an Indian realtor looking at rentals and felt like we were in a road race. There are few stoplights as well, mostly round abouts. I suppose you get used to the roundabouts after a while but the driving is hectic. It looked like you could do ok if you stayed in the slow lane but you have to be wary of someone crossing 5 lanes of traffic to catch an exit ramp. Being cut off and honked at is VERY common.
Housing...I looked at a few three bedroom villas priced from 175K aed to 185K aed. The villas were fine for the most part but they are expensive. Aside from the cost, you will see that fixtures and features are just different than in the states. Most bathrooms have a bidae (sp?) which I did not use. Plumbing is a little different with every home having a water tank and a pressure maintenance pump to deliver good water pressure throughout the home. Little things are different, for example, a lot of villas have some grass or garden area but no sprinkler system to water the areas. Instead, you hire a gardner for 200drms a month to hand water and mow etc. None of the homes have gas but most homes have a gas stove. So you have to buy a lp bottle and have it plumbed into your stove / oven. Not sure why they do not use electric but I guess it is more expensive.
Groceries and retail...Went to two grocery stores and they appeared to have everything you would ever need. I saw alot of brand names that were familiar to me and lots of international food that would be cool to try. I went to a spinneys and they actually had a small mall inside with maybe 15 shops and a restaurant on top of the gocery store itself. The only thing I did notice is that the place was PACKED at 8:30pm on a monday night. It looked like a US grocery store the day before holiday or snow storm. One thing that stood out to me was the lack of retail. there were very few strip malls or small shopping centers. Space is a premium so the malls tend to hold all of the retail.
The mall of the emirates was very nice. Probably the nicest mall I have ever seen. You can buy ANYTHING you want at the Mall of the Emirates. They even have a small indoor carnival for the kids and a TGI Friday's. There was also a Carrefour in the mall which is like a Wal Mart. You could buy everything from a loaf of bread to a big screen TV. It was busy but it seamed to have everything you need.
People...I never bumped into another american but people were fine. It's not that people are nice nor are they mean. Most times, if you are walking buy someone, they will not look or say anything. People just go about their business and everyone seems to get along. When I was at the mall, I saw women dressed in everything from black robes with their face completely covered to women in mini skirts and lots of cleavage. It is very liberal in that sense.
Most people in the service sector are filipino. They are very nice and easy to deal with but sometimes hard to understand. That is ONE thing that will take some time to adjust, understanding different people speaking english. The filipinos sound different from the Indians who sound different from the Pakistanis. So make sure they understand what you are telling, asking them etc. I ordered a vodka and orange juice and just got the juice because the guy did not understand me saying vodka.
General observations...The place is cool to say the least. They are building a ton of tall buildings and there is an endless supply of culture from all of the different people. There is a lot of construction though. Everywhere you look, something is being torn up and built up. This will improve over time but for now it looks like the norm. Cable TV had 300 channels but only 20 that I would watch. Most were from the region and in arabic. Billboards, these people have the largest billboards in the world. I guess they have to make them bigger since everyone is driving 100mph.
Thats all I have for now but feel free to add anything I may have left out or ask any questions you may have.
FYI, I have lived in AZ, CA, MO and NJ previously