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09 December 2023

Expats force Forbes to reconsider ‘unfriendly’ tag

By Shuchita Kapur

Expatriates living in the UAE were up in arms on social networking sites and blogs after Forbes.com ranked the country as the least friendly country in the world for expat workers.

Countries trailing closely behind included Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The ranking was based on the HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey, which this year polled 3,385 expatriates in 100 countries about everything from where you can get a swimming pool and more luxurious holidays to what countries offer the best access to healthcare.

But what perhaps led to the UAE’s low score were certain parameters like the expats’ ‘ability to befriend locals, success in learning the language, integration into the community and ease of fitting into the local culture.’

Almost instantly, expatriates living in the UAE as well as Emiratis took offense to the skewed ranking, venting their feelings and opinion primarily on Twitter, and creating a hashtag # UAE Friendly to defend their home or second home, as the case may be.

“I consider UAE my second home,” tweeted Dara Al Hadidi, who goes by the Twitter handle @DaraaaH.

“You can’t call a country that hosts 209 nationalities unfriendly. We’ve more countries here than the Olympics” said @KhalidAlAmeri.

“If UAE wasn’t a friendly country, why would people from all over the world consider it their second home?” tweeted another user.

The outpouring was huge, and almost every comment went on to support the UAE and ridicule the rankings, to the extent that it led the Forbes magazine to reconsider its listing and, in fact, take an absolute U-turn.

“[A]ccording to HSBC’s survey, expat paradise does exist: in Singapore, Hong Kong or the United Arab Emirates,” wrote Dan Bigman, Executive Editor for Business News at Forbes, in a what is been largely seen as a retraction by the magazine.

“Good to know Forbes has realised its mistake, UAE indeed expat paradise, please come and stay here to experience Arab hospitality,” tweeted @5abina.

“As the largest global survey of expats, Expat Explorer allows us to capture invaluable insights into expat life and how it differs from country to country, continent to continent and from an expats’ home country of origin,” Lisa Wood, head of marketing for HSBC, said. “We want to be a business that truly understands its customers so that we can ensure our products and services meet their needs effectively,” she added.

“The results are fascinating, and as volatile as you’d imagine… Where will your children be safest – and watch less TV?  Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates,” Bigman wrote in his article.