Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
Abu Dhabi, UAE
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?
Not long after arriving we participated in a workshop delivered by an Emirati man who does this with man new expats to the country. I had been here about a week when that happened. I had actually lived in the UAE before, so the culture wasn't completely new to me as it was to most of my colleagues.
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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?
I speak a very basic form of Arabic-mainly the Egyptian dialect which I learned while living in Egypt. In my home country I also studied classical ARabic. Upon arriving, I continued my studies for a few months.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Not this time, although when I first arrived in the UAE in 1998 I had no idea what to expect.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Well, it was difficult at some stage. The fact that everyone speaks English, that foods from home are familiar, and that there is generally a tolerant approach to other religions and cultures, it was easier than my expatriation to Spain.
Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?
Absolutely. If you expatriate yourself multiple times, you'll get good at identifying the stages when they hit, and that makes it easier to cope.
What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.
Intolerance, "this would never happen at home!" syndrome, anger, homesickness, and situational depression all occurred at some point.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
They're incredibly generous. If I admire something of they own, they will try to give it to me. They are also highly hospitable.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
The Emirati population is small compared to the rest of the country, so there are generally less of them around. As a woman, forming friendships w/ an Emirati man can be tricky. The concept of the platonic male/female relationship doesn't exist in their culture. On the flip side, the women tend to have a lot of familial obligations and, at times, limited ability to move freely without a male member of her family, so going out to a restaurant or coffee w/ just the girls has never actually happened for me.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
Well, don't offer up your left hand (even if the right hand is holding things) to shake someone's hand. All 'dirty' things happen w/ the left hand, and people are quite sensitive to it when it comes to eating.
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