Is your next career move bringing you to Dubai? The city boasts a modern lifestyle, cosmopolitan community and warm weather year-round, making it an exciting place for young people. To adjust quickly it’s a good idea to get to know the cultural differences you should expect when you relocate to Dubai.
Below are some key considerations to keep in mind in preparation for your move.
- Language: While the official language of the UAE is Arabic, English is widely spoken and understood. Road signs, restaurant menus and similar materials tend to be written in both languages. Still, in the interest of developing rapport with your local colleagues and contacts, it’d be worth your while to learn some basic Arabic phrases.
- Interaction etiquette: When meeting new people, communication between men and women tends to be more formal in public, and there is a lot of respect and deference shown to elders and people with seniority.
- Keep in mind that some practising Muslims, both men and women, are unlikely to embrace the opposite gender if they are not related, and may also choose not to shake hands with the opposite gender in a professional or social setting. In these instances, if unsure, it’s always better to let the other person take the lead.
- Timings: In the UAE, the week runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday serving as the weekend. Expats will find that their daily routine and appointments can be influenced by prayer timings – especially when dealing with government officials. Muslims may take a break from work close to lunchtime, early evening and sundown, which is important to keep in mind when scheduling meetings. This is particularly true in the holy month of Ramadan, when work timings are reduced by at least two hours.
- Accommodation: If your new company has not arranged your residence, you can rent in one of Dubai’s growing number of residential communities. When working that cost into your budget, remember that you’ll also owe 5% commission to your real estate agent and a deposit for Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (AED 1000 for apartments and AED 2000 for villas). Payment for utilities is often separate from rent.
- Healthcare: Since 2014, it has been mandatory for expats to have a minimum level of insurance before they are issued a visa. You should confirm the terms of your healthcare insurance with your company and decide whether you would like to supplement that with additional insurance.
- Driving: Expats from over 30 countries are able to transfer their license to a Dubai driving license after processing some paperwork and completing an eye exam. Car ownership is common in Dubai, though the Dubai Metro does serve major, centrally located areas of the city.
- Food and attire: Alcohol and pork are traditionally forbidden in Muslim culture, so it’s not advisable to order either of those items during shared meals or business lunches. There is an emphasis on modest dressing in the UAE, which means showing excessive skin is frowned upon. In professional settings, it’s generally recommended to keep arms, legs and shoulders covered and wear closed-toed shoes.
Do you have more questions before your move to UAE? Get in touch with GAC for up-to-date information and advice.