The problem with Dubai is that it changes rapidly. Why is this a problem? Well, Dave (or Davina) your mate down at the cafe may have formed an opinion about the Emirate in the UAE from their visit 10 years ago. The problem with that is that their opinion may be skewed based on dated beliefs, creating misconceptions. This blog aims to bust 10 of the myths people have when considering living in Dubai.
You have to speak Arabic
I don't speak Arabic and I've been fine for the last three and a half years. There are those people who come and learn a great amount of Arabic and that’s great but Arabic is an extremely difficult language to understand. For the most part, most people do speak English which means that you don't need to speak Arabic which is great. People do appreciate it if you try and speak Arabic. It is really appreciated but I'm not good at that. I think I'm just a typical Brit when it comes to languages. Unfortunately, that puts me in a box, doesn't it? As long as you've got that English QTS you'll be fine working in a British International School.
You can’t buy pork: As explained in Guide 2, there are certain places where you can find pork. You can find them in certain supermarkets such as Spinneys, Choithrams, Park n’ Shop and Waitrose within the non-Muslim pork area. They'll sell the obvious things such as bacon sausages and pork loin. You'll also find different candy products that contain gelatin too and other pros related snacks like canned beans and sausages. Generally, there's only a certain handful of restaurants that sell pork breakfasts (Bacon sandwiches etc.) and products. As pork is available but quite limited, if you go into a food court in a mall, you won't find pork on the menu, you'll have to go to certain restaurants such as McGettigans’ or Maison Mathis as an example.
It’s illegal to have alcohol
This is false. Similar to pork, you can find alcohol in very specific shops. You won't find it in the supermarkets. You'll find it in shops, such as African and Eastern and MMI. You'll also find it in certain restaurants too. You won't obviously find it in food courts and cafes. Restaurants within malls won’t serve alcohol too. You'll find restaurants that serve alcohol usually attached to the hotels as they will have specific licenses to serve it. It is noteworthy that other Emirates such as Fujairah have alcohol shops attached to some of the hotels and it is generally cheaper there. The true part of the statement is that the only dry Emirate (where alcohol is illegal) in Sharjah. You won’t find alcohol here in hotels at all. I think there is perhaps only 1 place where it is served (The Rugby Club)
In addition, you can drink alcohol, you can't drink alcohol in public, but you need to go to those areas that serve it and consume it. Law changes recently updated meaning that you no longer need an alcohol license to consume alcohol which used to be confusing.
All food and drink are imported.
There's I suppose there's an element of truth in this. There is a large import rate here in Dubai in the UAE, and lots of different fruits and vegetables and all sorts of different products get imported from around the world. For the most part, though, you will find local products that are grown here too. So that's also important. So it's a true and false thing. I think imports contribute to increasing the prices here in Dubai, but you can find local products too.
Dubai and the UAE is not safe.
This is a huge misconception.
Yes, there are areas in the Middle East that are perhaps in a little bit more in turmoil but the UAE, although it is in the Middle East, has recently been voted one of the safest areas in the world. This country is the only country where I would feel safe leaving my phone and belongings on the table while I pop to the toilet and know that when I come back, they're still going to be there.
I've done it before especially when I was writing the guides where I would pop to the toilet with my laptop and all the different gear that I would have out knowing that it's just going to be safe. This is also reflected in nighttime walking as I feel incredibly safe.
I know there's a lot of surveillance about but that adds the security of things and it means that yeah, I just generally feel safe at night. Obviously, I'm not a female, but my partner would echo these words too.
So it's an incredible country with amazing safety.
Girls are expected to wear abayas.
Although in other areas in the world, this is true, here in Dubai, this is false.
There is of course other areas in Dubai where this is true and girls and guys need to wear more respectful clothing.
If you go to religious areas, for example for the Sheikh Zayed mosque, in Abu Dhabi, there is an expectation that you're more thoughtful with the clothing and shoes. Generally speaking, when you go to indoor areas such as the public malls, there is an expectation that you're a little bit more considerable what you choose to wear there, however there is leniency there too.
Those rules still apply. It goes back to the rules being strict. Just make sure that you're considerate of what you do wear and try not to you don't push the rules too much because there are times when people will enforce the rules.
If you are interested in finding out more about teaching in the UAE, you can find my two guides here which guide you through the application process and what you need to consider after securing a position.
No Bikinis allowed
You can wear beachwear, yes. It's too hot otherwise. It's important to also understand beachwear though. You're okay wearing beach wear on the beach, but when you step off the beach and you need to wear a t-shirt when walking from the beach to your car. This rule applies to all genders when going from public beaches: Kite beach, JBR, La Mer and others to public places.
You have no rights.
This is false.
There are all sorts of different rules, regulations and laws that are in place to protect the population here in Dubai. It's important to mention and there are individuals that are taking companies to court when those rules and regulations have not been considered and the individuals have won their cases, which means that the laws are in place to protect the population when it comes to work and labour.
They will take your passport.
There's an element of truth to this. I was surprised when my passport was 'taken'. But it was taken so that they can do the admin process of putting the visa in place in your passport and things like that. As a law that's recently been updated. Employers are not able to hold your passport if you request it back. It's a really important law and that has really recently been updated. So that's been put in place as a right for employees.
You can't hold hands.
This is kind of true. Technically, public displays of affection are illegal. As I said before there is leniency towards this. You will see going down the tourist areas coupled holding hands and things like this. However, as a general rule of thumb, public displays of affection are illegal. So you need to be really cautious about this one too.
You can't live together I'm both shocked but also delighted to be typing that this is now false. At one point this law was true. Many couples lived together but under the fear that they could be 'caught out' but it was a rule where there was leniency and unless reported, would likely be unnoticed. Thankfully, law changes in 2020 now indicate that couples can live together without being married.
You can't live have a baby unless you're married
This misconception was true. Only a couple of years ago if you had a baby and you weren't married, there would have been tonnes of jail time. Now it's a false misconception. You are actually allowed to have a baby without being married. Of course, I would still recommend it. Because things take time to come into play. But generally, in terms of the law, you can have a baby without being married. This is as long as the husband and wife take responsibility for the baby.
So that brings me to the end of the blog sharing many misconceptions about living in the UAE by the time I publish this blog, there might be even more misconceptions based on the laws and the way that they've been updated but you can be sure I'll update below.
These myths scratch the surface when it comes to understanding living in Dubai. You'll find a plethora of information within this guide.
My website also has more information about teaching in Dubai through a range of different blogs which you can check out here
If you are interested in finding out more about teaching in the UAE, I have a playlist of videos available on YouTube here, and you can find my two guides here which guide you through the application process and what you need to consider after securing a position.