Twitter users leapt to the UAE’s defence yesterday after it was named the least friendly country for expatriates.
An article on forbes.com, the online version of Forbes magazine, was based on a survey by HSBC, who asked more than 3,000 expats in 100 countries about issues such as their finances, their quality of life and raising children abroad.
The writer, Beth Greenfield, applied a formula to the results in an attempt to determine which countries were the friendliest.
“Forbes isolated the results in four categories. The ability to befriend locals, success in learning the local language, capacity for integrating themselves into the community, and ease in which they fit into the new culture,” she wrote. “The least friendly country for expats, according to the Forbes formula, was the United Arab Emirates.”
The article has caused an outcry on Twitter, where the hashtag #UAEFriendly has been set up to allow people to comment.
Giorgio Ungania, an expat living in Dubai, tweeted: “I have travelled the world and the UAE is maybe the most tolerant place I have settled in. Forbes, rethink your list.”
Khawla Al Marri, an Emirati artist from Dubai, said: “Why worry about Forbes ranking? Dubai was bashed by many foreign publications a while back yet we know it stands high!”
Fergus Clarke, an expat living in Abu Dhabi, said: “I have been made to feel welcome and valued by the residents of UAE I’ve met regardless of origin.”
A Twitter user who posts under the name SafyaAIM said the article showed that Forbes had lost its credibility, while Buckeyejeans tweeted: “This is what my weekends are like ... expats and locals hanging together. Nobody polled me and my friends.”
Another user, Shaima Al Sayed, who teaches the Emirati dialect of Arabic to expats in Dubai, explained why she had used the #UAEFriendly hashtag to defend her country.
“I was surprised that they actually said the UAE was unfriendly, I found that a shock,” she said. “I never really was a big fan of statistics and surveys because I think they distort things. Sometime they ask the wrong person who doesn’t know anything, and if you ask a group of them you just create this opinion that’s wrong.
“I interact a lot with foreigners, and everybody so far has said, with reasons, why they like this place.”
Ms Greenfield, the Forbes writer, named New Zealand, Australia and South Africa as the world’s friendliest nations. She said the countries that expatriates found most challenging overall included Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia and India.
Not all residents defended the UAE on Twitter yesterday.
Hafidh Al Rajaby of Dubai tweeted: “I’m not surprised that UAE is no. 1 for being expat non-friendly, especially coz of the criteria that it was evaluated on.”
By Colin Simpson