Do you want to move to Dubai, UAE to look for a job? Before you take the leap, here are 21 truths your job consultant won’t tell you about working in Dubai.
Dubai is seen as a Mecca of sorts by people who wish to earn big bucks in a very beautiful and architecturally advanced environment. This is because this Eastern Emirate country generally pays employees high wages and charges low or even no taxes in return.
For this reason, every year, millions of expats relocate to this glam city and make it their home, and there are yet millions of others who are nursing the plans to relocate to this country for the purposes of finding employment.
But despite its beauty and other perks, the fact remains that you have to make your research before moving to Dubai to find employment as there are certain things the travel agencies and even your job consultant won’t tell you about working in Dubai.
Dubai is an Arab city, situated within a Muslim country, and it holds it religion in high regards. For this reason, you have to know what you are getting into before you make the leap. In this article, we are going to attempt to show you a few truths that your job consultant would never share with you about working in Dubai.
21 Truths Your Job Consultant Won’t Tell You About Working in Dubai
- Long working hours
One of the truths that your job consultant would not share with you about working in Dubai is that most of the jobs demand long working hours. It is a fact that has been seen over and over again that international companies operating in Dubai, in particular, do tend to expect an awful lot from their expatriate employees.
These workers are made to put in hard and long hours. Some put this down to the fact that the salaries are higher and improved by lack of tax, thus making the employers want to take undue advantage. Some unpopular opinion say that employers sometimes feel that they have some sort of ownership over their employees.
- You need permits for everything
Yet another thing that your job consultant may not tell you about working in Dubai is that you would be regulated, and you may have to get permits for almost everything. Dubai is a very bureaucratic country especially for newly arrived expatriates, and it would expect you to have licenses and permits for everything.
You need a permit to buy alcohol, a license to drive, a permit to work and a permit to reside in Dubai, of course. The loads of permits demanded get to put a lot of people off, especially as you always have to produce these permits wherever and whenever they are demanded.
- There are no unions, so you don’t have a say on the job
One other thing you need to keep in mind about working in Dubai is that there are no work unions here. Of course, your job consultant would not tell you this.
Not being a democracy, the UAE doesn’t allow political participation of its residents, and even citizens. For this reason, there are no workers unions and demonstrations are not allowed. You can’t possibly be an active participator in building the society you are supposedly a part of.
For better or worse, you pretty much don’t have a say. The much you can do is to find a way to blend in, and it would be to your interest if you don’t start brewing trouble in that regards as it would not be tolerated.
- Summer is unbearable
You may have in fact be coming to Dubai to take a break from the depressing cold in your country, but one thing you have to take note of here is that Dubai does not have friendly summers. The summer months from June to September are almost unbearably hot, with temperatures sometimes getting over 55C; and many expats take time off during this period to return home.
The situation is really so bad that you have to stay indoors in air-conditioned rooms for some hours of the day for your own safety. Some months are indeed bearable, such as between November and March, but since you are going to work in Dubai, you have to stick around all year long.
- The Weekend Runs from Friday to Saturday
The weekend in the United Arab Emirates runs from Friday to Saturday, so rather than getting Sunday blues, here you get the Saturday blues. You may not get to know this till you become a part of the system, and it may take you sometime to adjust.
Aside from this minor detail, there are no real differences to the weekend. One thing that would help you to adjust easily is the brunch tradition of expats. This is in fact a serious affair of fine dining that only needs to be experienced.
- There is No Health Insurance
Yet another thing that your job consultant will allow you find out the hard way when seeking to work in Dubai is that the country offers no health insurance. As an expat, the only option left to you is to get private healthcare. Luckily many companies offer it as a standard perk for their employees, but not all companies. So you have to make sure that your job consultant helps you get employment with a company that provides this service.
- Ramadan Is Observed and It Will Affect You
If you are going to work in Dubai, one very important thing you have to take note of is the religion in the country. The religion is strict, and it would have to affect you in one way or the other even if you are not a Muslim. As Dubai is a Muslim country, Ramadan, the biggest Muslim religious holiday, is observed.
Ramadan is a month long, and during this time, people must abstain from drinking and eating during the day. As Ramadan is the holiest Muslim holiday it also affects businesses; office hours are often shortened, many restaurants remain closed and alcohol is not served. It would be in your best interest for you to observe the rules about eating and drinking in public during this period so as not to attract public ire.
- Cost of living is exorbitant
One of the first things you should know before moving to Dubai is that everything they say about this city-state is true: it is the playground of the rich and as such, luxury is all around you. The entire country is built to cater to the specific needs of rich people which means that if you are not mindful of your spending, you could end up blowing your salary very quickly.
This is one of the things that you may not be aware of and you have to learn the hard way. Eating and drinking in restaurants can be quite expensive and although you’ll be intrigued by all the fancy restaurants, take care not to make yourself a frequent patron.
- You must remain inside the closet if you are a homosexual
One very important thing you have to note if you are about moving to Dubai for employment is that the country does not tolerate homosexuals. Because of their very strict religious practices, if you are a homosexual, lesbian, or if you practice other sexual orientations, you must endeavor to remain in the closet and not show yourself.
Simply put, homosexuality in Dubai is a crime. If you can get into jail or deported for public display of affection being in a heterosexual relationship, you can only imagine what would happen to you if you are gay. You can get thrown in jail, you can get deported, and you can even bag the death penalty, so you have to be wary in this regard.
- Your rights sometimes come secondary
Though Dubai is pretty accepting of expats and visitors, but the law most times favors the locals than you if you get into any altercation. This is another thing your job consultant would not tell you. For example, you don’t want to be in a car accident that involves an Emirati, even if he/she was the person that was in the wrong.
In many cases, the law will tend to help the local person, in the detriment of the other, no matter who’s fault the event was to begin with. Depending on your nationality and race, you might be better off. If you are white (specially US American or British) you will probably do fine. But for most nationalities, they usually get to be tipped on the unfair part of the scale.
- Salary discrimination
One other thing that your job consultant would not let you on is that most employers in Dubai tend to discriminate based on salary. There is an unofficial rule that the job market in Dubai seems to follow: a person should get double the salary that he/she would earn in their country of origin. This should be enough to justify someone to move but… how does this make sense when everyone living in the same city would have the same level in expenses?
This goes to show that your wages are primarily determined by what exists in the country you come from and generally not what you should earn. Most employees don’t get to consider this at first as there are mostly taken up by the fact that they were offered more than they were earning in their home country.
- There is Work discrimination based on country
One other thing your job consultant would not let you know if you are seeking employment in Dubai is that you cannot get every job…even if you are qualified to get them. Some employers in UAE tend to practice some form of racism, with some playing it subtle, while others are unabashfully open about it. This is not the UAE’s fault by the way. It is the collective prejudice of all the different cultures that get mixed up in Dubai.
Work discrimination based on country of origin is ridiculously common. It is very common to read job adverts that include sentences such as:
- “Only UK/Australians”
- “Seeking maid. Filipino only”
- “Indians please abstain”
- “Job position for Arabs only”
This pattern of racism is not only noted in the job spheres. Depending on your race and country of origin, you will be more inclined to live in certain parts of the city that you can afford according to your job category. You will eat at certain places, you will use certain means of transportation. This is goes to show that there is also a class discrimination going on including everything else.
- You are not allowed to co-habit
Dubai is a Muslim country, and there are very strict about their religion. One of the things you may not have been told by your job consultant is that you are not allowed to cohabit with a significant other. This can make you an outlaw. Members of both sexes living together is considered a crime and it is punishable by law.
In some Emirates in the UAE, the police are reported to actually go from house to house looking for couples that are living together out of wedlock. If you are living in Dubai, then you might be safe on that regard, but that doesn’t mean that would not be prosecuted if caught.
Another thing that is likely to happen is that you can easily get reported by any of your conservative neighbors, so you are actually not safe. You might get to escape the law by referring to yourselves as husband and wife.
And as a lady expat working in Dubai, if you were to get pregnant out of wedlock, instead of booking a gynecologist appointment, it would be in your best interest if you leave the country. Failure to do this can get you deported or something worse if you are found out.
- Your passport can get taken away by your employer
One other thing your job consultant may not want you to know if you are planning on moving to Dubai to work is that your employer can very easily withhold your passport till the end of your contract. This is more so if you were coming to Dubai to work as a laborer.
Although this is not legal, it isn’t at all uncommon for employers to apprehend the passports of laborers during their contract. This way, even if a worker is unhappy, he won’t be able to quit, change jobs or leave the country.
To add to this, sometimes laborers get paid not monthly but at the end of their contract, making it even more impossible for them to make a move. So, if you want to work in Dubai, make sure the company you are working for is reputable to avoid this kind of degradation.
- You eventually have to leave the country
And yes, your job consultant would fail to remind you that once your job is terminated, you have to leave the country. As an immigrant in the UAE, when you have a job, you are granted a resident visa that allows you to stay in the country. But what happens when you retire? Well, when your services are no longer needed, you are going to have to go.
This is a fact that most people don’t know and equally don’t think about. One day, you will have to retire and when that day comes, you have to leave the country. You are not allowed to stay more than your visa requires. This is because the residency visa you were most likely given does not give you the luxury to stay in the country for the rest of your life.
- Everything is censored
Yet another thing that an expat may find irksome about Dubai is the fact that everything in the country is censored so as to keep in line with the religion. Local media would never publish anything that might be considered immoral, against the Rulers or Islam, or has anything to do with sex, nudity or pornography.
For this reason, it may be quite difficult to get full or complete reports about events as everything would be tailor-made to fit into the law even at the expense of providing correct information. Apart from the newspapers, the blogs are monitored, and anyone that provides information that is outside the ambit of the law or religion is banned or blocked. For this reason, the media and arts auto-censor themselves, for the sake of avoiding punishment.
The country is strict to the extent that even speaking up about poor services can get you arrested. You are not allowed to say or write anything that might be perceived as negative, no matter if true, even if you are stating facts rather than personal opinions.
- Islamic Values Must be Respected
Muslims pray five times a day, which is when mosques call people through their speaker systems. During this time, it is important that you turn off all music so that daily prayers can be given. During Ramadan, it is also important to know that drinking, smoking, playing loud music, and dancing during daylight hours are strictly forbidden.
Nothing can enter your body, not even your finger, so no picking your nose or nail biting. Breaking these observations can result in heavy punishments – even for non-Muslims living and working in Dubai. This is another thing your job consultant would not tell you about.
In general, any disrespect toward religious beliefs or practices is considered deeply offensive and is likely to result in a heavy fine and or imprisonment. That being said, all religions are respected in the UAE, and may therefore be followed by expats working in Dubai.
- Women Are Not The Same As Men
The rules were created by men in a society dominated my men, and for that reason, both sexes do not have equal rights. For example, as a woman, if you are raped, you can get in trouble. There are lots of reports where women who have been sexually abused tried to seek help from the authorities, but they in turn got arrested for having “extramarital relations”.
The fact that those relations were unwillingly held doesn’t seem to count in that regard. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, being a woman, there is a very good chance things will turn against you. Of course your job consultant would not tell you about this, but you owe it to yourself to protect yourself.
- You need a license to drink alcohol at home
It is forbidden to drink alcohol in Islam, although this was not always the case. At first Muslims were only forbidden to be intoxicated during prayer, until finally, some years later the Qur’an stated that, “intoxicants and games of chance” were “abominations of Satan’s handiwork,” and so Muslims were ordered to abstain.
This means that public consumption and inebriation in public is illegal, though it is legal for non-Muslims to enjoy alcohol in licensed premises, as long as they themselves have their own liquor licences to drink. Non-Muslim residents must even get a liquor licence for them to be able to drink alcohol at home. What’s more, the licence that you are issued with is only valid in the Emirate in which you applied for it.
You will be able to buy and consume alcoholic drinks within licensed hotels and clubs, but remember that doesn’t change the legality beyond the doors. It is strongly advised that if you are leaving the premises, you get straight into a taxi and do not wander around the area. If you are a social drinker or enjoy a glass of wine or bottle of beer at the end of the day, be sure to consider this law before working in Dubai.
In Dubai the legal drinking age is 21, but this is not consistent throughout the Emirates. For example, the legal age to drink alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi (although a by-law allows hotels to serve alcohol only to those over 21). In Sharjah, drinking is totally illegal. It is also worth mentioning that passengers in transit through the U.A.E. under the influence of alcohol may be arrested, so don’t take advantage of the free wine and beer on-board your international flight too much.
- Public Displays of Affection Are not Tolerated
Another thing you have to note if you want to work in Dubai is that you are not allowed to show any affection in public. Although holding hands is generally okay (if you are married), kissing, and hugging is not tolerated in public. In regards to dancing, however, the rules are slightly different, as it is allowed in the privacy of your own home or at licensed clubs, but dancing in public is deemed to be provocative.
It is deeply frowned upon for men to take photos of women without permission, be sexual or harassing in nature toward them, or even randomly speak to a woman. If you are a man searching for jobs in Dubai, make sure you are aware of these gender expectations.
Avoid smooching in public, as this will attract unwanted attention too. This includes even in nightclubs, hotels, the back of taxis and the beach. Just note that a simple kiss in public can get you into trouble.
- Clothing Is Very Conservative
Although considered very liberal when put into context compared to other places in the Middle East, Dubai still maintains conservative dress codes. Any clothes that are somewhat transparent, low-cut, or short should be left at your country, and what’s more, it is absolutely imperative for women that the stomach, shoulders, and back are completely covered when in public.
Men must cover their chest, and all underwear should be out of sight. Such rules are more relaxed when it comes to the beach and at swimming pools owned by hotels, but topless sunbathing is a big “no” in any location.
Your big guiding principle should be to make sure that you maintain some levels of modesty in your dress everyday, no matter what job you find in Dubai.