Home to some of the richest and wealthiest people in the world, Dubai is often referred to as one of the most desired cities to not only travel to, but also to work in. Thanks to the country’s laws against tax free income, it has quickly become one of the world’s most popular places for foreigners and expatriates to travel to. But it doesn’t take long for the realities of this city to set in – as the extravagant lifestyles, excessive working hours, corruption, ridiculous amounts of debt and the constant thoughts of imprisonment begin to take a toll on you.
Despite its extravagant lifestyles and its high paying jobs, there isn’t much more to say about this bare, barren desert that people call Dubai. That is, until you begin to uncover the cities deep and dark secrets of what life is really like when living in this infamous city – something that the Dubai government doesn’t want the general population to know. These shocking realities aren’t something that you will find sprawled among the pretty pictures in travel magazines – they will actually be the exact opposite.
Will you leave this article with the same itching desires to travel and one day live and work in Dubai? Most likely not, as these 15 shocking realities will change your outlook on this infamous city entirely.
15. Public Displays Of Affection Is Forbidden
We have all witnessed PDA at some point in our lives – whether it was you on the receiving end, or simply while you were waiting in line to pay for your groceries. Either way, when you do witness it, you simply just move on and never give it a second thought. But, as you are about to learn nothing is ever that simple in Dubai as public displays of affection are considered indecent and punishable by the form of imprisonment.
But this is where things start to become quite tricky as there is a very fine line between what is acceptable and what is illegal as something as simple as a handshake, hug or even friendly peck on the cheek between friends could land you in some mighty hot water.
14. Concentration Camps For Labourers
We have all seen those stunning photos of Dubai’s most famous landmarks spread across pages in travel magazines, but just like every city, not everything is how it appears as there is a dark side to this city that is hidden in plain sight.
There are three different types of Dubai, the Emiratis who essentially rule this country, the expatriates and finally the foreign underclass who are responsible for making this city what it is. Little do people know that the foreign underclass are treated like slaves and are trapped here against their will as their passports have been taken without permission by their employer.
To make matters worse, over 300,000 men are bussed each evening to a vast concrete wasteland – that closely resembles a concentration camp – where the conditions are absolutely appalling as the smell of sewage and sweat fill the air.
13. Racism Is Everywhere
For decades now, countries from all around the world – especially the United States – have been working hard towards demolishing racism within their countries. From a general observation, it is evidently clear that people of colour and different nationalities are being accepted on a much more frequent basis and respected for who they are.
But, sometimes countries aren’t what they seem as despite what Dubai may claim; the racism that is present within their country is so blatantly obvious that even the general public have taken notice. However, although the locals may have witnessed these forms of racism, they simply chose to overlook these issues as they are afraid of the consequences they may suffer should they report the incident.
For a country that claims to have such a wide and vast multi-cultural nation, employers within Dubai are notorious for selecting only those of a certain nationality and gender despite sharing the same skills.
12. Driving Is Nothing But A Nightmare
You would think that Dubai’s well-constructed network of roads would be an absolute pleasure to drive on, but the reality is that despite the crazy 120 speed limit, driving in Dubai absolutely sucks.
There really is no nicer way to say it, as the roads are nothing but a complete nightmare to drive on as they are not only congested with gridlock traffic, but they are also full of spoilt rich kids that think they own the roads with their fancy million dollar sports cars. You also shouldn’t be surprised when you are passed by two roaring idiots as they weave in and out of traffic, just barely dodging cars by a few millimetres.
11. Freedom of Speech Does Not Exist
Have an opinion? Well the people of Dubai don’t want to hear it to be completely honest, and it is best to keep your opinions to yourself – that is, unless you want to land yourself in some pretty deep trouble. Just like the laws and rules of censorship, you will rarely ever find a journalist – or any person for that fact – that is willing to share their opinions on the true realities of what it is like to live and work in Dubai.
Thankfully, some bloggers and travelling journalists have written about these shocking truths, but have only released their findings after being safely outside of the country. If a person is found speaking out about these dark secrets, they will risk the chance of being prosecuted by the government and imprisoned.
10. Everything Around You Is Fake
When you are considered one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it comes as no surprise to find out that almost everything within it is fake.
From the fake islands, fake beaches, fake ski fields, fake lawns, fake smiles, and even fake people – it almost feels as if you are on the set of The Truman Show. The scariest thing about meeting new people in Dubai is that you never truly know who you are talking to. When talking with expats in particular, you will often notice that they always talk about how perfect their life is in Dubai. However, as soon as they realize you aren’t an undercover cop, they will quickly begin to express their true feelings about the Dubai that the magazines never discuss.
9. There Is No Such Thing As Bankruptcy
Unlike America and other countries in the world, debt in Dubai works very differently as there is no such thing as bankruptcy. In Dubai, debt is taken very seriously as no matter the amount, you either pay your debt or you go straight to jail.
The strange thing about Dubai is that when you leave your job, your employer must notify your bank. If any outstanding debt is found, your accounts are frozen immediately and you are refused the right to leave the country. This is what happened to Karen and Daniel Andrews – as after a few mismanaged financial decisions, they were left with a small debt they couldn’t repay. David was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and Karen was left homeless, and unable to leave the country.
8. Life In Dubai Is All About Extravagance
If you have come to Dubai after working and living what many would consider a normal life, you will be faced with a number of cultural shocks – one of them being the extravagant lifestyles that so many people in Dubai live.
Don’t be surprised either when you can’t find the Dollar Store, as home to some of the world’s largest malls, you will find that the Dollar Store will have been replaced by a store that sells $500 socks. It will also become a common everyday occurrence when you are passed by a bunch of spoilt, rich teenagers as they drive their multi-million dollar supercars.
7. Almost Everything Is Censored
Censorship, censorship everywhere! Could you imagine turning on your TV to watch The Simpsons, only to find that even the most basic scenes with Homer and Marge kissing has been censored as it was deemed far too inappropriate?
Well, that is what life is like in Dubai as even their rules and laws of PDA and dress codes have seeped into cartoons, general internet searches and have even affected apps such as Skype as they have now been blocked by the government. Cereal boxes have also suffered the same fate, as many have been covered with censorship stickers where women are shown wearing singlet tops and shorts just above their knees.
Given that the nature of these topics have slowly become part of our normal, everyday lives in the Western culture – just take Fifty Shades of Grey as an example – it still seems that Dubai is taking the matter of censorship just a tad too far.
6. The Living Costs In Dubai Are Extremely High
If you’re planning on moving to Dubai, it would be a wise decision to discuss salary negotiation with your employer as soon as possible. Whether it’s in the form of pay adjustments over time or simply a higher salary as you will quickly come to realize that the tax free wage incentive – the sole reason that most foreigners come to work in Dubai – isn’t all that it’s made out to be.
While you may be earning more, you will notice that your extra money will start disappearing into the significantly high living costs of Dubai. With world-class infrastructure being built all around Dubai it comes as no surprise that housing prices are beginning to soar. The price of food is no different, as much of the produce is required to be shipped in from different locations all around the world – which is accurately reflected in the price.
5. A Justice System Like No Other
One of the more confronting realities of living in Dubai is the fact that their justice system – which is subject to Sharia law – is like nothing you have ever seen before. Let’s just say that if you do happen to get in an altercation with a local, it might be best to simply just move on as it isn’t uncommon for the police in Dubai to side with the local Emirates.
To make matters worse, the justice system in Dubai isn’t friendly towards the victims of the crime, as many people – mostly expats – have found that despite not having control over the situation, they have been fined or either imprisoned. Some rape cases have even occurred with the victim receiving the same consequence as the attacker – which is generally imprisonment – for conducting sexual relations outside of marriage.
4. A Climate That Is Almost Too Much To Bare
Pack your sunscreen and wide brim hat because as soon as you land you will be faced with the first most shocking reality of living in Dubai. If you aren’t one that enjoys the heat, you may have possibly just made one of the biggest mistakes of your life as the heat within Dubai is a literal killer.
Try not to stress too much though, as almost everything in Dubai is air-conditioned – even the bus stops that are located all around the city. Don’t let the evenings fool you though, as the only real difference is that it becomes a lot darker and only more humid. If you are lucky though, the temperate may drop as low as 22 degrees – but that is often quite unlikely, especially in the hotter months.
3. You’ll Never Be A True Citizen
When moving to Dubai for work, many foreigners are under the false hope of one day retiring and gaining citizenship to live out the rest of their days in Dubai. However, that couldn’t be any further from the truth as the Dubai government is doing everything in its power to not only protect the status quo and cultural values but also from ensuring that foreigners do not become a permanent part of Dubai’s society.
Now, gaining citizenship isn’t impossible – but it may as well be as it is based around whom you know and even the odd chance of luck. The only three ways to gain citizenship is through: marriage to a national for over ten years – but even then, this doesn’t guarantee you citizenship. Next is only under exceptional circumstances, as Dubai’s ruler may grant you citizenship should you have provided outstanding services to the state over a number of years. Lastly, some employers have the ability to grant a permit of indefinite duration – but this is also a rare occurrence.
2. You Need Your Employers Approval In Order To Drink At Home
If you are looking for a buzz killer, than Dubai is your country as the general rule of thumb when living here is that if it is legal in your home country, then it is most likely illegal here in Dubai.
One of the biggest shocks that most foreign residents find after moving is that Dubai has some very strict laws – much like everything else in the country – when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. While Dubai may be one of the most generous locations in the Muslim world when it comes to liquor consumption, foreign residents are often shocked to find that in order to drink at home, a license needs to be obtained through the internet or at bottle shop.
1. Being Gay Is Against The Law
If you are looking for a happier ending, then don’t look here as Dubai continues to force its excessive ruling upon its own people. Unlike the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, Dubai is a very strong advocate against the LGBT community and has even refused those the right to freely express themselves in the form of their chosen sexuality.
Not only is the act of sexual relations outside of a heterosexual marriage banned across the entire UAE, it is even classed as a crime that is punishable in the forms of jail time, fines, and deportation. The seriousness of the punishment really depends on the situation, but those that do get convicted can expect to be imprisoned from a mere few days to even up to 10 years.
While many still participate in hidden clubs and LGBT activities, the risk of getting caught and suffering punishment is extremely high.
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