My first experience in the UAE

As some of you may have read on my twitter account, I’m currently busy on an awesome EUC engagement. Basically designing a new VDI infrastructure with Horizon View, App Volumes, RDSH Application Pools, UEM and vROPS for View. The architecture will be spread across two datacenters and Cloud Pod Architecture will be used to make sure pools are available at both sites. A PoC with Nvidia Grid will be part of the project and everything will run on top of Vblocks and XtremeIO. Pretty cool right?

This post isn’t technical though. It’s basically about my experiences as a Dutch guy that is used to the Dutch way of handling things and my first experiences with the culture, the way how things work and the United Arabic Emirates in general.

So where to start? Let start out with some first timers (as for everything there is a first time):

The petrol queue

For a country with SO MUCH oil, getting in line at the petrol station and wait for 30 minutes was a first timer. Dear UAE, please build more petrol stations.

The elevator queue

When the office is at the 35th floor of a building, taking the stairs is both a challenge and a great workout. Except when it’s 35 degrees outside. So taking one of the 8 elevators seems like a good plan, but around 9:00 am everyone does that. So again, you need to get in line.

Mixed cultures

I’ve visited 2 companies so far. And the number of different languages I heard in the past week are bizar. Dutch, English, Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Italian, French, German and Spanish. And probably more, but my ears are a bit faint due to the aircon everywhere.

Getting the chills in the desert

As both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are simply built in the desert, it’s quite warm (around 42 degrees celsius during mid day). So if you want to do any type of activity, the heat is a challenge. And of course, the UAE has a solution. How about indoor theme parks, 5km running tracks, car parks, bus stops, etc. Basically everything is indoors and has an aircon unit. Think about the electric bill?!

Really, really nice cars

Ok, so the UAE is famous for it’s expensive cars (petrol is almost as cheap as water). In an hours drive from my hotel in Abu Dhabi to the office in Dubai I saw more expensive cars then in the last 10 years combined. If you don’t drive something with an engine size that could fit my rental car, you’re basically nothing. Which brings me to my next first timer.

The speeding limit

Of course, except for Germany, every country has a speedlimit. In the UAE it differs a bit. Some parts 120, some parts 140. And some cars will let you know that you are reaching the speedlimit by signaling with both an icon on the dashboard as well as an annoying sound. Well, mine does. I rented a Chevrolet Spark. And when reaching 120 Km/h it started to annoy me. First of all, it took a minute to finally achieve 120. Second of all, the car couldn’t go any faster without overheating the engine. So epic fail indeed..


I went to the Yas Mall to buy apples (the food, not the tech which they also sell at the groceries store). At the mall there is a Hypermart, which is probably the biggest supermarket I have ever seen. When finally arriving at the fruit section I was blown away by the enormous variety of fruit. Thai section, European section, Caribbean section, South American section, etc. Pretty sweet if you ask me! Fresh dragonfruit from Thailand, Passion fruit from Indonesia and green apples (of course) from the Netherlands. Vitamin galore!

American influences

At the Yas Mall I found a Cheesecake Factory. Dear Cheesecake Factory, please expand to the Netherlands
Best. Food. Ever.

Working from home

In the Netherlands it is normal to work from home. For instance, during a design project, I will gather requirements, do the design workshops at the customer and work on the design from my home office. In this case, the home office was the hotel. My room has a desk, but the hotel also has a pool area with lounge seats and cold drinks. Tough desicion indeed.

Wife Acceptance Factor

In my case, working abroad for a couple of weeks hasn’t got the best Wife Acceptance Factor. But my wife is awesome and she respects my ambitions. Keeping in touch with people in the Netherlands is quite challenging. Not because of time differences or anything, but mostly because UAE blocks WhatsApp Calls and FaceTime. So back to Skype again.. 🙁


Agreeing upon things and making appointments with UAE customers is quite challenging for someone that is used to work in the Netherlands. Back home we are on time, meet our agreements and are punctual. But this is also a cultural thing. We work hard, are quite often under stress and are mostly punctual. At the customer I haven’t detected any stress. People are doing their jobs and like it. Some people even work all week (including weekends) and still like it. How cool will it be having best of both worlds?

4 toilets

I added this one just after entering my room in the hotel in Dubai where I stayed for 1 night. We went for a drink and driving back to Abu Dhabi isn’t a good idea when you’re drunk. I booked the room an hour before checking in and got a free upgrade. And upgrade is quite the understatement. My room has 3 bathrooms, 4 toilets, a marbled floor and a bed twice the size as the one I have at home. Thank you Tamani Hotel in Dubai!

This project is one of the funnest and most bizar but also one of the most challenging experiences I have ever had.  From a consultant perspective, I am learning a lot. Constraints in this project are totally different. As the customer has invested in pretty sweet hardware, they still use an MPLS network with 30Mbit bandwidth tops at datacenter level and 10Mbit at the office sites which brings totally different challenges in the ballgame.
From a personal perspective, I find it difficult to miss out stuff back home. Births, birthdays, meeting up with friends and family and of course my lovely wife. Still, getting to know a country and a culture and getting paid while doing it makes up for everything. Creating opportunities like this is why I love my job and my life!

Me at the VMware UAE HQ

Johan van Amersfoort