The following is a guest post.
Now you’d be forgiven for thinking all of this is a load of baloney, upping sticks and seeking a new job, life and hopefully a tidy fortune in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Well it is and it isn’t. It is in the sense that few of us have the wherewithal – polite way of saying b****cks – to do something so 180 degrees out of kilter with everyday experience. It isn’t in terms of the thousands of your fellow countrymen and women who have done exactly that. Don’t you admire them?
Fast forward a few months. You’ve taken the bull by the horns and now joined the UAE’s buoyant expatriate community. You happy? Enjoying the expat lifestyle? Your HSBC credit card maxed out yet? The correct answers should be yes, yes and no in that order.
Yes, because your Dubai salary is a darn sight higher than it was back home in the States. Your employment contract comes with a package of perks thrown in, too, like cheap but comfortable rental accommodation and first class medical cover. Yes, because the expat community sticks together and you’ve a darn sight more friends than you ever had in your life before. Your social life has simply taken off. Partying almost every night. And no, because you’re nobody’s fool and you know the consequences of living beyond your means in a country where debt is frowned upon, big time. So you’ve taken to studying personal finance with an enthusiasm you never thought you had.
It’s not been easy adapting to a Muslim culture, where Sharia law predominates and the norms seemingly innocent and taken for granted back home can get you into deep trouble. A credit card is nothing out of the ordinary in the States. But in UAE and in the wider Middle East, credit and debit cards, savings accounts and interest rates and all the other banking services taken for granted in the West remain a largely hypothetical concept. For despite all the advances in the Middle Eastern banking sector, cash is still very much the currency of choice amongst the vast majority of the citizenry.
Alcohol hasn’t the same resonance in the UAE as it has in the West. You can enjoy a drink or two at a hotel or club but don’t get drunk. At least not in public. No staggering down the street under the influence unless you want to spend the night in the police cells. You can drink at home, too, in private, providing you’ve obtained a liquor licence first.
Illegal drugs. Do not go down that road in any shape or form. The consequences of being caught in possession are extremely serious indeed. Severe penalties are likely. Bear in mind the UAE authorities consider traces of illegal drugs in the bloodstream as possession. Stay away from illegal drugs completely.
Sex is another minefield. Having sex outside of marriage is illegal and can even land you in prison. You can’t simply live with someone either. Not on. You can’t even share the same hotel room with someone of the opposite sex unless you are married to them.
That about covers it in terms of drink drugs and sex. Well almost. You’ve probably guessed by now homosexuality is illegal. And kissing in public? Not recommended either. You have been warned.
Go here for more in-depth information. It’s provided by the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. However, the information is relevant for all expatriates, no matter the nationality.