Top ten things you NEED to know about teaching in the UAE!

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It has its highs, its lows, its shisha bars (which, it turns out, is quite a lot), but when it comes down to it, the United Arab Emirates is a wonderful place to live and work. However, it’s come to my attention that many of our candidates struggle with the initial cultural shift when moving to the UAE, so I sat down with some of our most senior members of the consultancy and got their feedback on just what teachers need to know.


Fernando: “Documents MUST be Attested, and it’s not free!”


I actually had this from all of the consultants I interviewed, but the fact that Fernando mentioned that teachers expected Document Attestation to be free had me shocked. Please always keep in mind that your documents must all be fully attested before they’ll be accepted by a school in the UAE, and that you will ALWAYS be expected to pay out the full amount for Document Attestation.


Zak: “Learn how to handle parents and don’t pick fights.”


The age old rule is ‘know thine opponent’ and it couldn’t be more true in the United Arab Emirates. In many cases, it’s all about who you know and if you don’t know who you know knows then it’s best not to pick a fight with who you know since you don’t know who you know knows and since they could know someone you don’t know and that person might know just how to move other people you don’t know to make sure who you know knows you know who they know.


In short, don’t pick fights.


Also important, know just how to handle parents. You can’t badmouth their child, period, and you need full evidence for any misdemeanours or misbehaviour. However, if you do want to help the student without risking losing your job, you can always phrase it differently: instead of “Mohammed is performing badly in class.” you can always go with “Mohammed has a lot of potential and can definitely do better with his performance in class by doing X, Y and/or Z.”


Winney: “Know how to behave as a couple.”


For all those lovebirds out there, this is for you! PDA is strongly disapproved of in the UAE in public, even holding hands is considered taboo and often may lead to prosecution by law enforcement. So make sure to lay off on the hand holding, arm linking, kissing and anything else that might be considered a public display of affection. Also, unmarried couples can’t share a place together, sorry guys and girls!


Paz: “Understand how NOCs work.”


NOC stands for No Obligation Certificate and it basically prohibits an employee from leaving the country or working elsewhere in the same country without the employer’s express permission. Contracts last two years as a standard so make sure you understand just what you’re getting into when you sign up to work in an Emirati school.


Owen: “The heat is a killer!”


 Most people know just how hot UAE temperatures can get, but they don’t KNOW how hot UAE temperatures can get. In the summer months between June and August, temperatures can rise as high as 49 degrees Centigrade and the country receives under an inch of rain a year! This means as a result, sunstroke is fierce and you have to take public transportation or drive everywhere, walking long distances in the blazing heat of the Emirati sun is NOT an option!


Fernando: “The Middle East is not the West.”


Believe it or not, we get this issue so often with teachers we place, it makes our heads spin. The Emirates are nothing like the west and in terms of law, culture, food, dress, weather and even activities, everything is different. Make sure to read up and research heavily on the region before travelling there.


I still can’t believe how often we have to tell teachers to do their homework.


Zak: “Use letter-headed paper for all CRBs and References.”


This is a standard in the UAE and any Criminal Records checks or References not on letter-headed paper simply will not be taken seriously, despite how accurate, clean and tidy they might be. Make sure to always use letter-headed paper for professional documents.


Winney: “Dress appropriately.”


It might be more lenient than many other Middle-Eastern countries, but sleeves above the elbow, trousers and skirts above the knee and necklines showing any cleavage will still be taken very badly and may lead to prosecution by law enforcement for public indecency. Male wear is slightly more lenient than female wear, but a topless male anywhere outside the beach will be prosecuted just as badly as his female counterpart doing the same thing.


If you’re still not sure, then always dress for success!


Paz: “Know your school and curriculum!”


Even though you might know how the Oxford Curriculum works back home and you might know how each part of the American National Curriculum functions, the way that it works in the UAE may differ greatly. Make sure to research into the differences and if you have any contacts working in your school, make sure to ask them about discrepancies between curriculums BEFORE you start working there.


Also, if you don’t know about your school then get on their website, read their reviews and for the love of all that’s educational, please read their brochure, this is basic being hired 101 here!


Owen: “Patience is a virtue.”


If there’s one thing you need above all else working in the UAE, it is patience. Patience for the culture differences, patience for the students, patience for the parents, patience for the lack of road safety and complete disregard for driving laws. Also, it takes at least a few months for the simplest things to happen. So expect that form you sent off that requires a single signature to take a couple months before it’s returned. Seriously, patience is key.


If you’re looking to teach in the United Arab Emirates, SeekTeachers places fully-qualified teachers all over the region, so go sign up today, have a look at our UAE jobs page and check out our UAE recruitment fairs!