Cultural Differences Between the UAE and Europe

Moving to the UAE will be an exciting step, but it’s also a major change. Here’s how to get used to it.

International removals between Europe and the UAE are on the rise. It works for both parties. Businesses in the UAE are looking for talented professionals from overseas, while people in Europe are attracted by the thought of low taxes and a new, exciting experience.

The UAE is a great place for many reasons. Dubai is fast becoming one of the most desirable cities in the world, but it also represents a gateway into so many other parts of the world.

But making the move will be a big challenge. Dubai has become one of the most international cities in the world with foreign workers now outnumbering the local Emiratis, which gives it a uniquely cosmopolitan feeling. Underpinning all that, though, is the rich local culture.

The cost of living is not as cheap as it once was, but unless you want to get wrapped up in the high-flying life of glitz and glamour then you can still save.

Fed up with the soaring prices of life in European capital cities? Then you should give the UAE some serious consideration. The only thing you will have to pay more for is alcohol and women’s fashion.

The lifestyle is much stricter

Buying alcohol is difficult. The hotels will serve it but you’ll have to pay a much higher price. Your best option could be to stock up on duty free and drink in private until you get you liquor licence to allow you to buy alcohol for your home.

The dress code varies around the UAE, especially for women. In places such as Dubai it’s much more liberal than elsewhere. For example, women do not have to wear head scarves. Even so it’s polite to respect UAE culture. Tight or low cut skirts are deemed offensive, and if you bare your shoulders you might find yourself warned. 


There is something for everyone in the UAE. Whatever you like to do Legal pastime maybe you will find somewhere is the region that you can carry on your interests, whether it be sport or music, etc

 The weather is hot

… Very hot. It couldn’t be more removed from London if it tried. Out in the desert temperatures soar to more than 40°C in summer and the humidity will make life very uncomfortable. You should keep yourself hydrated and try not to go out at the hottest times of the day.

Getting a visa

If you are a European passport holder simply disembark your flight at Dubai International Airport and proceed to Immigration, where your passport will be stamped with a 30 days visit visa free of charge. This is until you employer secures your resident and work visa.

Embrace the difference

Moving to the UAE will represent a much bigger cultural shift than other places and it can take time to adjust. However, these differences can also be exciting. As with so many things in life, much depends on how you accept and embrace the local culture.


Things you need to know when you get there

What airport will you arrive at? 

There are thousands of flights per week from around the world to the UEA into Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Al Ain. Dubai is also a major world airport hub for transit flights

Local currency 

UAE Dirham. AED1 is made up of 100 Fills. The currency is pegged to the US dollar. On 12 November 2017 $1 was worth AED 3.67.

How do you spot a cab? 

Taxis are cheap and plentiful in Dubai. The government employs more than 70,000 taxi drivers and runs a fleet of cars.

Price of a hotel room 

The average price at a 4/5 star hotel is £131 per night. However you can and will be able to find bargain rooms away from the beaches and central locations much cheaper.

Price of a house 

Apartments in Dubai range from AED4,500 per sq metre in Discovery Gardens to more than three times that price in the upmarket Palm Jumeirah, while villas start at AED5,400 per sq metres. Prices are generally higher in Abu Dhabi.

Price of a pint of milk 

AED2.57 (1 litre costs AED4.52

What language do most people speak? 

Arabic. English is widely spoken, along with Farsi, Hindi and Urdu.

What tax will you pay? 

One of the big attractions of working in the UAE is its tax regime: it charges no income tax on salaries paid there. If you move part way through a UK tax year you may have some tax to pay at home, but after that your income will be earned tax-free. There are taxes on some services and goods as of 2018 VAT.

How long will it take to send a letter back to Europe? 

About a week.

Do’s and Dont’s


Do remember that the United Arab Emirates is an Islamic country and follows a tolerant version of Sharia law.

Be respectful of this, and you’ll have a much better stay, and be more likely to meet locals and explore the heart of the UAE. Insulting Emiratis, even indirectly, with your behaviour could have serious consequences, from fines to imprisonment

Do dress sensibly and respectfully.

Women are advised to wear loose-fitting clothes and skirts that drop to the knee. Men should wear jeans or trousers, and tops with long sleeves. You will see foreigners wearing tight, revealing clothes, and while it’s rarely punished, it does alienate Emiratis

Do take taxis directly from hotels to nightclubs.

Drinking and being intoxicated in public is an offence than can get you fined, or land you in jail. Be careful of how you act: it only takes one local person to report you for being overtly drunk to get you in a lot of trouble

Do take your shoes off if visiting someone’s home.

If you enter someone’s home, leave your shoes at the door, and avoid showing the soles of your feet. Similarly, avoid eating with your left hand

Do be aware of opening and closing times.

The weekend in the UAE is Friday and Saturday, and Friday is the equivalent of Sunday in the West. Many shops and entertainment venues will close for at least part of the day, so remember to check times in advance

Do drink tap water.

It’s free and safe! Many luxury hotels important bottles of European water, such as Volvic and Evian, at a great cost financially and environmentally, so remember to ask for local bottled water, if you’d rather avoid tap water

Do be careful when crossing roads.

Speeding is a common occurrence, so jaywalking and crossing roads without a pedestrian crossing area can result in you being knocked down. This could also incur a fine if you are caught. Therefore you should always cross at a designated crossing area.

Do be respectful of Emirati women.

Only shake hands with a woman if she offers her hand first, and do not take photographs without her permission.


Don’t wear swimwear away from the pool or beach.

Swimwear is perfectly acceptable to wear when lounging by the pool or on the beach, but away from these areas, it’s deeply disrespectful and could get you in trouble

Don’t display affection in public.

Hand-holding is fine, but anything more than this is an offence, and will offend Emiratis. Similarly, staying in the same hotel room as someone of the opposite sex that you aren’t married to (unless a parent or child), can result in arrest

Don’t lose your temper.

Swearing or making rude hand gestures in public will get you in trouble, so refrain from cussing the person who nearly knocked you down or cut you up!

Don’t take photographs of government buildings.

Normal tourist photography is fine, but avoid photographing Sheikh’s palaces, ports, airports, police stations and military buildings

Don’t drink-drive.

This is strictly prohibited, and if you’re involved in an accident and there’s the slightest trace of alcohol in your blood, you will most likely go to jail

Don’t take drugs.

Taking drugs, bringing them into the country, or even being in the company of those taking illegal substances has dire consequences, with many states in the UAE regarding the death penalty as suitable. Steer clear of anyone offering illegal narcotics

Don’t eat or drink in public during Ramadan.

The holy month of Ramadan bans eating or drinking in public before sundown, so either eat in your accommodation, or opt for one of the cafes or restaurants that stay open during this time – they’ll pull shutters down over the windows and will know the correct etiquette

Don’t forget to bargain!

If you’re browsing items in the souks, don’t pay face value – vendors will expect you to haggle, and will enjoy your attempts to lower the price.


Hope this information helps