Looking to move overseas for a new job? The most famous of the United Arab Emirates holds a vast array of opportunities.
With awe-inspiring architecture, continuous stretches of beautiful golden beaches, and limitless skyscrapers, Dubai is an ideal base for both culture-seeking expats and business-driven expats. Home to approximately 3.33 million people, the region is a place of diversity where people of all nationalities live and visit.
With 85% of the population being expats, the thriving community means migrant and expat workers should fit right in once they have learned the local culture and lifestyle. To help new expats feel at home, here are five top tips to help new arrivals settle in.
The city is home to an abundance of languages. Whilst the official language is Arabic, the majority of residents speak English, and you’ll encounter people fluent in a variety of languages including Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Tagalog, Persian, Chinese and Malayalam.
Speaking, reading and writing Arabic gives a significant advantage to those living and working in the Middle East. Certain jobs require fluency in both English and Arabic, and if you can converse in both languages, you’ll meet far more people and start up stronger business relationships and friendships more quickly.
You don’t have to be fluent in Arabic right away, but a few basic phrases can really help, and while learning Arabic can make life easier, you can still get by using English because it is widely spoken in Dubai. Some often-used conversational phrases include:
· Good morning – Sabaah alkhayr
· Good evening – Masaa' alkhayr
· How are you? – Ayfa Haluk?
· Please – Min fadlik
· Thank you – Shukran
· You’re welcome – Äafwan
· Yes – naäam
· No – Laa
Though Dubai is a very cosmopolitan city, high on diversity and inclusion, most of its cultural practices are conservative. Expats and migrant workers must respect the culture, rules of the region and the local and visiting communities.
Clothing should be modest and respectful in all public places, including offices and worksites, public shopping malls, parks, beaches and pools (there is an exception for private beaches and pools). Visits to mosques will require clothing that fully covers the entire body and women must cover their hair with a headscarf, which is usually provided when entering the mosque.
Most public spaces provide separate sections for men and women to use. It is common to find gender-segregated spaces at gyms, swimming pools and on public transport. Public displays of affection are frowned upon and in many cases illegal. Find out more about Emirati law.
Similarly to other new and unfamiliar customs encountered upon moving to any part of the globe, getting used to the local culture and customs in the Emirates can take some time. The longer you live there, the faster you’ll pick up on the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of life in the UAE.
Possibly one of the most important religious events in Muslim ideology, Ramadan is a holy month for followers of Islam worldwide. Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset for one month every year. Even for non-Muslims, public eating, drinking or smoking during active fasting hours is not permitted.
Most food and drink shops close during the day, though larger hotels and worker accommodation often provide a place to get food during daylight hours. Food eaten before sunrise is known as Suhoor, and food consumed after sunset is known as Iftar. Iftar and Suhoor are both big events at hotels and in family homes. Daytime business hours are condensed to accommodate employees who are fasting, and businesses are open much later during Ramadan.
Getting to know the culture is exciting and fun, as well as a learning experience, and that includes sampling the wonderful array of delicious regional dishes.
Majboos is a must-try meat dish typically made with chicken and of assorted spices in mixed rice. Lamb or fish can also be used instead of chicken, but the blend of traditional spices and biryani is a constant ingredient. The end result is a mouth-watering local dish, usually served with chickpeas. Luqaimat is a popular sweet dessert, and the Arabic version of dumpling. It was traditionally served as a dessert after the breaking of fast during Ramadan, but now features on many menus across the UAE.
Camel milk is the local beverage delicacy. Camels are part of the rich history and heritage of the United Arab Emirates, and their milk is served at most local restaurants and sold in food shops.
Due to the city’s large expat population, plenty of international food options can be found and enjoyed, meaning expats and visitors are spoilt for choice.
Settling into a new culture and environment can be tricky at first and often time-consuming, but the more effort put into understanding and accepting cultural differences, the quicker adapting to a new life will be. Before moving abroad, do as much research as you can across laws, tax, pensions, work practices, health insurance, culture and transport.
While conducting your own research is vital, experiencing the local culture first-hand before your move is even more eye-opening – if you can visit the Emirates before you start living there, you’ll be even more prepared for your new work and lifestyle.
Want to know more about working in the UAE? Here are 5 Reasons to Work in Dubai.
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