UAE: Behind the Modernity

March 15, 2018

Planning to relocate to the UAE this upcoming school year? More than one expat has mistakenly allowed themselves to be lulled into believing the United Arab Emirates is a modern, progressive nation. Incredible architecture, modern roadways, world-class malls and high-line cars are all evocative of affluent, Western cities. 

But that may be where the comparison stops. Behind the mask of modernity, the UAE continues to adhere to a stultified, archaic system of laws that can entrap even the most savvy of travelers.

 Read on! These recent cases involving foreigners defy all logic and serve as a “heads up.” 

Teacher jailed for allegedly insulting the UAE on Facebook:  A British teacher has been locked-up in a vermin-infested jail in Abu Dhabi since October 2017. The charges? Writing an insult on Facebook. Christian Wilke, 39, was denied legal representation for 52 days after his arrest. At his hearing, conducted in Arabic, he was not told the charges against him and sentenced to one year in prison along with a stiff fine. He is reportedly being denied medical care and sufficient food. His mother fears for his life.

News articles about this case: 
British Teacher Jailed in UAE
British Teacher Sent to Hell Hole Jail in UAE

Man jailed in Dubai for WhatsApp message sent to crooked car dealer:  Yaseen Killick, 29, a British real estate agent, was jailed after sending a WhatsApp text message to the car dealer who sold him a car that broke-down just hours after driving off the lot: “How do you sleep at night knowing you’re ripping people off? I’ll see you in court.” This was enough to motivate the police to jail Yaseen as the dealer claimed he felt threatened.

News article about this case:
British Real Estate Agent Jailed After Messaging Car Dealer Who Sold Him a Lemon

British Woman Faces Jail in Dubai after Witnessing Bar Fight:  Asa Hutchinson, 21, an accounts manager for a global transport company, says she was not even there when a fight broke out between her friends and a man who was reportedly drunk. On their way out of the bar, Asa’s friends saw a man passed out on a bench. They took some selfies with the guy, who woke up and started throwing punches. It’s been reported that it is common in the United Arab Emirates for witnesses to be arrested and prosecuted just for being nearby.

News article about this case:
British Woman Faces Jail in Dubai

There’s More:  In September, a man was detained for ‘flipping the bird’ to another driver. In October a man was jailed for accidentally touching another man’s hip in a bar. In November a man was imprisoned for having smoked marijuana – before he had even arrived in Dubai. An expatriate couple was detained for 6 weeks for having sex outside of marriage.

You could take a hard stance and say all these people should have done their homework, learned the local customs and taken responsibility for themselves. Easier said than done. Some things are just unimaginable and beyond the foresight of a Westerner. Wherever in the world your next teaching assignment takes you, ISR recommend extensive research into the customs, traditions and laws.

More ISR Articles about problems for Westerners in the UAE:
Women, Rape and the Law in UAE
Collect on Everything a UAE School Owes You
Buying a Car Overseas Can Land You in Prison
Janitor at Al Rabeeh School Abu Dhabi Sentenced to Death

Comments or Questions? Please Scroll Down to Participate

Jewish Educators in the Middle East

February 1, 2018

Long before the turmoil we’re witnessing today in the Middle East, I was offered a teaching position at the International School of Aleppo, Syria. As a history buff, I was totally on-board by the prospect of exploring the vibrant cultures and history of the region. But….What would life be like for a Jewish teacher living in Syria?

The recruiter was upfront with answers to my questions: I would be exposed to anti-Semitic remarks from students who use the term “Jew,” accompanied by derogatory expletives. I should keep my Jewish heritage secret. If I decided to travel to Israel, my stamped passports could bar me from re-entering Syria. Common sense and prudence said loud and clear: Don’t go!

Today, in my position (as Moderator of the ISR Forum), I was intrigued by this recent thread:

Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby ap410 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:07 pm
I’m considering applying for positions at a few schools in the ME (Bahrain, UAE, and possibly Oman), but I’m concerned that since my children and I are Jewish, we could run into trouble, hostilities, etc. We’re not super religious, but my kids have a habit of singing the Dreidel song in December, and I don’t want them to feel like they have to hide their religion. Does anyone have experience with this in the ME? Thanks!

.My first reaction was, ‘Are you kidding!?’ My opportunity was pre-9/11. What could it be like today for a Jew teaching in the Middle East? International Schools do tend to promote diversity, tolerance, inclusion, equality and a host of Mission Statement ideals. But … as we all know, life can be quite different outside that supposed safe haven.

Here’s some positive and negative Forum Comments that illustrate the dilemma…

by reisgio » Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:12 pm  For goodness sake, don’t take your innocent Jewish children to the Middle East!… I wouldn’t be comfortable having my children basically hide their identities just so I could work somewhere exotic. What’s wrong with you?

by justlooking » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:35 am This has not been my experience working in four international schools in the ME in Egypt, Oman, Morocco, and Dubai. All the schools were top tier with a very international student body. I found most people respect Judaism and Jews; it’s Israel that’s the problem. As long as you’re not espousing pro-Israeli sentiment, you’ll be left alone.

by Nomad68 » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:54 pm I really would not recommend going to places like Saudi, Kuwait or Qatar even if you hid your Jewish identity. The anti-Jewish sentiments would shock you.

 by shadowjack » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:45 pm 7 years in Saudi. Our Saudi friends had Jewish neighbours and didn’t care.” “Israel is not a good country.” They knew the difference between the two, that’s for sure….

 My purpose in calling attention to this topic is to hopefully encourage ISR Members to initiate a place where my Jewish brothers and sisters can turn to for first-hand information on what it’s really like for a Jewish International Educator to live and teach in the Middle East, a decision clearly not to be taken lightly.

Have an experience or information to share?

Please scroll down to participate

Saudi Arabia Levies Tax on Expat Families

December 28, 2017


We’re all aware that most International Schools prefer not to hire ITs with kids and/or a trailing spouse, the obvious reason being the costs associated with relocating a family. Along this vein, Saudi Arabia has made teachers with dependents even less desirable by imposing a hefty “dependent tax” on family members accompanying expats working in the Kingdom. In other words, if you’re an expat working/teaching in Saudi Arabia you’ll pay a hefty, yearly tax to bring your family with you.

Here’s the skinny on the tax: As part of the government’s attempt to balance the budget, an expat working in the Kingdom with dependents will pay 1,200 Saudi riyal ($320 US dollars) per year, per dependent. Additionally, the “dependent tax” is set to increase yearly, reaching the equivalent $1296 US dollars yearly, per dependent. For a teacher with 3 dependents, $3888 is an astronomical yearly tax.

The future of the new “dependent tax” is uncertain, as many foreign workers have decided to send family members home, the consequence being that workers will most likely send money back home and not spend it in Saudi Arabia. It appears the plan may have unintended consequences and, as such, the tax may not be the answer to balancing a budget that’s been in suffering since the decline in oil prices.

ISR ask: What has been your experience with the new “dependent tax” and how are International Schools and teachers coping with this new expense? Are other countries targeting expats in an attempt to raise money?

Comments…Please Scroll Down to Participate 






Be the Reason Someone Smiles

November 23, 2017

It’s easy to take so much in our lives for granted: friends, family, health care, good food, clean water, shelter, employment…the list goes on. Life is good for International Educators! But, sadly, not for everyone. Five minutes peering at the evening news is quick confirmation that we are truly among the fortunate.

 ..This Thanksgiving season ISR encourages you to play it forward and perform one or more random acts of kindness for a stranger. Make someone smile this Thanksgiving — spread Good Will, Foster Kindness. It’s a wonderful way to give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving from ISR

Host City Hidden Treasures

November 2, 2017

As world-traveling international educators, moving on to a new location introduces us to the special features that make our host city unique, that make it a definite must-see, must-experience kind of place. Whether it’s the boisterous beer (!) festivals of Germany, the delightful art & handicrafts of Indonesia, the world-class shopping experience of the Middle East, or the gastronomical delights of India, there is a special something about where YOU live that makes you say to others “You just have to come here for the ____.”

Sometimes what makes a country appealing can be surprising:  Thailand and Mexico are known for their affordable dental care. Costa Rica is gaining a reputation for reasonably priced orthopedic surgery. Africa and Central America are a draw for people who enjoy ‘voluntourism.’ India and Nepal appeal to Yoga & meditation enthusiasts.

We can all read travel magazines and blogs to hear the party-line about what makes a city great, but the insight of our fellow international educators can really give us the inside scoop on why a location, YOUR location, stands out as a “hidden treasure.”

..ISR would like to know:  What are the five-star features that make YOUR host city worth a visit?

Survey Results: Overseas for 20+Years Prevails

September 28, 2017
 …Our recent Survey (How Long Do International Educators Stay Overseas?) reveals that the majority of Educators who go International, stay International and do so for the greater part of their careers, if not for their entire careers.
 …Over 700 International Educators took our Survey. More than 400 report they’ve been living and teaching abroad for 7+ years. The 20+ years overseas group tops the Survey chart, making up 16% of the total responses. This is followed closely by educators falling into the 11-19 year groups.
A logical sequel to these results is to look into what motivates so many educators to go overseas and stay there. Could it be that educators go abroad because jobs are scarce in their own countries; and when jobs do become available their years of overseas teaching are not recognized?  ISR hypothesizes: Teachers go abroad for adventure and stay when they discover they have more freedom in the classroom,  minimal discipline problems, and a far higher standard of living/savings than in their own countries. Do you agree?
If you are in the 7-or-more years overseas categories, we invite you to Share what motivated you to go International and what later inspired you to stay overseas.
Please scroll down to participate

How Long Do Intern’l Educators Stay Overseas?

September 21, 2017

The majority of international educators go overseas with the idea that they’ll check out international education, spend a year or so in some exotic location and then return home. Not surprisingly, 2 years turns into 3, then 4 and before you know it, it’s 8 years and counting!

Take our Survey to see how many years International Educators stay overseas. Clicking the “View Results” link at the bottom of the Survey will display up-to-the-minute results.

Take our Short Survey

Comments? Please scroll down comment