“I lived in Abu Dhabi for seven years and worked as a gen­eral man­ager of a con­struc­tion com­pany. Set­ting up a com­pany out there was an in­cred­i­bly bu­reau­cratic e pe­ri­ence it took us four to ve months to do it. Work­ing in con­struc­tion was amaz­ing – you would never work on projects in the UK that were the size of those in the Mid­dle East – but some­times you did won­der, ‘Do they need this?’

“Giv­ing 51 per­cent of my busi­ness to an Emi­rati part­ner worked for me. You al­ways have side agree­ments, and you give that per­cent­age of own­er­ship, not the pro t. We were spon­sored by a sheikh, and he gave us all con­trol of the busi­ness – as a lot of Emi­ratis will. In re­al­ity, all they are is a name on a bit of paper and they get a re­tainer or a per­cent­age of the pay­ment.

“Within the ex­pat com­mu­nity, ev­ery­one tries to help each other be­cause it’s a tran­sient so­ci­ety. If some­thing goes wrong, you don’t have a fam­ily net­work around you, so ev­ery­one is there for each other in both a busi­ness and a so­cial sense.

“Liv­ing in Abu Dhabi can be like liv­ing in a vil­lage, it’s such a small place. You could be hav­ing a dis­cus­sion with a client on Thurs­day af­ter­noon and then on Fri­day morn­ing you’re sit­ting around the pool with him hav­ing a beer, or bump­ing into him in the su­per­mar­ket – you can’t hide.”

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