Adjusting to the local culture in Dubai

Dubai lifestyle
Updated 2021-11-11 13:06

Dubai, like most of the United Arab Emirates, is one of the most desirable job destinations worldwide. Over the years, this city has become a second home for so many nationalities while many more are still on their way. The expat community is enormous and accounts for over 80% of the UAE's population. A fast-growing environment surrounds expats who choose to live here, with the building of new malls, schools, residential complexes, etc.  

However, living in the Middle East is much different from what you're probably used to in Western countries.

The local culture has been developed over the centuries in Dubai, and it amazes visitors in its own way. Most of the UAE's population is Muslim and abide by Islamic traditions. All foreigners are expected to respect the local lifestyle and be familiar with local culture and traditions for a smooth and healthy experience.

Dressing style

While walking around the city, you can observe people dressed in beautiful national clothes. Usually, men wear long dresses made of light, airy Kandura cotton. It is called Kandura, and generally, the colour is white or cream. Women wear an elegant black dress (abaya) with long sleeves and headscarves to cover their hair (hijab). Sometimes they cover the face as well (nikab). Those national dresses are made of light cotton and offer excellent protection against heat.


Islam is the official religion in the country, but expats in Dubai can practice their religion. However, it is illegal to spread the ideas of any religion besides Islam through any channel. It would be considered a punishable crime that can lead to deportation.

Daily prayers

One of the most significant adjustments for the expats is getting used to the five daily calls to prayer. The prayer can be heard anywhere: on the street, at work or home, sometimes even in the mall. As the working week in the Middle East starts on Sunday and finishes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the weekends. The Friday prayers are usually longer than on a typical day.


During the holy month of Ramadan, which starts every year in a different period, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are required to abstain from drinking, eating and smoking in public places during the fasting hours (from sunrise to sunset) as a sign of respect for Islamic culture. Some restaurants and shops will be closed till sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. After the sunset, everyone can enjoy Iftar (a meal eaten by Muslims after the prayer). A lot of places will then open and offer a wide variety of meals.


Another challenge faced by most expats is that of drinking alcohol and eating pork. It is one of the religious don'ts in the country. Drinking alcohol is legal in Dubai in some hotels, bars and restaurants, or private residences (if you get a license), but absolutely forbidden in public. Regarding eating pork, it is a dietary restriction mentioned in the Quran. However, you can still find pork in some supermarkets. It is usually kept separate from the main area.


Gestures like hugs and kisses are not typical in the local society. It is also prohibited for a man and a woman to live together as a couple unless they are married.

Besides the prohibition of alcohol and rules for women, there is so much more to discover about Dubai and the rest of the country. You may find our Dubai forum to be a good place to learn more about the city, interact with other expats and build valuable connections.

Useful link:

Visit Dubai

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