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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Abu Dhabi, UAE

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Abu Dhabi

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

Nothing official, but I have been living and/or traveling overseas for nearly 30 years.

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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?

Arabic is widely spoken, as are a variety of expat language. English is the lingua franca. I do not speak Arabic, nor do I plan to learn more than I speak of it now.

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

No.

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

Not overly significant, as it is the same as my earlier experiences. Abu Dhabi is a great place to be an expat, as nearly everyone is from somewhere else. As a woman, we have an extraordinary amount of freedom here as compared to other Middle Eastern countries. We do not have to wear abayas and we can drive. I consider this liberating and it makes the culture shock much easier to deal with.

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?

Of course there are stages of adjustment, just as there are stages with any move, whether domestic or international. Once the adrenaline rush of the move is over and the everyday settles into place, there are always things from home that you would prefer. It's human nature.

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.

Some depressive mood, fear (which is valid when you see some of the drivers here), dislocation, as well

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

The warmth and care they show their families, especially their children, is truly heartfelt. Americans could learn a lot by watching the time the Emiratis devote to family.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Time is just a variable here. An appointment really is not as specific as we expect, especially between friends.

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

Asking a woman to meet me for a coffee, without realizing that she could not do that without a family member as escort. I don't know what I was thinking!

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

Don't make these sites your only source of information about a culture. Read, go to university lectures, art exhibits, music concerts. Learn about the culture, not just others' opinions! Develop an appreciation and respect for where you're going, and be open to it. If you do this, you will find happiness wherever you go.

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Comments about this Report

guest
Dec 31, 2010 06:00

English is almost a first language in UAE, in Abu Dhabi all subjects at school are tought in English. you do not need to learn Arabic at all. everything is in English. you get three local news papers in English. you do not need to worry about that what so ever.

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