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Family Life and Childcare for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: June 2014

Before the 1960’s, families in the UAE lived in a very traditional way. Most of the residents there worked in the pearl fishery. The prosperity of the oil industry since then has changed their lives in many ways.

Nowadays, people in the UAE have a higher standard of living. Although it has become more westernised the UAE is still a muslin country and keeps to the older traditions. People pray five times a day and strictly abide by the rules of the Quran. 

In the UAE, a family may consist of grandparents, parents, children and siblings all living together. The father is seen as the head of the family and holds the most authority. While women are respected they will normally lead separate lives from the men. If you are invited to visit a man in his home you will probably not see a women during the visit.

Living in the UAE may be a very different lifestyle from what you are used too. There are many rules to be aware off, for example, a female cannot hug or kiss any man apart from her husband and her sons. A man should not shake hands, or even talk to an UAE national woman in public. It is recommended to follow these rules while in the UAE as failure to may result in punishment and even prosecution. Fortunately, people in the UAE are becoming more tolerant to cultural differences of expatriates from other countries. Still, it would be better if you know some basic information about Muslim traditions to avoid unintentional offence.

With the development of the  oil industry, more and more foreign workers have settled in the UAE to work, over 80% of the UAE population are expatriates. Many live in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other larger cities where facilities are at a high standard and employment in the oil and construction industry is common.

If you are moving to the UAE with your children, you may need to find a suitable childcare service provider. Childcare providers in the UAE can be state funded or run by private groups, however, children of foreign nationals can only go to private schools.

There are many private schools or international schools for children of expatriates in the UAE, especially in the larger cities such as Dubai. These schools normally follow the curriculum of other countries, for example, some international schools follow the British curriculum and some use the American Curriculum.  They generally admit children of over three years old but many also provide services for children under three years old. 

The fees differ depending on your child’s age and which school you choose.  Generally, schools in Dubai will charge between USD5,000 and USD15,000. Some schools may charge a lower tuition fee of around USD 3,000 but they may focus more on children of certain origins.  

You may find it difficult to find a suitable school when you first arrive, it would be worth seeking recommendations from neighbours or friends as a place to start. You can get useful information from the government on their website. For example, you can find a comprehensive review of the performance of each school in Dubai on the  Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) website here: https://www.khda.gov.ae/en/news/khdanews.aspx.



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