“It is really important for expats and tourists to understand the norms of the society they are in,” Dominic Jermey told 999 Magazine, the official magazine for the Ministry of Interior.
“So that is why we, through our embassies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, work very closely with tour operators, local schools, and the airlines to run a global campaign called ‘Know Before You Go.’
“As far as the UAE is concerned it is about having a really good time and getting the best out of your experience, but doing so in a way that is entirely appropriate,” he said.
Jermey’s comments follow months after a 999 poll found that seven out of ten expatriates in the UAE do not understand the country’s local customs and traditions. Only 60 percent of expats claim to know the basics of UAE culture while 72 percent admit to knowing very little about their host country.
The UAE, like much of the region, heavily depends on foreign workers to fill jobs at all levels of the economy. An estimated 83.5 percent of the UAE population is made up by expats.
As many as 1m British nationals visit the UAE every year, according to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, with as many as 100,000 Britons living in the country.
The emirate has received high-profile coverage in the British press in recent years, following a spate of arrests relating to crimes such as culturally inappropriate behaviour.
The British Embassy said in 2009 that UK nationals were more likely to be arrested in the UAE than anywhere else in the world.
The Gulf state in January was ranked the least friendly country in the world for expatriates by Forbes magazine based on data from HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey, which polled 3,385 expats in 100 countries on factors such as economy, raising children and overall experience.
Forbes, which stripped out data in four categories – ability to befriend locals, success in learning the language, integration into the community and ease of fitting into the local culture – to rank the world’s top spots for migrant workers, said the UAE, Hong Kong and Singapore did not fare well in community integration and befriending locals but performed well in those relating to career prospects and high income.