area with no crime, tax or alcohol
The Middle East
is one of the most common destinations for expatriate employees
- but just how different is life there from the life you are used
to, and how much has it changed in recent years? We take a brief
look and provide you with links to resources where you can gather
THE Middle East
can be many things to many people, but the one thing that first-time
visitors can rely on it being is something of a culture shock.
Within the broad area called the "Middle East" there
are many regional differences in both the people and there attitudes
to Westerners. The Middle East has changed dramatically in the
past 10 years and nowhere more so than the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE is now fairly tolerant of Westerners however Saudi Arabia
and Kuwait are far less tolerant and there is a lack of Western
entertainment, and restrictions on movement, - particularly for
women in Saudi - alcohol and certain foodstuffs.
The big plus for
Westerners, apart from the weather and no tax, is safety. The
UAE, for example, has been voted the safest place in world for
holidays by the IATA [International Association of Travel Agents].
Crime rates are very low. Conversely, there are many things that
you take for granted in your home country that are proscribed
in some Arab states, such as drinking alcohol. If you are going
to the Gulf, you should learn about the local mores, particularly
if the company you are going to join does not offer an orientation
programme before you go.A useful rule of thumb is to remember
that any behaviour which is considered offensive in the Western
world will be seen similarly in the Middle East. Having said this,
the most important consideration involved is to appreciate the
importance of Islam in the Middle East. Islam should be seen very
much as a way of life and code of behaviour which underwrites
all aspects of a Muslim's life, and as such must be treated with
respect at all times by all. In terms of practical day-to-day
living, this respect demands restraint in exercising rude behaviour
and the wearing of revealing clothing in public places. Some Arab
countries are less strict than others when it comes to following
the rules. The United Arab Emirates, for example, will be more
tolerant of Westerners' faux pas than is Saudi Arabia. Regional
differences do apply in that tight, revealing clothing in Saudi
Arabia will be regarded as totally unacceptable, whereas in the
UAE, for example, such dress would be considered as a failure
on the part of the expatriate to understand local customs. A similar
restraint should be shown in kissing a member of the opposite
sex in public and, in certain countries, even escorting a person
of the opposite sex to whom one is not related. Behaviour such
as showing the soles of one's feet, crossing legs and beckoning
with a single finger are also extremely rude.
Alcohol is practically
forbidden in the primarily Muslim region of the Middle East, although
some areas, including Egypt, the Levant and Dubai, adopt a more
lenient attitude towards drinking, according to Mr Price. But
irrespective of the country you are living and working in, you
must restrain your alcohol consumption, especially in terms of
offering a drink to a Muslim, and driving after drinking.
More information about the various countries in the Middle East,
together with maps, can be obtained by clicking here.