Life in the UAE
8 tips on how to avoid problems
Appropriate clothing makes you more respectable
Life in Dubai and the other Emirates is characterized by tolerance. In the big cities it is not uncommon to see many visitors and expats wearing more revealing outfits. However, if you want to be taken seriously, you should be well-covered and well-groomed to in turn be viewed as more reputable. In addition, wearing appropriate clothing shows respect to your hosting country. This way you may avoid any awkward situations with natives.
As a woman, you should avoid miniskirts, tops, shorts, deep necklines or leggings. In the Emirate of Sharjah, shoulders and knees should always be covered, even on public beaches.
Men are well advised to save their shorts and muscle shirts for beach and pool visits.
We recommend light natural materials such as cotton, linen, hemp and silk. In the cooler months you may also appreciate woolen fabrics.
Your wardrobe can always be chic, generally speaking smart casual – chic casual.
Women travelling alone should stay reserved
Expect noticeable friendliness, provocation and open sexual offers. However, such advances are often customary in the Emirates and are usually non-threatening. These are often limited to cheesy pick-up lines, yet quick and direct offers to coffee or invitations to meetings in hotel rooms or apartments are not uncommon. The younger and more attractive you are, the more you will become the focus of male attention. Therefore, you should always keep an eye on your behavior and your clothing.
Always appear friendly and reserved, but confident. Furthermore, you can easily avoid any inconveniences by keeping your body covered and hiding your feminine attributes as much as possible. For most Muslims, provocative clothing is a clear sign of a lack of morality. A conservative wardrobe is important so that you do not appear promiscuous to any men with pent-up sexual needs.
You should politely yet decisively avoid physical contact with men. Likewise, it is best to avoid being alone with a Muslim man as much as possible, as to avoid any tense situations. Platonic friendships between sexes are very uncommon.
In the Orient, a different understanding of time seems to apply than in Western countries. Arabs go by an event and not the exact time on the clock.
For Orientals the next date takes place when the previous event, such as a meeting or work, has ended. It is considered rude to leave a conversation or activity prematurely.
Many Westerners for example may end an appointment early, even if it was not agreed upon, in order to go to the next one.
Be more held back when it comes to conversations about religion, especially if you don’t know the person you are talking to very well. If you cannot avoid the topic, try not to criticize in any way. The same goes for politics.
Avoid embarrassing others or yourself and try to keep out of conflict as much as possible. Directness and openness are equated with immaturity and naivety. Arabs are more relationship-oriented and more considerate in their friendships. Therefore, do not insult anyone in public.
Focus on positive things such as close family ties and cultural achievements. Show respect and recognition and center your attention onto common ground. You can also talk about sights, places visited, beautiful landscapes and even your own hobbies.
Control physical contact
Be very cautious when it comes to physical contact with the opposite sex. An unknown man should never get too close to an Arab woman, because that would dishonor not only the woman but also her family. As a woman, you should keep a polite distance to Arab men at all times. Holding hands amongst couples is not considered immoral, but you should avoid kissing or displaying any other forms of public affection in public.
Pay attention to table manners
It is customary to eat with your hands. Give it a try, but be careful not to bring your left hand to your mouth! Arabs at your table could lose their appetite as the left hand is considered unclean.
The local people wash their hands before and after eating, which is why sinks are not only limited to restaurant bathrooms. Flat bread is served with most Arabic dishes, as the small pieces of bread replace cutlery. Clamp the food in a torn, bite-sized piece of bread and bring it to your mouth with your right hand. If there is no bread, shape the rice into a bite-sized ball, which you then place on the fingertips of your right hand to bring up to your mouth.
After the meal is over, people usually drink tea and chat.
Respect the privacy of the Emiratis
Time and time again you will encounter the polite and distant behavior of the Emiratis. Perhaps it is down their pride in being locals or because of the achievements of their country. As openly as many may cultivate Arab hospitality, their privacy and family life are still of utmost importance to them.
Invitations home are therefore pretty rare. Usually, people meet in cafés or restaurants and go out to go shopping in department stores. If you ever should be so lucky as to be invited to someone’s house, you should not ask for a tour of all the rooms. Everything that your host may want to show you can be seen in the reception room for guests, the Majlis.
Only enter legal relationships
Arabs often see direct eye contact as an attempt at flirting. If you look at a man for too long, he may even feel provoked by you. It is better not to accept invitations from unknown men, as such are probably not examples of the famous Arab hospitality, but rather men´s desire for sexual adventures.
Getting involved with a man too quickly means, at best, conjuring up an unwanted love drama. Considering a worst-case scenario, if you engage in sexual contact with a man you are not married to, you could even get into trouble with the law. Do not risk your stay in the UAE for a man who is not interested in a relationship officially permitted by law. Extramarital sex is a criminal offense in the UAE and will result in conviction and expulsion if reported.
If you are interested in a binding relationship with an Arab, carefully abide by the official rules that must be followed from the outset. A man who is seriously interested in you would certainly not get you into trouble or try to meet you in secret.