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ExpatWoman's Guide to Dubai Etiquette: How to Behave in Dubai

ExpatWoman's Guide to Dubai Etiquette: How to Behave in Dubai

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ExpatWoman's Guide to Dubai Etiquette: How to Behave in Dubai


Dubai Etiquette and Code of Conduct


Although Dubai is a very tolerant place to live there are certain rules to follow to make your time here easier and avoid any unnecessary brushes with the law.

Visitors and residents should remember that, as Dubai is a Muslim city, a more modest code of behaviour is required. Being drunk and disorderly in public is unacceptable, and may result in a fine or worse. Public displays of affection should be minimal – holding hands is acceptable but kissing and hugging in public is not. Noise disruptions, bad language, making obscene gestures and showing disrespect in any way to Dubai’s religion or its leaders are all forbidden and may land you in legal trouble. The following are also considered illegal in Dubai: use or possession of drugs, cohabitation, sex outside of marriage, having a baby out of wedlock, adultery and homosexuality.

So here are our top tips on how to follow Dubai etiquette:


Dress Code

Dress Code in Dubai
 
Although you will see plenty of exceptions, mainly from tourists, there is a dress code for Dubai and this has been implemented as a show of respect and to avoid any offence being given. To sum it up you should cover your shoulders, cleavage and legs above the knees and avoid really tight or sheer clothing. Bikinis should only be worn on beaches and around pool areas and should not be of the G string bottom variety. Topless bathing is of course illegal! The dress code matters less so in a bar but you should think about covering up with a handy pashmina for the journey. All malls in Dubai have implemented the dress code and you can be thrown out of a mall or asked to purchase more “decent” clothing to be able to remain in the mall.

For more information about Dubai's dress code, see here >>


PDAs

Public Display of Affection
 
Public displays of affection with the opposite sex in Dubai can get you in to trouble- so no kissing, canoodling, fondling in public whatsoever- whether it’s with your husband or not- it can still cause offence. A peck on the cheek or holding hands with your husband is fine!
You might also be interested in:

Hand Gestures

No hand gestures in Dubai
 
Hand gestures in Dubai can cause you to be fined, put in prison or deported- depending on who you flick the bird to! So no matter how crazy the driving do not be tempted to use a rude hand gesture. Hand gestures that will cause offence include giving the Vs, giving the finger.


Swearing

No swearing in Dubai
 
Swearing at someone in Dubai is also illegal- whatever happens keep your cool and don’t use that potty mouth- it could get you in serious trouble! 

Take care when swearing over social media, the Internet or via popular instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, too- if a person is found swearing online to another person and they take offence and complain, they could be fined AED 250,000 and jailed, while expats could also face deportation under a federal law governing Internet users. 


Being Drunk

No drinking in Dubai
 
It is actually illegal to be drunk in public in Dubai and this can also lead to fining, imprisonment or deportation. 99.9% of the time all will be fine but you really need to keep your wits about you. Always, always hop into a taxi straight outside whatever venue you are at- don’t be tempted to go for a wander! And whatever you do- never, ever drink and drive- not even one. There is a zero tolerance policy here and it is not worth the risk to yours or others’ lives- again get a taxi, abandon vehicle- use the Safe Driver service! Make sure you have an alcohol licence too!

SEE ALSO: What is Ramadan all about?


Photography

Taking pictures in Dubai
 
Normal tourist photography is acceptable but it is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women. It is also courteous to ask permission before photographing men. In general, photographs of government buildings, mosques or military installations should not be taken.


Handshaking

Handshaking in Dubai
 
When a woman meets an Emirati or Arab man, do not offer to shake his hand, unless he extends his hand towards you first.


Drugs

Drugs in Dubai
 
Drugs/ narcotics are of course totally illegal in Dubai but there are also prescription drugs, like Valium for example, that also contain prohibited ingredients that are illegal in the UAE and should not be transported here. Here is a link to the excel list of banned drugs in the UAE: Banned Medicines List >>
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Latest comments
  • Downundergirl on 08 Jun 2014 07:45:08 PM
    Regarding handshakes: I have read the opposite - that Arab or Emirati men will only shake a women's hand if she offers it first. So I'm confused - do I offer my hand, or wait for them to offer theirs? If in doubt, what is the better option?
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  • Desertdew8 on 15 Jul 2014 01:01:01 PM
    @Downundergirl - shaking hands when meeting for official purpose is fine but depends on who it is. Most expats shake hands with each other (professionally) but you have to take a call on whom you shake hands with. Men shaking hands with men and women with women is usually okay. Its the opp genders that is an issue specially with Arabs and the Indian Subcontinental people. :)
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  • Galerie Gabel on 10 Mar 2016 02:51:55 PM
    I will be in Dubaï next month for an art fair, I read carefully this article, but I need to know if it's a problem for me as a woman to be alone on my stand (booth) to sell canvases, do arab man would easily talk to a woman alone on her stand or not? I hope they will!
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  • on 19 Jul 2016 04:34:13 PM
    I will be in Dubai next month, this will really help me. I would like to add an additional point about Dubai Etiquette Avoid insulting or talking disrespectful about Arabs or even the leaders of the city and the nation of UAE. This can put you in legal trouble.
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