Social Behavior for Westerners Visiting DubaiAs a guest in a foreign country, it becomes our duty that we govern our social behavior or act according to the customs prevailing in the said country. Compared to other Arabic/Muslim countries, women have the freedom to wear, say and roam according to their wishes. But certain limitations are to be self-imposed in the dressing style. At one point of time exposing skin was banned in public places like shopping malls or beaches. But with booming tourism, rules have been relaxed and women tourists can now enjoy wearing “western” clothing as long as it’s not offensive. Bathing suits are okay at hotel pools and private beaches, but if possible refrain to one piece suits.
Men are also expected to dress demurely with no bold overtones. Don’t go over the top with eccentrically designed crazy or tacky clothes. You wouldn’t be really welcome in Dubai.
Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims holds utmost importance in Dubai. The festival which takes place during the ninth month of Islamic calendar, is regarded as the Five Pillars of Islam. Dates aren’t fixed as it is dependent upon the sighting of the new moon. Guests and tourists as a sign of regard are also expected to abstain from alcohol, dancing, chewing gum, smoking and singing in public places during the day. This is obligatory according to Dubai Law. Accordingly you won’t find any food or drink shops open in the day. But the life in evenings brightens up with the city, restaurants and pubbing places working overnight.
Deep rooted inside the Islamic traditions that form the main constituent of UAE’s lifestyle, the Culture in Dubai is diverse and rich. It is very much important for the foreign nationals to respect the tradition of the Emiratis when in UAE. Well-known as the entertainment hub of the Middle East, Dubai acts like a magnet for the party lovers who enjoy splurging inside the expensive clubs and bars of the city. Emiratis are quite popular for their warm hospitality who offers tempting refreshments to their guests.
When Arabs meet up, they take their own time and talk about general things. Men and Women do not greet each other outside their family. Men do shake hands and might even kiss each other on the cheek with their real good friends. On the other hand a woman tends to hug and kiss only her close friends.
Perhaps there are certain things that are to be kept in mind if you are invited in an Arab’s house. It is advised to dress gracefully, to be punctual as far as possible, and greet the elders first in a way to respect them, remove your shoes before entering and bring something small as a way of thanking. Flowers are generally given for a woman by the woman guest. Giving alcohol has to be avoided as a gift unless it is accepted positively. Hosts commonly do not open the gifts in front of the visitors. If you are served the Arabian coffee and dates, be obliged to taste it and if you are invited for a meal then it is understood that it is time to socialize and have a small talk before the meal is served. Residents generally sit crossed legged or else kneel down on one knee when having their meal on the floor and eat with their right hand. Tourists are requested to try a bit of each delicacy served.
People normally dress up in their traditional clothes that make them the most comfortable. Men generally prefer the khandura or dishdasha, a long white shirt, along with the ghutra, white headdress, and the agal, a rope for the ghutra. Women wear the abaya, long black cloak, over their clothes and a hijab or sheyla, a scarf wrapped around face and head. Visitors are requested to dress sophisticated whilst traversing around the city. Men are requested to wear trousers and women to wear dress long enough to cover their knees. Visitors can wear clothes according to their wish when inside the hotel or at bar or club. Swim wear is accepted at the pool or beach. Alcohol consumption is allowed only inside the nightclubs, bars and some of the hotels. Locals can enjoy a drink inside their house as long as they possess an alcohol license given by the municipality. Residents or tourists are not allowed to consume alcohol on the streets or in public places.
When in Dubai visitors are requested not to exhibit Western culture habits on the streets wherein the foreign nationals may find it offensive. Tourists are asked for not to take photographs of airports, ports, government buildings and military installations. Before taking the snaps of the locals, especially women, tourists are requested to ask politely.
General Etiquette in Dubai:
Respecting the law and religion in any country is a basic pre-requisite and not an exception in Dubai.
Make sure that an Arab friend consumes alcoholic drinks before offering.
When in the sitting position, keep your legs firmly placed on the ground and not crossed.
Always eat/drink with your right hand as the left hand is considered to be unhygienic by the Arabic world.
Do not show the soles of your feet or shoes as this implies as a mark of disrespect to the other person. It could mean that you are comparing him to the soles which correspondent to ‘dirt’ or ‘trash’.
If a Muslim is praying, do not walk in front of him or stare at him.
If you have not accepted Islam as your religion, then take out prior permission before entering a Mosque.
Do not point fingers at the other person as this is considered impolite or disrespectful.
No public display of affection.
Avoid aggressive behavior withstanding any condition you are faced with.
Ask permission before taking photographs of local people.
Alcohol is available in hotels but restaurants are not permitted to serve alcoholic beverages.
Tipping is not expected in hotels but you can do as an act of gratitude towards the hotel staff. Hotels and restaurant add service charges to their bills. If not added, expect to add 10% to your bills. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped.