Dubai - Life in a protective (restrictive?) Bubble
After having lived in Dubai since 1998 & having friends that have lived here twice as long, I have realised that life here really is a "protected bubble", with its censored media & society's own unspoken rules, and why the first thing everyone asks is: "Where are you from?"
1. Unspoken law:
The law seems to be literally "black & white" and will often be quite lenient with UAE Nationals (=Emirati =Local) in comparison to the punishment that expatriates would face. Example: speeding, reckless driving, parking tickets, bar-brauls, etc. This is slowly improving, but one can notice that Emiratis receive preferential treatment by the authorities.
And note this: a women, if harassed can defend herself - even physically. The boyfriend/husband however, better keep his hands in his pockets.
Generally, the hundreds of nationalities living together in Dubai reside in a relatively peaceful & accepting existence; just make sure you know the rules...
2. Unspoken law: (for women)
If a man approaches you & the interest/feeling is NOT mutual, telling him you are married will usually have little effect... many Arab/Muslim men seem to think that because Westerners are "allowed" to have sex before marriage & because women are allowed to go out alone, we don't really care about marriage & will cheat whatever chance we get.
So Ladies, be painfully direct and say: "I am not interested in you. I don't like you. Leave me alone".
3. The boys in green:
Dubai Police seem to implement the country's laws in accordance with their mood. If they are grumpy just shut up & don't argue. Also, it's a problem that many officers do not speak sufficient English. It always helps to know some Arabic or have a friend who does. (Strangely enough: if you speak Arabic they immedidately lighten-up and sometimes even let you off...)
4. Unspoken law:
In the public, women do receive a huge amount of respect in the Middle East. You may notice this when queueing and being asked to step before all the men waiting... 5. City of Eternal Youth:
One of the rarest sights is old people. It is as if they barely exist. Old grannies & grandads - they are not part of this surreal, youth-obsessed world.
Elderly expats don't exist here because work visas expire at age 60 (bar a few rare exceptions). The only senior citizens one ever sees are elderly parents visiting their expat-children. It can be quite startling to see a couple of silver-haired seniors after months of seeing nobody past middle age... Elderly Locals are just as rare. There are some older emirati ladies around the shopping malls, but they tend to wear the traditional "bronze-effect" face mask, so who can tell if they're fifty or ninety? As for old Emirati men - perhaps they prefer the quiet & privacy of their villas, away from the alien, modern world that has invaded theirs.
6. "Sophisticated Racism"
Dubai society can be described as "sophisticated racism": Western expatriates are respected less (& paid less!) than Locals, but are generally treated better (& paid more) than Asian expatriates (Philipinos, Indians, Pakistanis). Brits (well, the English) are nowadays being regarded as "snobby" by many Locals - after all: they colonised this country once...
If you are Scottish, Irish, German or Swiss, Arabs usually loooove you! Many Arabs holiday in Germany/Switzerland or send their children there for school.
7. Seeing & being Seen:
Dubai is the Los Angeles of the Gulf with its share of "trend setters". For them it's all about being seen in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.
"Coffee culture": People always meet in cafes, and the city get's very crowded during lunch-hours & Fridays. Dubai has many nice cafes, especially in Jumeirah along the Beach Road.
Sorry if you think that this tip isn't "politically correct"...
reality rarely is.
Superb Dubai Blog: http://dubaithoughts.blogspot.com/