Our culture columnist answers questions about cash versus credit, getting a foothold in the Emirates business world, what to expect in July and culturally sensitive gestures.
Ask Ali: Money matters, climate and rude gestures
Dear Ali: I'm coming to the UAE soon and I'm just wondering about how much to budget for day-to-day expenses. How much money should I carry with me? JO, Finland
Dear JO: It depends on how big a gift you are bringing me. No, just kidding. A couple of hundred dirhams in your wallet is always a good thing, but it depends on whether your trip is business or pleasure or a bit of both. Your credit cards should work since we have facilities to service almost all of the international cards used in the Emirates.
However, I would still advise you to use cash mostly since cash is king in the region. You will be able to do bank transfers but these can take between four to seven days.
Dear Ali: What advice would you give for a friend of mine who wants to conduct business in the GCC region? FA, Doha
Dear FA: My advice is, as always, contacts, contacts, contacts. They are vital in doing business in the Arab world, as in any other place. The benefit of having a contact in the region is that their local knowledge, experience and own contacts can only be of benefit to any newcomer. Handling business via telephone calls or sending faxes won't do much good. It would actually be frustrating for your friend as the average Arab businessman would prefer to meet face to face before signing anything. Remember that trust needs patience, so a speedy deal is not really the way of doing business in the Arab world. I don't mean to put your friend off but sometimes it can take one or two years just to sign one business agreement.
Dear Ali: I am coming to Dubai in July. Could you tell me about the climate at that time? FG, Sydney, Australia
Dear FG: What great timing! It's probably the best time to come to an Arab Muslim nation because the lovely, holy month of Ramadan is scheduled to start on July 19 or 20 this year, so you will be coming at a very special time. Our weather is famous for its year-round sunshine and warm temperatures. Although the UAE is mostly desert, the climate in the city of Dubai and the UAE is generally quite humid. Temperatures often rise above 45°C in summer, between June and September. It doesn't rain much - about 25 days a year - which usually occurs between December and March. We also get sandstorms from winds known as the Shamal (which means north). For the rest of the year expect temperatures between 20°C and 35°C.
Dear Ali: There are different offensive gestures but here in the UAE it seems that sticking up your finger is taken as a big deal? RJ, Abu Dhabi
Dear RJ: Don't tell me you are expecting a smile from a person after sticking up your finger at him or her, eh? Almost everywhere, disrespectful gestures such as these are considered offensive. Of course, depending on where and to whom it is happening, the reaction to it varies from acceptance to no tolerance whatsoever.
In our region, such an act could lead to a fight or the police being called - it is against the law, after all. It doesn't mean we can't chill, it is just that our society is more conservative.