The UAE Ministry of Interior’s ‘999’ magazine recently published research that stated 72 per cent of expats in the UAE lack knowledge of local customs and traditions.
In addition, only one-third of the 2,000 respondents surveyed said they to set aside any time to find out more about local culture.
This kind of complacency, according to the article, results in “Many expats enduring court trials, facing social embarrassment and suffering a long list of inconveniences –simply due to not knowing the rules.”
Ignorance of the country’s moral boundaries is resulting in an increase in incidents of expats falling foul of the law.
Emirates 24|7 listed ten rules that have often cropped up in cases where expats have claimed ignorance of the law, but not escaped its effects.
No kissing, no touching
If you have been residing in the UAE for a while, you might already have figured it out. Holding hands may be OK, but kissing and petting is not. Expect a tap on your shoulder, or a correcting finger reminding you to abide by the local customs, deeming this behavior inappropriate.
No swearing/making indecent gestures
Not everybody will be offended by it to the same extent, but in the UAE it is forbidden. “No swearing and no indecent gesturing” is the warning in many tourist guidebooks as it has occurred in the past that unaware foreign visitors or residents have been fined or imprisoned for expressing themselves in a way that is not be appreciated in the UAE.
Giving the finger, pulling out your tongue and even a somewhat aggressive hand move are all considered indecent.
Moving your thumb up and down hoping to catch a hitch hike is not done and pointing at something or someone is considered impolite.
No taking pictures of others without permission
Again, it will most likely involve the innocent, unaware tourist who likes to capture images of everything looking just a little different than back home. Forget about it. Any person being captured on camera in any public space in the UAE can bring the photographer to court.
Especially women and families are sensitive towards the issue. Fines are the result.
Disrespecting any religion
Religious values are widely respected in the UAE. As such, committing blasphemy or sacrilege against any religion is considered deeply offensive.
Islam being the official religion of the UAE, some simple rules are followed in order to show respect and avoid misunderstandings, states the Code of Conduct.
It is important to be aware of these rules, as religious values may not be the same all over the world. When a newspaper contains the name of the Prophet (PBUH), do not use it as wrapping paper. When you hear the call for prayer, do not disrupt its sound in an obvious way. Do not forget that during Ramadan rules are different all together.
No sharing private space with opposite sex
Strictly speaking, sharing a private space with a member of the opposite sex when not related by family ties or marriage is forbidden. Private space would be a house, room, hotel room and even car.
However, certain behavior is tolerated. Hotel reservations are easily made for unmarried couples wanting to share a room and there are many cases of single men and women sharing a villa, apartment and even a room. Any punishment depends on the situation.
No indecent clothing
Another way the UAE decency law may affect the unsuspecting resident is by the guidelines it puts on clothing. Summer heat may tempt you to pull out the most exotic outfit you have to parade and mingle in the place where it’s all about the looks. Wrong again.
In public places, guidelines say shorts and skirts need to be of appropriate length not to indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans. On beaches rules are more lenient; swimwear is accepted but should be appropriate. Top-less sunbathing or the wearing of a thong is not allowed.