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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Dubai, 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?

Nothing official, just read a lot of books, websites, etc.

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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?

They speak English here. I wish they spoke some Arabic, but everything everywhere is in English. Arabic is spoken, but not necessarily in public/business. In other words, you won't be immersed in Arabic here if you want to learn, unless you have specific friends.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

Yes! Moving from somewhere where the laws are pretty clear, I was concerned about the changeable laws I heard about in UAE.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Not bad at all. If anything, it was just difficult at first not having any friends.

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?

I suppose so, but not too bad as much of the arrangements of living here were done for me. The difficult thing is the law here.

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.

Missed my family and friends. I learned that as an expat, it's best to move into friendships s-l-o-w-l-y...sometimes loneliness might make you open up to someone too quickly and many people have told me they experienced this and regretted it.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

As a woman, not many. Living in Dubai, we live in another culture but that culture is very closed to expats. You're living in a foreign country without any of the benefits of living in a foreign country...for example, the national population is very small, many transients, everything's in English.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

This one specifically has a very different view of females and males. Was not use to a man thinking I'm interested in him only because I smiled a polite acknowledgment type of smile. Also, giving up rights as a woman to husband is very foreign.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Went to an Arab house and forgot to take off my shoes. Not that I didn't already know this, just forgot to.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Depends on where you're from. If you're from a Western society, get ready for lots of red tape. If you've met foreigners in your home country and were hospitable and open to them, don't expect that in return in UAE. Don't let loneliness put you in an awkward situation with people you wouldn't normally be friends with. All in all, try to remember to have fun and make the best of it.

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