Those who are planning to visit Dubai and the United Arab Emirates need to know how to behave in this Muslim country. There are certain rules you should follow based on the customs and traditions of Islamic culture. While the UAE is welcoming to various expat nationalities, it is important that we are aware of certain do’s and don’t’s in order to avoid unconsciously disrespecting the citizens here.
One of the greatest things to bring on your travels is knowledge. Each country has different culture and history that developed their beliefs and norms today.
Learning one’s culture is not merely a sign of appreciation but also of respect. While the UAE maybe an open country, let us be sensitive to the culture and learn to abide by their traditions.
21 Tips on How to Behave in the UAE
Think of the UAE as a country that targets as a family-centric destination. This is a good thought to keep in mind so you understand why you need arm yourselves with these UAE Do’s and Don’t’s if you plan to visit this country. Here are some tips:
Dress Code Do’s and Dont’s
Please make sure you dress conservatively when you are in public. Even if you are a tourist, you are not exempted from wearing proper attire when in malls, beaches, etc.
1. Everyone is expected to dress appropriately and conservatively. Avoid revealing clothes, short shorts, etc. Women should comply with wearing scarves and being fully covered, specifically when visiting a mosque.
2. UAE has many theme parks, waterparks and beaches. For women, you may wear bikini only in beaches and pools. If you step out of the beach, even if it’s on the street on the beach-side, make sure to cover yourselves.
3. Cross-dressing is strictly prohibited especially given that homosexuality is not practiced.
4. Read carefully your statement shirts. If it has offensive captions regarding religions, then leave it behind.
Gestures, Social Interactions and Behaviors
5. Regardless of gender, standing up when elders or high-ranking personalities enter the room is a demonstration of respect.
6. It is customary that food is received and eaten through your right hand.
7. Ask for permission before taking a picture of locals. Better yet, try to avoid taking pictures of locals altogether. Unsolicited pictures posted online can actually land you in jail.
8. Be mindful of your behavior during Ramadan. Specifically eating, drinking and smoking. Doing these things in public, or in front of a fasting Muslim is a sign of disrespect.
9. Don’t initiate a hand shake with a Muslim from the opposite sex. Better wait for them to offer their hand and not the other way around.
10. Pointing fingers is considered a rude gesture. Make use of your whole hand when you’re going to point at something.
11. Avoid crossing your legs or pointing your toes to anyone.
12. Do not offer pork and alcoholic beverages. It is haram in Muslim culture.
13. Refrain from flashing rude hand gestures in public.
Alcohol, Drugs, Driving
14. Make sure to apply for an alcohol license and buy only at certified retailers of alcohol; restaurant, bars, and etc.
15. Do NOT drink in public.
16. Do NOT drive while being intoxicated. UAE has a Zero Tolerance in alcohol consumption on the road.
17. Doing illegal drugs is not tolerated in UAE
The UAE is a conservative country. Public display of affection should be practiced in a cautious manner. It is okay to show some form of affection to family member, for couple
18. It is okay for a married couple to hold hands in public and maybe even a light kiss on the cheek. But leave the French-kissing (deep kisses) in your room.
19. Only married couples are allowed to live inside a private room together.
20. Staying in a private space alone with the opposite sex to whom you are not married with.
21. Avoid overt kissing or hugging in public.
Please be advised that the information above is based on an expat’s experience living in Dubai for more than 4 years. These details may change without prior notice, and it is important to always visit the website of the government for more accurate details.
We hope you find these bits and pieces of travel guide information helpful especially if you are travelling to the UAE for the first-time. Learning a bit about the culture is always helpful. These do’s and dont’s are not meant to discourage you from visiting the country. These are meant to help make your stay a pleasant one.
Lastly, the UAE is not at all cracked up according to what Western media may usually report in the news. It offers plenty of security and safety for residents and expats living as one community. Happy travels!