In the next instalment of our crucial guide to how to get along in Dubai, we cover off some really important areas to take into consideration.
This one focuses on how not to break the law. Which is important, because I’d imagine your time in Dubai would be less fun if you had to spend it in jail. It’s actually well documented that a large majority of expatriate naughtiness comes as a result of a lack of knowledge. So to plug those gaps, here are a few rules you really should be knowing:
1. You can’t be affectionate or kiss in public
Holding hands is kind of OK, but taking things any further is not a good idea. Public Displays of Affection (PDA’s) are for the cripplingly cringeworthy anyway. Get a hold of yourselves.
2. Don’t swear
This doesn’t just extend to verbal expletives. Making an indecent hand gesture can also land you in bother. For example, an Irish guy recently had to fly home to visit his ill mother, but was unable to leave the country as an Emirati had reported him for giving him the finger. The 19-year-old Ferrari-driving Arab had apparently pulled out in front of him and nearly killed him. Then, when the Irish guy proceeded to display his displeasure at the incompetence, the Emirati ran to the Police to tell them. He’d noted the registration, the Passport number was related to the reg of the car, and the guy was stopped at the airport. Not allowed to leave until he apologised to the local kid, and the kid said it was OK to leave. True story.
3. Don’t take pictures of other humans without them knowing
As weird as it sounds, you can be taken to court and fined if you post a picture featuring a stranger who was unaware of the photo being taken.
4. Don’t be negative about stuff
Whatever you think of your bosses, the rulers and the rules, unless it’s positive, you might want to think about keeping it to yourself. Negative posts on social media won’t be tolerated. In fact, people from neighbouring GCC countries have found themselves being extradited to the UAE in order to face up to their slanderous views on the UAE’s leadership, or imprisoned within their own country. I love my bosses, I love rules and I respect laws, and I love the leadership. They are doing very good work.
5. Respect Islam
If the Prophet is mentioned on any piece of paper, don’t throw it away, at least not in front of people. Don’t shout or sing over the call to prayer, and don’t blaspheme.
So obviously there are a couple of things to be mindful of. Being drunk is illegal, yet there’s more bars, happy hours, clubs and brunches getting people off their faces on a daily basis than on an 18-30 holiday in Zante, so it’s a bit of a weird one. Just try not to act like a dick when you’re drunk. For a lot of people this is a real challenge, but if you attract attention to yourself by trying to be hard and taking your shirt off like a beer boy or trying to fight people, you may well find yourself being carted off to jail, and when that happens, well, anything could happen. And it probably will. Good luck to ya. Also, walking down the road with alcohol (opened or unopened) is illegal and will result in the cops coming along.
Dubai still uses cheques for serious to pay for stuff, like rent and that. If you make out a cheque and it bounces due to a lack of funds, you could well end up facing time in jail, and if you are bankrupt, well forget abut it. But these rules are set to change. They are going to have to change if Dubai hopes to be able to compete on an international level.
Finally, you’re technically forbidden from sharing a private space with a member of the opposite sex unless they are related to you. By the actual letter of the law, this means you can’t be in a car with them, a house with them, a bedroom with them or a hotel room with them. But, everyone does it and if this rule was enforced there’d be no expats left, so it works like this: if you’re acting normal, not making too much noise, not attracting unnecessary attention and not trashing a hotel room with your girlfriend, you’re probably going to be just fine. If you do anything that is likely to bring the Police knocking on your door, one of the charges will certainly be something to do with being in such a close proximity to a member of the opposite sex.