Ask Ali: Roundabout rules, pets and just friends

Our culture columnist fields queries about attitudes toward animals, socialising between men and women, and defensive driving being the best policy for getting through a roundabout safely.

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Dear Ali: Can you explain the rules for roundabouts? I've had too many near misses from cars launching themselves in front of me to exit. JT, Abu Dhabi

Dear JT: International driving standards apply in the UAE, so the law is to exit a roundabout from the outside lane. To get to the outside lane (right lane), you should cede to all traffic. Simple, right? The problem is that people often try to exit from the inside lane (left), cutting off poor law-abiding motorists like yourself.

The problem here is that we have such a hotchpotch of people who come from different driving cultures: Britons and Australians drive on the left; some Indian and Pakistani towns don't even have paved roads, and drivers share the road with cows and dogs. The UAE's mix of nationalities results in a mix of driving abilities.

The best advice I can give you is to practise defensive driving. Try to leave as much space as you can between yourself and other cars. And always assume the other driver will do the unexpected. The safest policy is to let crazy drivers go ahead. I know it can be frustrating but eventually the karma police will catch up with them - if the real police don't first.

Dear Ali: How do Emiratis feel about dogs? I'm moving to the UAE and would love to bring my pet with me. Thanks, JK, London

Dear JK: Dogs are not banned in the UAE. In fact, every single UAE family has had dogs on their farms at some point in their lives because they are essential to farm life. There are hundreds of dogs in the UAE, and you will find many nationals, such as myself, breeding salukis, the famed Arab hunting dog.

But bear in mind that you may be living in an apartment so a large dog may not be comfortable there. Plus, when the mercury shoots up during summer, temperatures are often too high for pets to spend much time outdoors. If you are on a short-term contract, it is not advisable to bring your pets, especially if you are to be housed in serviced residential apartments that may not allow pets. However, if you can create a comfort zone for your pet and wish to bring it into the country, the UAE laws on animal imports require you to supply a good health certificate and a vaccination certificate.

Dear Ali: I am new to this country and often get quite confused about the dos and don'ts of your lovely country. Can a male and female be together in a public place as friends? Also, can they visit each other's residences just as friends? Thanks. SD, Abu Dhabi

Dear SD: Of course, it is perfectly fine for a male and a female friend to be together in public places. I know that a lot of our expat friends are here without their families and so work colleagues and friends become something like family away from home. Now, if a man and a woman were to show affection in public - such as something more than walking hand in hand - this would be seen as inappropriate and not acceptable, no matter if the two of them are married or not. Even for married couples, we believe that love and passion for each other is a wonderful thing. However, it should be kept private.

Usually, there is nothing wrong with visiting each other but there might be some restrictions if expats live in company accommodation.In this case, the employer might set some stricter rules regarding visits of friends from the opposite gender.

We are a free-thinking country, but we are still an Islamic society. There is no law saying you will go to jail if you visit your friends of the opposite gender. However, in our culture these visits are not really acceptable and might therefore raise suspicion.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.