The U.A.E: - A Hub of Cultural Diversity
By: Ms. Joanna Rozanska
Sr. Instructor of English Department
Skyline University College
The United Arab Emirates is the country made of dreams and passion. During its short history of 46 years Emirati people proved that it is possible to create a proud state that has grown into a center of business, tourism and multicultural, multi religious, multilingual nucleus of varied traditions and home to expats from all over the world. More than 200 nationalities are able to coexist and at the same time influence each other. In result, the UAE has become multi-ethnic, globalized environment with very liberal approach to integration. However, as the people represent different cultures, traditions, values and have diverse social backgrounds some multicultural problems in communication seem natural and simply must occur. Thus, one may say that working in such a multinational environment is an exciting challenge, yet we need to take into consideration different cultural values to understand the reasons of possible misunderstandings and learn how to avoid conflicts.
Firstly, it is important to realize that culture is central to what we see, how we make sense of it and how we express ourselves. People act and react in different ways and, very often having good intentions, misunderstand each other. Communication may vary within cultures and one may observe different degree of assertiveness and communication styles. What might be a normal, typical behaviour for a person from the Far East not necessarily will be decoded in a proper way by a Western culture representative and vice versa. For instance, Americans or North Europeans decode a raised voice as a sign of aggression or just anger whereas for Italians or South Americans it might be a friendly expression of excitement and acceptance.
What is more, we are not aware that in some situations our culture and behavioural codes act upon us and sometimes we do not understand that our cultural values or assumptions might be different from others. A good exemplar here are non - verbal communication codes. One may observe that the requirement for a proper personal space differs among cultures and the representatives of many nationalities behave in various ways - cutting or keeping vast physical distance between themselves when people greet, talk or use public transportation. Common problems with multicultural communication may occur when we take into consideration seating arrangements during meetings, sense of time or even facial expressions and gestures. Interestingly, people from Western culture take the custom of shaking hands with other nations and persons of both genders for granted and try to practice the routine in the UAE, while it may be perceived as a lack of manners, disrespect or even an insult in Muslim culture.
Living in a unique and truly multicultural environment of the United Arab Emirates requires delicacy and mutual understanding. Successful communication depends on awareness of cultural discrepancy, tolerance and respect to diversity. This modern cosmopolitan country offers something exceptional - a global citizenship that cannot be awarded but earned through the commitment, constant widening perspectives and learning how to cooperate with each other. Notwithstanding the differences which do remain between us, we see light at the end of the tunnel - we already peacefully coexist and do not mind misunderstandings and misinterpretations. We are dissimilar and we live and work together. As African proverb states: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."