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Home: Living Here: Some Differences from the West

Becoming A Citizen
Becoming a citizen of a western country can take between three to five years, while becoming a citizen of the UAE, similar to all the GCC countries, is practically impossible even if you have stayed there for fifty years.

Your Own Business
In the west, you could run a home business or even sell watches in the streets. In the United Arab Emirates, if you are to accept money from people, you have to be a registered company. To register a company, you have the option of owning it all in any of the government free zones or else to have a 49% of the business and the other 51% goes to your partner, who has to be a UAE national.

Renting and Owning Property
Rent in the UAE differs from emirate to emirate and also differs in the different areas of each emirate. Rent in the UAE can range between Dhs. 6,000 to Dhs. 100,000 per year and the highest rent is found in Abu Dhabi (the capital). Unfortunately, only UAE nationals can own property in Abu Dhabi, while GCC nationals are permitted to own property in the rest of the UAE. They are starting to allow non GCC nationals to own property in various areas on the UAE, which includes Dubai, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah. more information...

In the UAE, the majority of local channels are government run and as a result have very few commercials. Most people have a satellite dish, as the local channels are insufficient for real entertianment. The satellite distribution companies that are available are Showtime, Orbit, and Al Awael. more information...

Streets and Directions
Roads in the UAE were built simply to be able to get from one location to the next unlike in the west, were roads were planned out in detail before their construction. Because of this lack of planning, roads are continously being rebuilt and modified. Because of British influence in the country, most of the streets are connected by round-abouts. When people give directions, they always quote known landmarks and then given directions from that landmark.

In the west, the modes of transportation very from walking, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, cars, buses, subways, and trains. In the United Arab Emirates, the most used means of transport is by car. One of the factors for this is because of the weather. Biking is rarely seen as you are not allowed to ride on sidewalks and the streets don't have sufficient regions which could be used to ride safely. Transport by train is not possible and most likely will not be any time soon. In Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, you will find public buses. more information...

Gas Station
In the west, you get out of your car and fill up the gas, wash your windows and then pay for the gas. In the UAE, you sit in your car, a gas station employee fills up the vehicle, washes your windows and you pay him for the gas.

Car Wash
As explained above, to provide a service where people will pay you money for, you will need to be a company to do so. So you wont find a bunch of kids in a parking lot willing to wash cars to make some extra cash. Car wash services are available at gas stations or else at particular car washing companies.

Drinking Water
Be careful when drinking public water and tab water as most of the emirates do not filter their water enough to be drinkable. Only water in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are clean enough to drink from. People living in the other emirates obtain their clean water in bottles and jugs.

Stopped by the Police
In the United Arab Emirates when you are pulled over by the police, you need to get out of your car and speak to them. It is the opposite from what happens elsewhere.

Drinking Alcohol
Most of the emirates permit the buying and drinking of alcohol and their conseption within private premises. If one is found drinking in public (Gulf News) or is drunk driving (Gulf News), they will either be fined or put in jail. If one is found possessing alcohol or drunk in the emirate of Sharjah, they will be lashed.

Driving Issues
It is compulsory for both front seat drivers to wear seat belts and a child under the age of 10 can't sit in the front passenger seat. It is also not permitted to drive a car while talking on a mobile phone and driver's caught driving through a red light will spend a month in jail.

Public Affection
It is not permitted for individuals to kiss publically, and you will not find any nude beaches or communities in the United Arab Emirates. (Gulf News)

As in most countries, narcotics drugs is illegal, and in the United Arab Emirates it is illegal to bring it into the country, sell it, use it or grow it in your home, etc.

Walking At Night
Young males, and occationaly young females, found wondering the streets at night are sometimes picked up by the police and spend a night in jail. This is done to reduce the amount of crimes that happen at night and after the night in jail, they are released the next morning after being finger printed.

Being with the Opposite Sex
It is not permitted for a male and female to share a closed space (a flat, room, tinted car, etc) away from the sight of other people, unless they are blood relatives or legally married. According to the Islamic law governing the Emirates, offenders will be being jailed and deported, and possibly lashed. (Gulf News) This law is not implemented in Dubai.

Eating in Ramadan - During the Islamic month of Ramadan, people can't eat, drink, or smoke in public during the time of fasting (Sunrise to Sunset). People found doing so may either be jailed for a maximum of one month, or fined up to 2,000 Dirhams.

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