No other country has experienced such rapid growth in modern times as the United Arab Emirates. Dubai in particular has welcomed other nationalities to join them in building more skyscrapers, developing business and growing their reputation as a paradise of economic glory in the sun and sand.
The usual expectation of an expat anywhere is that they learn the customs of the host country and respect those customs. An expat arriving in Britain and expecting everyone to bend to his cultural needs would not make many local friends.
So why then do expats in Dubai behave as if they were in their home countries—worse even? Drinking and drug taking and use of prostitutes are common among many expats in Dubai, even though this is a Muslim country. No effort is made to learn Arabic; English is spoken as a given by many. Expectations of expats include a convenience culture, a playground, and an escape from the day-to-day realities of their home country, freeing them to behave in sometimes incredibly bad ways.
However, in fairness to expats arriving in Dubai, they receive mixed messages. Clubs are open all over the city and both foreign and local nationals can be found drinking and partying and paying for prostitutes in these clubs. An atmosphere positively encouraging excess with massive centres of entertainment including shopping malls, water parks, even indoor snow skiing. Skimpy clothes are sold in the shopping malls and an ostentatious poolside culture is found at hotels every few meters along the beach.
The foreign nationals were invited in—almost lured in by the wonderful incentives that were designed to be attractive to people from Western cultures. How can the Emiratis offer all of this then expect the expats to behave any differently? Many locals complain that their culture is being destroyed, their language is disappearing, and that the expats treat them with disrespect.
Now what? The disparity is reaching a crescendo. The Emirates do not want to lose foreign money, and yet they very much do want to maintain their culture. While all cultures evolve and change over time, the process of turning this once small trading port into an International Business Leviathan was bound to have casualties. Sadly, the beautiful culture of Dubai was not mentioned on the business plan when the area first welcomed in foreign business on this grand scale.
Rather than expats be angry with the locals for complaining, and rather than the locals complain about the expats, perhaps both need to look to the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and monarch of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Surely it is his responsibility to find a compromise between Dubai’s financial and cultural survival.