Living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Dubai and the rest of the UAE may be sun-filled with modern housing, outstanding shopping facilities and no income tax, but there are some significant cultural differences that you must be aware of before you leave. To ignore the cultural differences and laws in the UAE could result in fines, time in jail or deported - even for what seem to be minor transgressions.
Get support for your move to the UAE
Expats in the UAE generally tend to live in communities of others from their home countries. Why not look to sign up for expat and social groups in addition playgroups for your children to help you get adjusted?
In business and your personal life, networking and connections are key to settling in and enjoying your new life in the UAE. Always make the most of networking opportunities, particularly for business, as this plays a key role for business and employment.
The workweek generally runs from Sunday to Thursday; Friday and Saturday are the designated days of rest. Offices generally open somewhere between 7.30am and 9am and close at 5pm, with working hours during the month of Ramadan generally shortened by two or three hours.
What to expect when you arrive in the UAE
The language of the UAE is Arabic, which uses the Arabic alphabet - a script that is read from right to left, will be quite different to English. The UAE has a much more relaxed approach to Western cultures than many other Arab or Islamic nations. For instance although drinking in public is forbidden, in bars and hotels it's allowed.
While, overall, the cities of the UAE are relatively tolerant, you do need to remember that the UAE is an Islamic State. Certain things which you'd take for granted as normal or acceptable are prohibited such as: public drunkenness, use or possession of drugs (including some medicines prescribed by your doctor or purchased over the counter in the UK), noise disruptions, bad language, making obscene gestures, showing any kind of disrespect of Islam or the leaders of the UAE, cohabitation, sex outside of marriage, having a baby out of wedlock, adultery, and homosexuality.
For women, it is a must to be dressed modestly. Generally, you should cover your shoulders, cleavage and your legs above the knees as well as avoiding tight or sheer clothing. When meeting an Arab or Emirati man, do not offer to shake his hand unless he extends his hand towards you first. Local women will wear an abaya, which is a traditional black ankle length garment with long sleeves and a high neckline; the hair is also covered.
Men have far fewer restrictions on clothing. They should avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts outside of the home. Due to the hot weather, suits are rarely worn except for important business meetings and related social events. Standard wear in the office is a long sleeved shirt, tie and lightweight trousers.
Always use your right hand for drinking and eating, as the left hand is regarded as unclean (as it’s used for ‘toilet purposes’). You should also avoid showing the soles of your feet or bottoms of your shoes. This gives the implication that you think the other person is "dirt", which is obviously highly offensive. Keep your feet flat on the ground and don't cross your legs.
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