Living as an Expat in the UAE: Dos and Don’ts

Living as an Expat in the UAE Dos and Don'ts

Moving to a new country as an expatriate is an exciting and challenging endeavor. One of the destinations that has been capturing the attention of expats worldwide is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With its modern cities, thriving economy, and diverse culture, the UAE offers a unique expat experience. However, like any international relocation, there are certain dos and don’ts that expats should keep in mind to ensure a smooth transition and a fulfilling stay in the UAE.


1. Respect the Local Culture and Traditions

The UAE is deeply rooted in its traditions and Islamic culture. While the country is known for its tolerance, it’s essential for expats to respect local customs. Dress modestly, especially in public places and religious sites. During the holy month of Ramadan, be mindful of eating, drinking, and smoking in public during daylight hours.

2. Understand the Visa and Residency Regulations

Before arriving in the UAE, make sure you have the appropriate visa. There are various types of visas available, including tourist, employment, and residence visas. Familiarize yourself with the regulations to avoid any legal complications. Keep your residency documents up to date and follow the renewal process as needed.

3. Explore the Culinary Scene

The UAE offers a culinary adventure like no other. From traditional Emirati dishes to international cuisines, there’s something for every palate. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in local specialties like shawarma, falafel, and Arabic coffee. Venture into the bustling souks and modern restaurants to savor the diverse flavors the country has to offer.

4. Embrace the Multilingual Environment

While Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken and understood, especially in urban areas. This linguistic diversity makes it easier for expats to communicate and navigate daily life. Learning a few Arabic phrases can also go a long way in building relationships and showing respect for the local culture.

5. Experience the Rich Heritage

Immerse yourself in the UAE’s history by visiting museums, heritage sites, and cultural festivals. Learn about the Bedouin way of life, pearl diving traditions, and the rapid transformation of the country. Understanding the past will provide you with a deeper appreciation for the present.


1. Public Displays of Affection

The UAE has a conservative approach to public displays of affection. Holding hands or hugging in public might be considered inappropriate. To avoid any discomfort or misunderstandings, save intimate gestures for more private settings.

2. Disrespect Ramadan Customs

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, and there are certain rules that non-Muslims should follow out of respect. Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public during fasting hours. It’s also advisable to dress even more modestly during this period.

3. Engage in Reckless Behavior

The UAE has strict laws and regulations, and authorities are vigilant about enforcing them. Avoid behaviors such as public intoxication, excessive speeding, and public arguments. Familiarize yourself with local laws to ensure you stay on the right side of the legal system.

4. Photography Etiquette

While photography is a great way to capture memories, always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially locals. Avoid photographing sensitive areas like government buildings, military installations, and certain religious sites.

5. Neglecting Savings

The UAE offers an attractive expat salary package, often including housing allowances and other benefits. However, the cost of living can be high, especially in cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s essential to manage your finances wisely, save for the future, and not get carried away by the luxurious lifestyle.


Living as an expat in the UAE can be a rewarding experience filled with opportunities for personal and professional growth. By respecting the local culture, understanding the rules and regulations, and embracing the diverse lifestyle, expats can create a fulfilling and enjoyable life in this vibrant country. Keep in mind the dos and don’ts mentioned above to make the most of your expat journey in the UAE.

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