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Guide to safe living: Dos and Don'ts in the UAE

Filipino community leaders in Dubai come up with 50-page safety awareness book with tips outlining how compatriots new to the UAE can stay out of trouble

Image Credit: © XPRESS/Pankaj Sharma
Public display of affection is looked down upon in the UAE

DUBAI: Sex outside marriage could land you in big trouble. Avoid kissing in public. Don't think that your debts are cancelled after you spend time in jail for bouncing a cheque. Don't eat or drink in public during the fasting hours of Ramadan.

These are simple yet firm reminders Filipinos new to the country will get from a "safety awareness booklet" to curb the number of compatriots landing in trouble for being on the wrong side of UAE laws, a community leader said.

The 50-page booklet is being prepared by Filcom, a group of over 50 Filipino community leaders in Dubai and the northern emirates. "It's a simple and easy to understand guide to remind our ‘kabayans' [compatriots] about how to behave and take responsibility for their actions while in the UAE," Lisa Magno Concepcion, President of Filcom, said.

The passport-size handbook is the latest attempt by the Filipino community to communicate dos and don'ts to the estimated 400,000 compatriots in Dubai. According to Concepcion, around 10,000 copies will be printed initially and distributed for free on June 10, two days ahead of celebrations marking the 113th Philippine Independence Day.

The guide also deals with illicit relations and potential punishments and also offers home safety tips. "Couples who live together outside marriage are unaware that it is illegal here. Many are also unaware that the way they dress could also invite trouble," she said, adding a lot of Filipinos mistakenly think their debts are written off after they are jailed over non-payment of bank loans. "But in truth, you still owe the bank which can file a civil case until the amount is paid in full."

The bilingual handbook (Tagalog and English) comes close on the heels of advice issued in February by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructing around 100,000 resident Britons and over a million British tourists who come to the UAE each year on the laws and social regulations to curb the high number of arrests of British nationals in the UAE.

Concepcion said the contents of the handbook have been prepared after weeks of deliberations by representatives of several community organisations, including inputs from Dubai Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, church groups, human resource and safety professionals and a teachers' group under Filcom.

Do's and Don’ts in the UAE

  • Bathing suits are OK only in hotel pools and private beaches
  • Men are also expected to dress decently with no bold overtones.
  • Absolutely no cross-dressing
  • Holding hands and kissing are unacceptable and can lead to arrest
  • During Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, people are expected to abstain from alcohol, dancing, chewing gum, smoking and singing in public during the day
  • Eat/drink with your right hand as the left hand is considered to be unhygienic in this part of the world
  • Don’t show the soles of your feet or shoes as this implies disrespect to others — that you are comparing the person to soles or ‘dirt’/‘trash’
  • If a Muslim is praying, do not walk in front of him or stare at him
  • If you have not accepted Islam as your religion, take prior permission before entering a mosque
  • Do not point fingers at others as this is considered disrespectful
  • Taxi passengers should avoid sitting in the front seat of a taxicab;“small talk” can be misinterpreted as over-friendliness or even a form of propositioning by taxi drivers
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications are often considered illegal or a controlled substance.
  • Keep your medicines in their original containers and bring a letter from your doctor as a well as a copy of your prescription with you
  • Possession of illegal drugs, or the presence of an illegal substance in a blood or urine test, clothing, body, or in your luggage, could lead to arrest
  • Don’t drink and drive. Alcohol is served at bars in major hotels but is intended for hotel guests.
  • Drinking or possession of alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal and may lead to fines and imprisonment
  • Avoid making obscene hand gestures, using inappropriate (foul) language to a police officer

Should community leadersfrom other countries have similarhandbooks for their nationals?


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Every Filipino flying anywhere in the world must attend the pre-departure orientation seminar (PDOS), which must highlight rules, regulations, customs and traditions of the host country. I have attended PDOS before when I left for Saudi Arabia. However, very little was discussed about the Saudi culture. If we want to educate our people on rules and regulations of the host nation, we must do so back home and not when we reach our destination.


21 May 2011 16:16jump to comments