You ever listen to someone who lived in a rough neighborhood, or has been through war, or anything traumatic and think, damn.. they’ve had it rough!? Yeah, we all do. But then if you really get into that person’s head, they don’t see it that way. They’ve normalized it.
The reason I bring this up is that I did not realize just how ruthless doing business in Dubai was. Here are some of the best way I have found to be able to cope with Dubai’s ruthless business environment.
Failure in business is a criminal offense in Dubai
It’s a truly bizarre concept and you don’t really think about it because, well.. let’s face it, you’re not hanging out with those who ended up on the other side. Failures are swiftly swept under the rug. For every failure there are 5 others waiting to try their luck.
But what do I really mean by this? Ok, it’s really simple. You can’t do business without some form of credit. Credit is guaranteed by checks. Writing bad checks is a criminal offense. Of course those checks aren’t written with the intent of making a purchase, and in many countries (including Saudi), Post Dated Checks (PDC’s) are illegal for that very reason. But absent a financial infrastructure, Dubai business-people have few options to secure credit.
And when your client doesn’t pay, you’re still stuck with your obligations. You can’t just declare bankruptcy. First, you go to prison.
So here’s the thing, do NOT write any check you can’t back up. And if you do, be VERY aware that this document can and WILL be used against you to put you behind bars. It’s not a joke. It’s a very very real threat to your business and freedom.
Shoot first or get slung
Here’s the thing about the legal system in the UAE in general, and Dubai specifically. It’s so shockingly behind all the other incredible developments in the country. I’ve always thought it was Dubai being progressive and Abu Dhabi holding it back with their conservatism. This is not the case. The legal system in the country is lagging behind for an entirely different reason.
The real problem with the UAE’s legal system is that it it designed to protect the local population from the foreigners. These are laws that are not made for the people of the country. This is particularly unique to the UAE with their over-sized foreign population.
What this means in practical terms is that whoever fires the first shot has a pretty damn good chance of causing a LOT of hurt. Winning is irrelevant, because once you’ve entered the system, you’ve lost.
In the face of dispute, I have learned that decency and kindness do not measure up well against the force of first instance judges eager to pass on what the prosecution suggests.. since the Prosecution is the employer who approves the visas of the judges. You know.. it’s a woozy.
More practically, the civil law is castrated and you’re left to having to resort to criminal law. Because it’s so easy to accuse without evidence, the vast majority of business disputes come with a criminal and civil component. Together, yes. Civil alone doesn’t move the needle.
Shoot first and go for the jugular. The law doesn’t care if you’re nice.
Everything is illegal
I know this sounds weird, but it’s kinda true. The amount of things that are technically illegal, but the government turns a blind eye to are astounding. I thought they were just being flexible until I saw them use random offenses to deport Syrians who protested against Bashar the Butcher, in Dubai. They pulled up their files and it was just a bunch of random nonsense.. but they were technically illegal acts. Things like having alcohol at home without a liquor license, etc.
Be aware of who knows your indiscretions. Know those of those around you too. Catalog that shit.
Trust no one.
Other than that, it’s an awesome city and a blast, until it’s not. The worst thing you can do is lose track of your focus and get caught up in the glitter and glamour.