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What to expect when working in the Middle East as a Nanny or Governess:

by | Aug 21, 2014 | jobs abroad

Nanny or Governess positions in the Middle East provide excellent career opportunities, frequently offer the opportunity to travel internationally as part of your duties & are generally compensated well to accommodate for your skillset and the flexibility the families tend to require from staff. It is important to acknowledge  that just because a family is from a country in the  middle east this does not mean all middle eastern families are the same, or share the same values, culture and customs, just like working for a family in Italy or a family in Germany whilst both in Europe the experience differs, the same can be said for roles based in the middle east or with middle Eastern Families. In all our positions locally & internationally perception of your behaviour be it by way of actions, attire or etiquette reflect on you and your employers’ private & public image & reputation Things to consider: Some Muslim countries operate a zero-tolerance policy on many activities which are permissible in the non-Muslim world. For example:

  1. Alcohol if permissible, may only be consumed in licensed premises.
  2. Being drunk or abusive in public is a crime.
  3. Public displays of affection (between adults) are not permitted.
  4. Strict rules exist concerning intimate personal relationships.
  5. Zero tolerance to any illegal or intoxicant drugs.

When living in the Middle East it is imperative that you are respectful of religious and cultural nuances and take time to learn and understand these. Ramadan and Eid are extremely important dates in the Islamic Calendar and it is vital for you to familiarise yourself with what these dates entail.


  • In the Middle Eastern culture, family is very important, this includes grandparents, aunts & uncles and siblings & cousins. They are very social & younger family members show deep respect for their elders, within the family unit loyalty & discretion are high valued.
  • As a sign of respect generally older generations & family members & friends are addressed by their surname or title, & if Royal Prince /Sheik (male) or Princess /Sheikha (female) if you are unsure it is safe to revert to Sir/ Madam) when talking to them. (Unless/until you are instructed otherwise)
  • When greeting older generations and in formal households, do so using good morning, good afternoon, good evening as opposed to hi or hiya etc.
  • At family gatherings, be discreet, respectful & focus on the children, wait to be invited to join in, do not dominate conversations and remember you are on duty, your attention should be on the children.
  • Successfully working in a formal household requires a delicate balance of professionalism and friendliness whilst not being over familiar.
  • In some households when family members enter a room you may be required to stand until invited to sit. Generally, in a royal household you should stand if a family member enters a room that you are occupying.
  • When summoned by your employer knock on the door and wait to be invited in before you enter.
  • It is vital to remain discreet, respecting the privacy of your family by treating all interactions with confidentiality
  • The highest level of hygiene is expected, children are always well presented, this may mean a higher level of outfit changes/diaper changes etc. in a day in addition to lots of hand washing and related cleanliness & grooming.
  • Be courteous & humble, over time it is inevitable that you will create a warm relationship with your direct employer and their extended family, who by nature are warm & welcoming if it is apparent that you are invested in them & their children are happy they will invest in you.

Dress Code

  1. Appropriate measures should be taken to dress decently (shoulders and knees covered). No strappy tops, clothes should not accentuate your figure so if you choose to wear leggings/skinny jeans they should be paired with a long shirt/T-shirt/ tunic style top particularly whilst at work. Some of the more formal households have a dress code that does not permit jeans or leggings the general rule of thumb on a choice of outfit is that one shouldn’t be able to see up it, down it or through it.
  2. ¾ length and ankle length cotton trousers will serve you well in the heat as will maxi dresses providing you can comfortably & practically run, play and jump with the children.
  3. Flip flops are not acceptable nor safe work attire, sandals that fasten at the ankle are acceptable & provide more support if you are dashing about with a busy toddler, as are clean trainers. When visiting with grandparents or formal household’s ballet pumps or similar are better suited for such occasions.
  4. Some families prefer staff not to have visible tattoo’s/piercings on display – it may be wise to take out any facial piercings and wear clothes that cover tattoo’s if you have them.
  5. Always pack a cardigan or sweater everywhere is airconditioned and it can sometimes get a bit chilly inside!
  6. Swimming- board shorts & t-shirt to be worn over a full swim suit when swimming whilst on duty.
  7. The Nanny/Governess is a representative of the family they work for, be neatly presented at all times. Fingernails should be short & clean, wear minimal make up, refrain from wearing heavy scents or perfumes, long hair should be tied back & off your face whilst working.

Other Considerations:

  • Salaries tend to be tax free, medical insurance, housing, and opportunity to travel are just a few of the perks one can expect when working in the middle east
  • Continuity of care is important to our Middle Eastern clients. Therefore, they are usually looking for multi-year placements, where a professional nanny can demonstrate a range of responsibilities, including ongoing childcare & educational activities, it is not uncommon for each child within the family to have their own professional nanny
  • You will need to have an adaptable personality, and willingness to adapt to the changing dynamic of the both the family and wider household & work schedule as required, time can be fluid in such household’s; clock watchers tend not to fair well.
  • With such busy schedules, plans can change at a drop of a hat and you will often be required to manage the changing needs of the family and this often means the whole team you work with (i.e. chefs, security, other nannies and housekeepers, drivers etc.) demonstrate an ability to collaborate, work through conflict, build trust. Interaction with all staff members should always be respectful & kind.
  • Middle Eastern families hire British Nannies to care for and develop their children’s English language and understanding and implement activities that focus on the children meeting their milestones. It is important to note that you at the same time need to adjust to fit in with their customs and cultural nuances and parental styles & preferences.
  • You may be required to get on a last-minute flight, perform duties outside of your usual responsibility or simply work later than your normal hours, all while ensuring you provide the best level of care to the children in your care.
  • In the summer months, families want to escape the unbearable summer heat. Whilst you can expect to be privy to some incredible experiences, you will be there to work and expected to be discreet at the same time.
  • During the summer months, many families can spend weeks at sea on a private yacht. This can pose some challenges when being on the water, with the children and nowhere to go. You will need to be creative in keeping the children entertained and being able to go with the flow, no matter what the situation brings.
  • Working as a nanny in this environment may mean that you will be required to work 6 days week. On your days off, it is important to take time for yourself and wellbeing. You may decide to go shopping or to visit a local attraction but most importantly, it can often be a good idea to meet up with other nannies, friends and expats to ensure you do not isolate yourself.

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