Wednesday, July 14, 2010


If you're thinking of working in the Gulf, then these tips are for you. There is a huge amount on offer in many Gulf countries, but you are moving thousands of miles from home, and there are issues to think about and challenges that lie ahead. These are the key things you should consider.

Get a job before you come Easier said than done, but empirical evidence suggests that your terms and conditions will be better. Plus you'll get relocation expenses....

Be targeted Find out which companies you want to work for, and write a focused letter to those organisations with clearly defined reasons/ways you can be of value.

Look beyond salary While expatriate benefits may not be as generous as they once were, they are still offered in many industries at a senior level, and don't ask, don't get. Areas of help you should ask for: medical, schooling, housing. There is a move to incorporate this into salaries, but with rents and schooling costs rocketing, a commitment to both will provide you with considerably greater security.

Get the contract If you are offered a job, find out about the contract. Is it standard? Be clear about what is offered, and expected, and what is not.

Speak to other people in the company Before accepting an offer, ask to be able to speak to people in similar positions to you to make sure the reality matches what you are being sold.

The first year The first year in any new city is difficult; you'll be experiencing a new job, a new country and a new city. Don't expect to feel at home and happy immediately - rarely in life is there an immediate pay off - you'll need to put in some investment and plant roots.

Forget the word ‘should' You'll be coming to a different country - expect things to work in ways that you don't expect, and without logic you understand. There are two ways that you can approach this: try to do things your way, and end up banging your head against the wall in frustration, and eventually leaving. Two; flow around the rock, get used it and make it work for you.

You may not see the sun If you're expecting to come to the Middle East for sun, sand, gold and... skiing, you'll be lucky. It is a competitive environment, and if you plan to last and progress in your job, your work/life balance may not be all that you had hoped.

Culture For many this region offers a chance to escape tax, gain a better standard of life, and to start saving. However, there is a pay off, and you cannot compare many of the region's cities with London, New York or Paris in terms of culture. In bigger cities such as Dubai, this is changing, however you won't find a Tate Modern on a South Bank, or be able to pop into MOMA on a Wednesday night for free.

Appreciate the difference Be prepared to try new things. Not so many museums of modern art maybe, but you can go on the dunes, or take a dive in the Indian ocean.

Bring beverages A small thing, but not unimportant: When you first arrive you will not be able to buy alcohol in many countries. For this you will need a licence. If you are working in the UAE, you will however be able to purchase alcohol as a visitor from the airport on exit.

UAE has become more famous for all the wrong reasons lately. We have heard about Britons being jailed for kissing in public, having sex on the beach and even bouncing a cheque. In other words, we have learned that in the UAE what might only be considered ‘inappropriate’ behaviour in our society at worst is punishable with jail time.
This has served to show us that UAE is a Muslim country, it is strict in its moral and ethical code, it has very different laws to those we have in the UK or in Europe or America for example, and that if you want to live and work in the UAE you need to tread particularly carefully when it comes to your behaviour.
So, when it comes to living in the UAE and knowing the rules, what is it important for you to understand? We have produced a report that compiles the information you need to know and understand if you’re going to have a safe and enjoyable time in the UAE – from dress code to alcohol consumption, drug abuse to holding hands in public, we cover it all. Now you can have no excuses that you didn’t know your behaviour was not acceptable in Dubai – and you can have no worries about being arrested because you will be well aware of what is and is not appropriate behaviour.

What Are the Emiratis Like?
It’s never easy to sum up a people in one paragraph! But for the purposes of introducing you to the local people you will be living amongst if you move to UAE, it’s fair to say that despite the massive modern advancements that UAE embodies, Emiratis are very traditional people. They take their culture and heritage seriously and they expect visitors and expatriates to respect their values. If you respect Emiratis they will respect you, and you will find them warm and welcoming. Finally it’s worth noting that they are in general tolerant and open minded – but there are limits to the behaviour that they will accept.

An A to Z of Acceptable Behaviour for Expats Living in the UAE
A is for Alcohol - non-Muslims are allowed to drink alcohol in the UAE if they are on licensed premises. Some restaurants and most hotels hold a license to serve you alcohol. Additionally, if you’re a resident in the emirate you can apply for a license to buy alcohol and consume it in your own home. If you are stopped for a traffic offence and you have alcohol in your car you need to hold a liquor license to prove you have permission to buy it otherwise you will be fined. What’s more, even if you’ve been drinking at home and you have a license or you’ve been out drinking at a licensed venue, if you’re caught drunk on the street you could be arrested. Alcohol is therefore tolerated in Dubai, it is not really accepted.
Bouncing a Cheque - it’s standard practice to pay for large ticket items such as a car, or even your rent, with forward dated cheques. This is because it is very hard for expatriates and even some local people to get credit or loans, and it’s the accepted method of staggering payments to offer up post dated cheques. However, unlike in other countries where bouncing a cheque is just an annoyance, in UAE it is a very serious criminal offence. You will be arrested, jailed and then forced to remain in UAE to pay your debt before being forced to leave the country. So, don’t write a cheque unless you have the funds to cover it – and remember that in writing a cheque you’re entering into a very strict financial agreement. It is no joke to miss a payment in UAE.
Dancing in Public - whilst you or I might think nothing about shimmying down the street arm in arm with a few friends after a night out, dancing in public in UAE is considered to be indecent – and it is also thought of as provocative, which can be very dangerous for women. You can dance in your own home behind your curtains, and you can dance at official clubs – anything else is not acceptable and dangerous.
Dress Code - Emiratis dress conservatively and expect visitors and expatriates to also dress conservatively when in public. So, if you’re going shopping, you’re out for a walk or you’re going to work you need to make sure your clothes are of a decent length, that you do not wear anything see-through, that you’re not revealing too much flesh that could be considered indecent and that you also don’t have anything offensive on your clothes in the form of slogans or images. In shopping malls you’ll see signs warning you that if you’re inappropriately dressed you will be removed!
When it comes to sunbathing you can wear beach attire but again it needs to cover up the most ‘offensive’ parts! And you cannot sunbathe topless, nor is any form of nudity acceptable – even for children. Once you leave a beach, pool or water park area you have to be properly attired for public places. I.e., you can’t walk home in your bikini. It is not making some sort of statement about how fashionable you are or what a rebel you feel – it is mortally offending public decency and punishable officially with imprisonment and unofficially with abuse and potential assault. Again, don’t take stupid risks – respect the local culture.
Drink Driving - you cannot even consume a thimble-full of alcohol and get behind the wheel in UAE. There is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drink driving and you will be imprisoned if you break this very firmly upheld law.
Driving Offences - when you see the way Emiratis and expatriates drive in UAE you might be forgiven for thinking that there are no laws and no rules on the road…however that is absolutely not true! It is illegal in UAE to tailgate, break the speed limit, street race, lane hop or using a mobile phone while driving – despite the fact you will see all of these going on every single day. Bear in mind that UAE is cracking down and losing its tolerance for law breakers so do not get into the habit of driving like the locals drive. You can bet your bottom dollar that the police will begin cracking down on driving related offences hard in due course, so do not get into bad habits that you will have to break. If you do break a road law you can be fined, imprisoned and have your car impounded.
Drugs - as with drink driving, drugs are a zero tolerance issue and whilst you may think that only extends to narcotics that are illegal in our own countries, it actually extends to some prescription and over the counter medicines too. So, this is a very serious point to understand. You need to know that even if you’re travelling through an airport in the UAE on your way to another country, if you’re caught with what’s deemed to be an illegal substance you could face an automatic 4-year prison term before deportation. If you’re thought to be supplying drugs you could face automatic life imprisonment.
So, before coming to the UAE know what you can and cannot bring in. The simplest rule is bring absolutely nothing. However, if you are on prescription medicine or you don’t like following other people’s rules it’s very important to listen up. Firstly you need to know whether what you intend importing is on the banned substances list.
Offensive Behaviour - no matter how many times a driver cuts you up do not gesticulate in their general direction in an offensive manner, they can call the police and as an expatriate you will be in the wrong and you will be fined or even imprisoned. Road rage is not tolerated, and neither is swearing nor making any rude gestures – so rein it all in.
Public Displays of Affection - holding hands in public if you’re a married couple is about as far as you can go in terms of public displays of affection. Hugging and kissing is not tolerated – i.e., any open display of physical affection should be limited to within your own four walls.
Religious Issues - the main religion in UAE is of course Islam – expatriates follow their own religions and that is tolerated. However, anything that is an offence against Islam will not be tolerated on any level and will result in fines and/or imprisonment. There is no gray area. Muslims are called to pray five times a day and if you’re on the open road or in a public area away from a Mosque, Muslims will pray wherever they are. Do not disturb them and do not openly stare. During the holy month of Ramadan Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown and so it is unacceptable for you to be seen eating, drinking or smoking in public during the month as well.
Sexual Harassment - despite the fact many western women hate the way they are so openly stared at they have to put up with it. On the other hand, if any expatriate man addresses a local woman in public, takes her picture without permission, follows her or in some way ‘bothers’ her, that is not acceptable behaviour.
Sexual Relationships - unless you are married in UAE you cannot have sex! Even if you have been cohabiting with your partner for decades before you move to UAE, once you are in UAE you cannot even legally live together. If you holiday in the emirate and you’re unmarried and you come to the attention of the authorities for some reasons, if it’s then discovered you’re sharing a room and a bed you can be jailed and then deported. In terms of expatriates living in UAE, if you’re not married to your partner, you cannot live with them and you cannot sleep with them. Do not take the risk.
If you conceive a baby outside of marriage in the UAE you and your partner face imprisonment – and you might think you can get away with it and marry quickly perhaps? But when it comes time to register the birth the authorities can look at when you married and when the baby was born, and if the sums don’t add up you could still be in trouble. Do not take the risk.
Smoking - smoking is banned in many public offices and places such as shopping malls, so do observe the rules. There are also designated smoking areas all over the city so the ban is not difficult to observe even for the most addicted smoker!
Working in UAE - finally it must be noted that you should not attempt to illegally work without a permit in the UAE. You must first obtain your paperwork before you take up your job – doing it any other way can land you in prison first and then on an enforced flight home.

In Conclusion
Many of the rules in the UAE are common sense, some of the laws are just an extension of our own, but in some certain cases – such as in the case of non-married couples not being allowed to live together or have a sexual relationship – the laws in the UAE are perhaps strange to us. The fact of the matter is, despite how you may feel, you will not be able to change the rules, and in breaking them you risk fines, imprisonment and deportation. So, if you want to live and work in the UAE you need to follow the laws of the land and accept the rules and standards by which Emiratis live.

Maraming Salamat po,

Isabel Saguinsin II
Samahang Pinoy Kawanggawa
'Lingkod Handog ng mga Boluntaryong Nagkakawanggawa Para sa Kapakanan ng mga Filipino sa Buong Mundo'
+971 50 7528573 / +63 908 5107809
Email Address:
Sundays to Thursdays : From 9PM Onwards
Fridays & Saturdays : Anytime
NOTE: Job Applicants’ queries will ONLY be entertained from 9pm onwards, any day