Ask Ali: On men and women sharing housing

M's advice columnist addresses shared accommodation and how to be a successful teacher.

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Dear Ali: I am male. I am about to rent a big room with an attached bathroom. Is it OK to share that room with a female friend I work with? We would partition it in half using our wardrobe cabinet for privacy. HS, Abu Dhabi

Dear HS: Because of the challenges in Abu Dhabi's real estate market, a blind eye is often turned to the practice of sharing and partitioning apartments and rooms. But such sharing by a man and a woman is not allowed and I recommend you don't do it. It might get both of you into serious trouble if your situation were to become known.

Of course, there are a lot of people who would say: "Oh, just do it. As long as no one knows, you're fine." But such an act is not appreciated and is illegal, and we expect our expat friends to respect the law and our Emirati culture.

Dear Ali: I would like to have my fiancée visit and stay with me in my villa. But I am nervous and confused about whether this would be legal. What should I do? MK, Abu Dhabi

Dear MK: As I note above, staying in the same house with your partner without being married is against the law. If you intended to have your fiancée stay permanently with you here, I would recommend you tie the knot and make your relationship official. And since you talk about her as a fiancée and not a girlfriend, I guess this is the long-term plan.

If she is visiting and staying with you for a short time, don't rub it into everybody's face that she is "only" your fiancée. Instead, tell a little fib and address and introduce her as your wife and keep it low profile and you will not have any problems.

Even though in most social situations it would be fine to say you are with your fiancée, revealing that you are staying in the same place might not be accepted.

Our laws are a bit more conservative than those in other parts of the world, but we don't want to make people's lives difficult. When you consider the millions of tourists coming here on a regular basis, we don't check to see if all those travelling together are married - we just turn that blind eye as long as there is no public offence.

Dear Ali: What qualities help make an American teacher more successful in Abu Dhabi? SG, Abu Dhabi

Dear SG: An acceptance and appreciation of the new culture you are stepping into and respect for local traditions are the keys for a successful integration into our society. And this applies to anyone who decides to live and work in a different country than his or her own.

Remember the famous proverb "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". We don't expect expat women to wear the hijab, but we do expect everyone in our country to respect our conservative approach and for women to dress modestly.

You have all the freedom to practise your own religion or social life, but please respect that Emiratis are Muslims and that Islam is the major source of guidance in all matters of our lives. So remember that in our society teachers are considered persons of great authority, and we are brought up to trust and follow our teachers' advice just as we trust and follow our parents'. Therefore, your teaching and dealing with children should be in accordance with our morals and ethics in order for you to gain the trust and respect of their parents and your colleagues.

Language lesson

Arabic: Rags
English: Dance

If you're in a wedding and want to dance with your friend, you'd pull her hands and say "Yalla nerges", which means "C'mon, let's dance". ("Nerges" is a conjugated form of "rags".)