The British Ambassador to the UAE has hailed the UAE as great place to live and raise children, and commended the country’s pro-active approach in clamping down online predators that could very well harm unwitting children.
In an exclusive interview with 999 Magazine – the official English monthly of the Ministry of Interior – Dominic Jermey OBE spoke about some of the headline hitting issues that affect expats in this country. He urged expats and tourists to understand dress codes in the country, and advised parents to be more vigilant in protecting their kids from the possible harm emanating from the internet.
Jermey said: “The vast majority of expats living here dress entirely appropriately, and I think that most British people who live here or visit here get it absolutely right. Some who get it slightly wrong tend to get very bad sunburn.
“It is really important for expats and tourists to understand the norms of the society they are in. So that is why we, through our embassies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, work very closely with tour operators, local schools, and the airlines to run a global campaign called ‘Know Before You Go.’ As far as the UAE is concerned it is about having a really good time and getting the best out of your experience, but doing so in a way that is entirely appropriate.”
Jermey’s views echoed the points featured in the 999 Magazine’s March issue, whose cover story looked at the UAE’s dress code and the problem of inappropriate attire worn in public by some residents. The story complemented the magazine’s February issue, which revealed that 72 per cent of expats admit to the lack of UAE knowledge of local customs and traditions.
Jermey also stressed the importance of parental guidance in keeping children safe online and praised the UAE’s efforts in o penly in tackling the dangers that come with this powerful tool, particularly from those who would use their anonymity on the web to their advantage.
“This is a really important issue and it is very welcome that it is taken so seriously here and that it is talked about in society. This means that governments can legislate appropriately and the UAE can do a good job at putting boundaries in place. It can then become part of the curriculum at school, that’s really important too,” he said.
999 Magazine, in its April issue, brought together a prestigious group of experts, from the fields of education, technology and psychology to discuss the best ways to protect kids when they enter the cyber space. The 999 report carries a warning from top police officials to parents that excessive and unsupervised use of internet by children could lead to cybercrimes such as targeting of kids for sexual exploitation.
Families with children form a substantial percentage of the 1.3 million Internet subscribers in the UAE, making the country’s children at a high risk of being targeted by online predators due to the amount of time they spend online unsupervised. Experts pointed out that the children’s higher tech skills help them to evade parental controls and firewalls and so parents need to improve their tech skills and protect their children from harm.
Jermey added: “I approach this first and foremost as a parent – my wife and I make sure that my children use the internet only with our permission and they do so in a public room. It’s a rough world out there and they can quite innocently find themselves straying off course…That is why getting this issue on radio shows, television talk shows, and in magazines like 999 is so important – to highlight to parents what they need to do.”
In general, Jermey finds the UAE “to be a great fun and a great place to bring up children”. “It is also a fabulous place to be the British ambassador because the UK has this unique history and relationship with the UAE. And there are incredible contrasts from the traditional to the ultra-modern and that makes the UAE unique.
This is a great country to be in, so make sure you understand how to get the very best out of being here.”
Lt. Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Kindi, Editor-in-Chief of 999, said: “We are pleased to have the views of Jermey featured in the magazine. This interview is in line with the aim of the magazine, which is to create an effective and vibrant channel of communication between officials and residents in the UAE. We will continue to look for more ways to cover issues that are important to UAE residents’ daily life.”
The English 999 magazine is part of the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of the Interior to provide media coverage for the activities and efforts of the ministry and Abu Dhabi Police. It also aims to encourage the public to contribute to the reduction of crime in the UAE.
Many expatriates lack knowledge of UAE
A file picture of UAE nationals and expats sit down to share a meal during National Day celebrations in Ras Al Khaimah. (WAM)
A survey conducted by '999 Magazine' – the official English monthly of the Ministry of Interior – reveals that 7 out of 10 expats lack knowledge of UAE local customs and traditions.
The survey, which asked 2,000 UAE expats about their level of cultural awareness, shows that despite the abundance of learning resources and materials available, a whopping 72 per cent of expats know little about their host country.
Only 28 per cent of respondents had any real knowledge of the country’s local customs and traditions.
Similarly, only a third of the respondents set aside enough time to find out about the UAE’s culture, while the rest were comfortable with occasional glimpses.
In fact, 11 per cent confessed they never really bothered trying.
Lt. Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Kindi, Editor-in-Chief of 999, said: “The UAE is home to more than 200 different nationalities and has become known across the world for its low crime, modern outlook and the peaceful co-existence of its people.
“A survey conducted by 999, however, reveals a dismaying fact that many expat residents have a very limited knowledge of the customs, traditions, and heritage of the UAE. We hope that the results of the survey will stimulate people to exert greater efforts in this area.”
The 999 survey, which randomly covered Westerners (39 per cent), Asian (42 per cent), Arabs (15 per cent), Africans and others (4 per cent), revealed a large gap in knowledge about the UAE, despite the fact that most of the people surveyed were not new to the country.
Indeed, 77 per cent of those surveyed had lived in the UAE for more than a year, 34 per cent between two and five years, 22 per cent between five and ten years and 21 per cent of them more than ten years.
Just 23 per cent had spent only one year or less.
Of the 2,000 people questioned about how good their individual knowledge of UAE history, customs and culture was, a huge 60 per cent said they only knew the basics.
And a brave 12 per cent admitted to knowing next to nothing.
In response to being asked how often do you try to learn about the UAE’s culture, half said “occasionally” and 16 per cent confessed to it being hardly ever.
This lack of cultural awareness exists despite the fact that a large majority (70 per cent) of the respondents admitted there were enough resources available through which expatriates could learn about the UAE.
One other issue of concern however is the source of the information they actually do have.
Most respondents depended on word-of-mouth for getting any knowledge, increasing the risk of miscommunication or incorrect information being passed on, especially as they tended to ask people who only knew only the basics as well (usually other expats).
The survey is published in the February issue of English 999 magazine, a part of the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of the Interior to provide media coverage for the activities and efforts of the ministry and Abu Dhabi Police. It also aims to encourage the public to contribute to the reduction of crime in the UAE.