Ahh, the oasis of the middle east. This may sound doubtful but Dubai holds a soft spot in my heart. This really sounds so cliche, but back in my younger days, going foreign is a strange concept. At least not everyone aspired it.If you’d ask the younger me, I would tell you straight what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to work abroad. Nowadays, working abroad is connected to the “Filipino dream” of providing for one’s needs and sacrificing the distance just to give a better life for their families. Yes too much drama there. Sentimental but true. Although this is not my basis for wanting to work abroad, 8 years ago I find myself slipping on the walkalator of Dubai Airport for the first time (God! I didn’t know how to walk on those things, how dumb was I? ) Witnessing the skyscrapers of Sheik Zayed Road definitely overwhelmed a province girl like me. That and many more memoirs of my 5 1/2-year stay in the desert metropolis of Dubai.
Living in the strange but unique middle eastern culture, I can’t help but witness stories and tales of people. Some tragic and some are horrifying. The common misconception of outsiders about middle east is that it spells D.A.N.G.E.R. This may be due to the very strict laws and regulations of the land. But based on my experience, if you are a law-abiding dweller then no harm will come your way. So in order to, if I may say so, educate first-timers who wants to come to Dubai either for work or vacation, this list is definitely worth a look.
Adhere to the list. Do or die (just kidding but consider though)
- Don’t wear revealing clothes. Clothes that define your body or show too much skin disrespects the conservative culture of muslims. This is for your own good, or else you can be mistaken for something else other than what you hope for.
- Be very patient. I mean when in line. Because others are not.
- Don’t publicly display affection towards your partner, be it your boyfriend or husband. That includes kissing, holding and touching in public places. Although public places like malls can be very forgiving to foreigners, it’s better to be on the safe side. Worst case: you can go to jail for doing so.
- Arabics have the behavior of using their hands and fingers too often for expression. From another culture’s perspective, it can be intimidating but don’t worry, they’re not cussing you (I think)
- Don’t be too loud, get drunk or be noisy in open spaces or even at home. Chances are your neighbours will call the police and you can get reprimanded.
- Drink bottled waters. All.the.way. (choose the spring water kind)
- Over-speeding and reckless driving is not taken lightly in Dubai. All roads and highways are equipped with cameras that automatically takes snapshots of drivers who are going beyond the speed limit or beating the signal. And the fines? oh, it burns.
- Follow the line, follow the sign. Whatever it is that you’re doing just follow instructions.
- Don’t touch women. Period. Especially the ones wearing abaya (the black dress). Even if you mean well, or if you have no bad intentions. If you’re a male, just politely nod and say sorry if you bumped or come across unforeseen mishaps.
- Never complain about the smell of the food out loud. It is always rude to say negative comments about other people’s culture if you have a certain dislike for it. Arabic cuisine comes off with a strong and spicy smell which can overwhelm a foreigner’s tastebud.
- If you see two men greeting each other with a kiss on both cheeks and wiggling both their noses together- it’s normal. That’s how the locals greet each other as a sign of camaraderie (only men do this).
- If you happen to be in public, stop when its prayer time. You will notice this because there will be notifying sounds. This may happen many times within the day.
- Pork is not an enemy, it’s just haram (meaning prohibited), you can find some selected grocery stores selling them within a specific section (Spinneys & Waitrose) but take note that oblivious display of photos, designs and whatnot are considered offensive.
- Always take your passport/work visa with you wherever you go. If you’re a legal worker, carry your Emirates card all the time for security purposes. Failure to show a police officer your identification card may lead to consequences of jail time or deportation.
- It’s hot and humid everywhere, 90% of the time. Hydrate when you can and take good care of your skin.I’m looking at sunblock people.
- If you’re intention is to shop ’til you drop, then schedule your visits during shopping festivals (July & December)
For now, I have exhausted my haywired memory and my survival kit of circa 2008. I maybe adding more items to the list but for now I hope this will do for you. What are other things I have missed? Leave some comment below.