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Rule(s) of the Day: How to Behave in Dubai

According to a study, expats are not so good at following local rules.


The way Americans talk about Dubai, you'd think it was the Las Vegas of the UAE - sunny, excessive, and more than a bit licentious. Not so, according to the UAE's Ministry of Interior. Their in-house magazine recently published a study that suggests 72 percent of expats don't understand local customs and traditions. As a result, many have endured "court trials, facing social embarrassment and suffering a long list of inconveniences – simply due to not knowing the rules.”


As a courtesy, the Ministry has put together a list of the rules foreigners should take note of. Common violations include:

  • PDA. Handholding is sometimes okay, kissing and "petting" is not. According to Emirates 24/7, a make-out session will result in a "tap on your shoulder, or a correcting finger reminding you to abide by the local customs, deeming this behavior inappropriate."
  • Swearing. This is technically forbidden, though some locals are more tolerant than others.
  • Giving the finger. Indecent, plain and simple. Even thumbing for a ride or pointing at someone is considered impolite.
  • Taking pictures without permission. This is a serious offense - any person being captured on camera in a public space can bring the photographer to court.
  • Sharing a private space with the opposite sex. Technically, this isn't allowed when said member of the opposite sex isn't your spouse or family member. But it tends to be accepted in hotels or villas.
  • Short skirts, midriff-bearing tops. A no-no. No topless bathing either.

Photo credit: Philip Brown/Reuters

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.