Tuesday, October 19, 2010

FAQ: expat fashion

I was just reminded by one of my followers that I never mentioned anything about the way expats dress around here. So, I went back to a few other questions friends often ask me about this and put together a little FAQ for you. Let me know if there is anything else you’d like to know on this topic.

As a woman, are you expected to be covered when you go out in public?
Absolutely not. I wear regular clothes (T-shirts, jeans, skirts, etc.) just like I would anywhere else in the world.
Is there any item of clothing you should avoid wearing?
I personally avoid wearing clothes that show too much cleavage, that are extremely tight or that show too much leg. I feel it’s a sign of respect towards the people of this country and the local customs and values. Plus, it’s a way of preserving myself and avoid unwanted attention from men.
Should you dress any differently depending on the place you are going to?
If you are going to a place where you know there will be a lot of locals or a lot of men, I think you should try to dress a bit more conservatively. I mean, there is no need to go overboard and get an abaya or a burkha, but perhaps you might want to stick to pants, a shirt that will cover your shoulders and no cleavage. On the other hand, if you are headed to a hotel or a place where you might find a lot of expatriates, then you might be able to pull off a more revealing outfit.
What would be an appropriate outfit for a day at the beach?
Bathing suit of course! But, again, try to remember that you are in a Muslim country… This is not the place to parade around in tiny bikinis! Also, if you are walking or taking a public transportation to the beach, please cover yourself with something that is not transparent, short or revealing.
Do expats need to wear something specific to visit a Mosque?
Well, first of all, be careful about trying to get into a Mosque. For the most part, only Muslims are allowed in. However, if you do encounter one where you can go inside, you will most definitely need a different outfit for the visit. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi (I’ll talk more about it in a different post), for example, will require women to wear an abaya and a veil to cover their hair. In addition, men that show up in shorts will have to wear a dishdash. But, don’t head to the mall just yet to purchase these items. You can get them for free at the entrance of the Mosque. Just please return them at the end of your visit, ok?
Should men worry about what they wear?
Not really. Men can pretty much wear anything. My only advice would be for you to check the dress code of hotels and restaurants you plan to stay in or visit to ensure you are not banned at the door because you are wearing shorts, jeans or flip-flops. Also, don’t attempt to take off your shirt in public (unless you are enjoying the sun at a beach or hotel pool) or walk to the beach in your Speedo’s.

I guess it all comes down to respect and common sense doesn’t it?

Note: according to one of the comments I received after posting this blog, it is offensive for men and women to show their knees in some places around town. So, please keep that in mind as well!


  1. Hi BurCarioca
    just for your info it is offencive to men and woman for man to show the knies specially in town, shops and non hotel places.

  2. Really? I had never heard about that... Good to know... Thanks for flagging this up!