The family is a key social unit to an Arab. The loyalty to a family, or family name influences all aspects of family life the seeps into UAE society. As such, Arabs honour and respect their family, especially that of the children. Thus, it is very paternalistic, patriarchal and hierarchical, with the elders and fathers making the decisions.
Family wise, UAE National families are large, with families citing Allah's will for one to procreate. So, the larger the better, giving economic and spiritual benefit. The children, when they get older, are expected to look after the parents,especially in the case of the sons who much bear the financial burden, if necessary. Some say that the larger families demonstrates the virility of the father.
As far as loyalty goes, I follows family first, then clan and then tribe. The UAE Nationals also express national identity as well, and are proud of their heritage. There is also a strong loyalty to the royal families. Demonstration of this includes photos of the leaders in all areas of life. The UAE Nationals loved their founding father, Sheikh Zayed, and there was massive outpouring of grief on his passing. The people still remark on his generosity for what he did for them and for building the UAE.
Women are respected in UAE society, as they are the ones who bring life into the world, and raise the children. This perception, in the west, is that they are subordinate, but increasingly, they are more prominent in the workplace. Some guidelines for the westerner include: respecting the privacy and role of women in society; stand when a female enters the room; and understand that in many households there are separate living areas, so when visiting a home, you wouldn't socialise with women.
Things that males should definitely not do include:
- Do not talk in public to professional UAE National women, unless it is business related. You will understand when you are allowed to cross the limit, when prompted to discuss other matters
- Do not shake hands with a UAE National females, unless prompted to.
- Suffice to say, do not flirt, touch or hug females
- Do not stare at women or maintain eye contact
- Do not ask an Arab about his wife or female members of his family
Of course, it is better to be strict on yourself first, to understand the situation, and with western values, and an increasingly diverse make up to society, things are changing, but traditions still remain and it is best to bear this in mind.