Culture Shock in Abu Dhabi
The UAE's capital city is bound by the same Muslim mandate present throughout the country and the greater Middle East, and expats will need to make sure they're familiar with local laws, customs and behaviour. Non-Muslims are not expected to comply with Islamic code, but they are obligated to respect it; which can certainly take some adapting to in its own right.
Dress and behaviour should be modest, buying and consuming alcohol requires a licence, and living together without being married, conducting adultery and homosexual behaviour are illegal in the UAE.
The multicultural mix that makes up Abu Dhabi means that expats are likely to interact with individuals from any number of cultures in a single day.
Call to prayer in Abu Dhabi
Congestion in Abu Dhabi
Emiratis in Abu Dhabi
There is an unofficial social structure in Abu Dhabi, and Emiratis are at the top. It's not unusual to be standing in a queue to order ice cream or buying a pair of shoes, only to find an Emirati has jumped to the front of the line and commanded the cashier or server's attention. It's also possible to be waiting in the heat for 15 minutes for a taxi and when one stops, the person who arrived seconds ago sweeps into it.
Men and women in Abu Dhabi
Ramadan in Abu Dhabi
A non-Muslim needs to be very careful during the holy month of Ramadan. In Abu Dhabi, most businesses and offices ban
eating and drinking at desks out of respect to those colleagues who are fasting. Some set up special rooms where food and drink can be consumed. Bars and restaurants will open at night and serve alcohol, but usually will not play any music. It is extremely important to remember not to eat, drink or smoke when out on the street or in one's car: the police keep watch and have handed out fines for doing so. It is also good to remember that fasting colleagues – even those on the road during the drive home – could be growing increasingly tired and irritable as they have not eaten or had a drink all day. People frequently leave on mini-breaks during Ramadan. So, keep in mind that some more conservative destinations, such as Oman, ban alcohol altogether during this time.
Cultural awareness in Abu Dhabi
It takes getting used to, particularly when coming from countries that have become very sensitive to the mildest forms of nationalism. But here, everyone differentiates themselves. Nationality must be stated for almost every transaction, even opening a bank account or obtaining a gym membership. Comments that would seem blatantly racist elsewhere are commonplace in Abu Dhabi: whether it is a taxi driver blaming other countries for producing bad drivers or a doctor muttering about the origin of his ineffectual staff.
Domestic help in Abu Dhabi
With so many foreigners coming from countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to work and send money back to their families, an expat quickly realises that daily life can be easy and affordable. This is strange to adjust to at first. There is VIP parking at hotels, malls, even hospitals; most stores deliver even the smallest orders. Laundries pick up and drop off loads; people even hire others to wash their cars. Many offices employ men who are referred to as "tea boys" and serve hot and cold drinks, clear takeaway cartons, fetch change and even wash dishes brought from home. New expats often struggle with taking part in such a system and choose to opt out; others take advantage, but pay and tip extra in acknowledgement that the people who help them out are often supporting entire families at home.
Alcohol in Abu Dhabi
The consumption of alcohol is only legal for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi within licensed restaurants, pubs, clubs, or private venues. Westerners must obtain an alcohol licence through Abu Dhabi Police. It costs a percentage of one's salary, puts a limit on how much alcohol one can buy and is valid for one year. Although it’s possible to buy alcohol without a licence at some shops, expats should not do so. Nor should they carry alcohol on the street or transport it in their cars, as they can be arrested in the case of an accident or if they are stopped by police. Bars are tucked away from the streets in hotels; public drunkenness is not allowed and could lead to an arrest.