I’ve received quite a few messages through my blog and Facebook page with questions from people who are considering a move to the UAE but have concerns and questions. I’ve already answered all of you individually, but there is definitely a theme so I thought it might be useful for anyone else out there considering a move to address the most frequently asked questions about living in the UAE, here on the blog.
- The big, scary Middle East
There are people out there who have little idea about the Middle East at all. All they know is that the Middle East is always on the news and there’s always uprisings or war and terrorism going on and that’s all they need to know – clearly that means it’s a big, bad scary place that must be avoided at all costs! Er… righto then. Well, firstly, you need to do some research. The Middle East is a generic term for a very large area that encompasses many different countries and is sadly often associated negatively because of the much publicised problems of the areas that are troubled. Yes, there are ‘troubled’ areas, there’s no denying it, but not every country in the Middle East has problems, and believe it or not, not all Arabs are gun-toting, suicide vest wearing extremists as certain media outlets might have us believe.
- Is the UAE safe?
In a word, yes. And it’s probably far safer than the country you’re considering moving from – imagine that! Who’d have thought, eh?! Crime rates in the UAE are some of the lowest in the world and whilst incidents do occur, as long as you use some common sense, respect the local culture and laws and do your research on what to expect, you’ll be fine. In fact, the recent study by the Global Social Progress Index ranked the UAE as number one for the lowest level of violent crime and lowest homicide rate.
- How do they treat women?
Saudi Arabia this is not. Women are allowed to drive, are well educated and are generally treated with great respect. There are separate priority queues in many banks and supermarkets for women. Crimes against women do happen, but rarely so, and they tend to be in low income areas or against those who are considered the ‘lower’ sections of society. Again, it’s a very safe country as long as you exercise caution – it is safe to wander around most central areas on your own at night (but why would you really?!) and don’t go getting into a car with anyone you don’t know after having a few drinks! Just the same things you would never do at home, and there’s no reason you’d suddenly want to start doing those things here. And again, the recent Global Social Progress Index ranked the UAE as first in the world for treating women with respect. You can read about this in this Gulf News article.
- I’m single – will I be able to find a partner?
I’m afraid I do not have a crystal ball and cannot answer whether you will meet the man / woman of your dreams out here, but I think what most people mean is – will I have the opportunity to meet someone? Well of course, yes! As long as you get out and about and meet people and don’t sit indoors whining about not knowing anyone, then your chances are as good as anyones. Public displays of affection are not permitted so meeting someone in a bar may not go exactly the same way as it might at home, but discretion is key and what you choose to do behind closed doors is your business and as long as you’re not obviously and publicly flaunting local laws and cultures, you’ll be fine.
- How do you cope with the heat in the summer?
People worry about the heat a lot. Yes, it gets hot here in the summer, but the country is built for it – air conditioning is everywhere, and it’s proper hardcore built in air-con, not those dodgy little fix it to the wall machines they have in countries like Australia! You leave your air conditioned house for your air conditioned car, for your air conditioned office or mall and so on. You really don’t have to go out in it much – unless you want to of course! Despite knowing that, people still often turn their noses up saying “I can’t imagine how you can manage”, but you do. You acclimatise to the temperatures quickly and you’ll soon find that anything less than 25degrees centigrade feels ‘chilly’. And it’s really no different to countries that have cold, wet winters – people stay indoors in the bad weather and only go out when it eases off, well it’s exactly the same here. Early morning and late evening walks / exercise times are your friend if you do still want to get some fresh air. And again, the country is built for hot weather – there is every activity you can ever imagine (and probably more) available indoors with something to suit everyone of all ages.
- What about the driving?
Yes, I’ve mentioned the driving a few times before! The driving is probably one of the worst things about living in the UAE. The standards are low and the accident rate is high. But everywhere here is so easily accessible and cabs are very affordable so you don’t even need to drive if you don’t want to. If you do choose to drive – and I do – it does give you much more freedom and the ability to get out beyond the city and explore, you’ve just got to be as road wise and safe as you can be. Avoid the idiots where possible and keep your wits about you! Drive safely and follow the road rules – don’t be aggressive, indicate (hardly anyone does), don’t change lanes on a roundabout (nearly everyone does) and don’t stop at zebra crossings (it’s actually been declared illegal as so few do stop and those who do were causing accidents. Pedestrians go to cross when someone stops for them and there have been many incidents of poor pedestrian being knocked down because one car stopped, but the car in the next lane didn’t….). And for goodness sake don’t drink and drive! There is a zero tolerance policy here for drink driving though sadly many people still seem to think they’ll be ok if they have ‘just one’. NO. It’s not worth it – you’ll go to jail if you’re found with even the tiniest amount of alcohol in your system and cabs are cheap so there’s just no excuse.
Overall, the message really is do your research to allow yourself an informed opinion. Don’t come here thinking you can just bring your own country and values with you, you need to be aware of the local laws and customs and be respectful of them. Read the local papers, watch the local news and listen to local radio, but be aware that media is censored here so also gain information from a variety of international sources to create a fuller picture. If you only ever read one newspaper or watch one news channel wherever you are in the world, you’re only exposing yourself to one viewpoint, one political bias and only being exposed to the news that particular channel deems most important – you’re missing out on a huge chunk of what’s really going on in the world.
I’ve written a few other posts on topics I’ve touched on here previously, so if you still want more info, have a read of these:
Driving / life in the UAE: Four things you should know about living in Abu Dhabi, Four more things you should know about living in Abu Dhabi
The local Culture and how it affects daily life: We’re not in Kansas anymore – learning the hard way, A question of culture
And do let me know if you have anymore questions at all! Let me know in the comments below or if you’re too shy for that, you can contact me through tweet me @ArabianNotesAD or drop me a message on my Facebook page!
Thanks for reading! 🙂
Hello, your blogs are great!
i’ve been asked to go to Abu Dhabi for 3 months with work, i’m really excited but the one thing i cant find alot of information on is how women dress for work? Now i’m not saying i wear short skirts or dresses now but is it generally the same just with a heightened sensitivity awareness?
Yes, you won’t find much difference really. Generally as long as your shoulders are covered, skirts aren’t short (around the knee-ish is usually fine) and shirts aren’t see through it’s fine. It sometimes also depends on the company, some are more local or more western than others so that can make a difference between erring more on the side of conservatism or not. If you have sleeveless dresses you’ll find the air conditioning is usually freezing so you can still wear them with a cardigan, jacket or pashmina. Again, dependent on your work environment it might be ok to wear a sleeveless dress inside, though you’d definitely need to cover your shoulders for external meetings etc. That said, as you’ll find when you get here, there are people who ignore these cultural guidelines but it’s wise not to as it’s not unknown for locals who take offence to cause a scene and call the authorities. I hope that helps!