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3 min read

Why I Moved My Family Out Of The UAE

So you have probably heard me talk before that I lived in the Middle East for 8 years, specifically in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

I loved it there, my wife and I had built a beautiful life together in the country, there was amazing food, we had lots of friends and even our first child was born there.

People always want to know why after living there for so many years that we finally decided to leave.

The truth is, there were many things…

When we arrived in 2011 the price of oil was about $98 dollars a barrel so the UAE saw a huge boom in their economy, the country was growing at a rapid pace and expats were hugely celebrated (literally parades in the streets welcoming us). Life was amazing for several years.

 

Gates to enter Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Gates to enter Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

However, by 2015 we saw the price of oil crash all way back down to $34 dollars a barrel and the feeling on the street had changed… the country still needed expats but “expensive” expats like me, a Canadian (or Americans, Germans, British, etc.) were seen as the problem with outrageous salaries that the companies couldn’t afford.

All of my friends started being replaced with expats from countries like Eastern Europe, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries where they could get cheap employees. It was even common practice to hire 2 or 3 people for one position and it would still end up being less expensive.

 

Map of the Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates

Map of the Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates

You see, economies like the UAE are built on $100+ dollar oil and when it’s not this amount or more, the country crashes. There was even such arrogance surrounding this that some companies would start playing on the futures markets making bets that oil would always stay at this level, when it didn’t, businesses collapsed and thousands of people lost their jobs.

During this time the feeling in the country had changed and it felt like people would rather spit on you than give you the time of day, it was a dark couple of years.

 

Offshore oil rig drilling platform in the gulf

Offshore oil rig drilling platform in the gulf

I was in a fortunate position during this period as I was a trader working in the options markets and making a nice little income, tax-free, and of course, I was doing the podcast and doing business and offshore consulting as well.

By the time I left in 2019, the country had rebounded a bit and oil was over $60 a barrel, so things were levelling out.

 

United Arab Emirates currency, the Dirham

United Arab Emirates currency, the Dirham

The ultimate decision to move was that the country was way too dependent on just one thing, in this case, the price of oil. I had seen my friends expat journeys cut short by something they had no control over and I wanted to be in a place that respected expats and the valuable skills, expertise and capital we brought to the country.

At this time it also looked like there would be war with Iran. The US Sixth Armada had been positioned in the Persian Gulf (or the Arabian Gulf depending on whose map you are looking at) and it looked like the UAE was going to be a staging ground for an invasion.

I even had a conversation with a US Senator on a first-class flight from the States to Abu Dhabi about the economic ramifications of using financial markets and currency as a weapon against them.

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

It seemed to me that if there was a war with Iran, being located in the same Emirate as the 11 nuclear reactors that were being built, would not be a smart decision. They would be an obvious target and the fallout would be catastrophic.

I wanted to be in a country that continued to offer a tax-free environment but was also food and water independent. Somewhere that was growing and had a bright future ahead of it but was not dependent only on one source of economic growth.

We also needed a place that had a straightforward residency process, was an English-speaking country or another language that was easy to learn like Spanish, and was stable, safe, and beautiful.

After a ton of deliberation, my wife and I chose Panama.

 

Panama and their flag

Panama and their flag

It’s been 3 years since we arrived here in Panama and I have not regretted my decision once. We have an active social life and have made a huge group of friends. We go out to incredible restaurants a few times a week, there are opportunities everywhere, and we have amazing nature and beautiful beaches a short drive from our place.

 

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WORK WITH ME

I help my clients to move offshore for freedom, privacy and autonomy by focusing on the immigration, legal, and tax issues that you will face when becoming an expat. If you would like to work one-on-one with me on getting out of Canada or the USA (or setting up a Plan-B location), then read this important letter and fill in an application form to become a Private Client. My fees are not cheap; however, I can assure you that when you work with a professional firm like ours, the results will be worth it.

Mikkel Thorup

Written by Mikkel Thorup

Mikkel Thorup is the world’s most sought-after expat consultant. He focuses on helping high-net-worth private clients to legally mitigate tax liabilities, obtain a second residency and citizenship, and assemble a portfolio of foreign investments including international real estate, timber plantations, agricultural land and other hard-money tangible assets. Mikkel is the Founder and CEO at Expat Money™, a private consulting firm started in 2017. He hosts the popular weekly podcast, the Expat Money Show, and wrote the definitive #1-Best Selling book Expat Secrets - How To Pay Zero Taxes, Live Overseas And Make Giant Piles Of Money.

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