From Scotland to Shortlist Dubai

Sarah Garden for Source

With limited job opportunities in the UK and the expansion of many businesses overseas, living and working abroad is now a common venture for many young people. But what is it really like? Twenty-four-year-old Sarah Garden, originally from Inverness, is the digital editor of Shortlist UAE magazine in Dubai. She took some time out to share her experiences of living and working in the Middle East.

How did you get into journalism?

After school, I applied for a journalism course at what was the Glasgow Metropolitan College. I really enjoyed it, and wanted to get a university degree. I went to Edinburgh Napier and did my third and fourth year there. After I graduated, I spent some time at i-on magazine, and started freelancing.

How did you go from freelancing to working in Dubai?

It all came about through connections. When I was freelancing, I was in touch with many contacts and always tried to make a good impression. When I did an internship in a London-based magazine, someone in Dubai knew someone who knew someone at that magazine. So I was put in touch with the contact in Dubai. They had a job opening in a magazine and they recommended me for the job, and then the magazine got in touch for freelancing, which lead to a full-time position. It was good to do it that way because the HR department arranged everything for me. They got my visa, my plane ticket – they made the process a lot simpler than when most people move abroad.

What has the transition been like from working in the UK to working over there?

When you’re in the UK, you have your friends and family around you when you have a bad day at work. When I moved, I didn’t have anything – no flat, no friends. You have to start from scratch and be prepared for things going wrong. It’s a lot easier to do in a place where there’s a huge British expat community, like Dubai has. Arranging Skype or phone calls back home is hard. If I was to get in from work at 5.30pm, no-one else is home from work in the UK, as Dubai is three hours ahead. Our working week is different too – we start on a Sunday and finish on a Thursday.

What cultural differences are there between the UK and Dubai?

Out here, the primarily religion is Islam. It’s Ramadan just now so you can’t eat at your desk at work or drink water in public. You have to cover up when it’s hot outside and you’ve got to be really organised. You can’t be seen with water in a taxi, so if you’re going to interviews or appointments you’ve got to think about what’s in your bag.

Tell us a bit about a typical working day for you.

Our website is still fairly new and not been live for that long. Every day is different and there’s lots to do. The magazine launches after Ramadan so just now we’ve got meetings with developers. I start with providing the content for our six social media channels. I then write some articles and ensure the events section of the website is populated, and edit freelancers’ work. In the afternoon I’ll have events to go to myself, like the launch of a perfume. Sometimes I’ll do a restaurant review.

What home comforts do you miss?

It’s physically being in a room with someone, even when you don’t interact with them. It sounds sad but I really miss my dog! It’s quite emotional when people come out to visit me, like my parents. You spend so much quality time together that you wouldn’t at home. When they leave, it’s horrible.

What’s your favourite thing about Dubai?

Probably how friendly it is. Sometimes when you move to another city in the UK, people already have their friendship groups established. Whereas when you move out here things are growing, there are new opportunities. There are always people arriving here and if you’re sociable, it’s impossible not to make new friends.

For more information about working abroad, visit: To find out more about Shortlist UAE, head to

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