What to do and not do as a new expat in Dubai

Published:  10 Oct at 6 PM
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Tagged: Dubai, UAE
Almost 70 per cent of Dubai’s population is made up of expats from across the world, with all making the same, often comic, mistakes when they first arrive.

Relocating to an unfamiliar country is a succession of new experiences, most of which are based on a totally different culture and way of life. Dubai is the perfect example of difference and diversity, and can be very confusing and embarrassing for those new to the scene. It’s entirely possible that old Dubai hands sit back and watch as newbies make the same mistakes as they did, but most new arrivals don’t take too long to adjust.

Almost as soon as you arrive you’ll be introduced to co-workers and new acquaintances, some of whom may even be females. Dubai’s comparatively strict interpretation of Islam means shaking hands with a woman is an absolute no-no and, in general, you may find this applies equally to males. Body contact isn’t in the culture, making Dubai the perfect location for expats who prefer to live inside their own little bubble.

You’re expecting Dubai to be hot, but you can’t even imagine the reality of desert heat. Dry throat, a non-stop headache, burning eyes and unrelenting sweating are all part of the UAE experience, and complaining about it won’t get you any sympathy! One experience that’s worth all the discomfort is spending time in the real desert with its startlingly raw beauty, glorious sunsets and pitch black nights illuminated by millions of stars. However. obsessing about it is definitely considered the mark of a newbie.

Over-ordering when you discover Dubai’s amazing delivery services is the norm for new arrivals here, and leads to waste bins full of uneaten goodies with antique sell-by dates. Even furniture can be delivered to your door, which should be measured just in case your new purchase has to stay outside.

One negative emotion common to all newbies in Dubai is the feeling of being underdressed whilst the rest of the population swaggers around in designer outfits dripping with gold and jewels. The solution is to either go with the flow or continue to shop locally in your nightwear.

An issue likely to lead to arguments is the ‘maid problem’. Almost every Dubai family from the middle class to the super-rich has a maid, but Brits in particular can feel less than comfortable about getting one themselves. It’s a cultural norm in Dubai and there’s no point in getting embarrassed or upset about it. Once you realise you don’t have to wash floors, dishes or clothes any more and the dread task of ironing is now out of your hands, you’ll be amazed at how easily you’ve conformed with this traditional necessity.
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