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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Abu Dhabi, UAE


Abu Dhabi, UAE

One expat who moved to Abu Dhabi, UAE explains that moving to a Middle Eastern country is so different to other European countries. And, he feels that the greatest challenge is understanding how and why things happen in the workplace.

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?

No formal training. However I was living in Spain for 3 years, which in the south has many similarities in culture because of the Moorish influence so although not prepared, I could understand what was going on

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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?

No. My employer said I did't need to learn Arabic as translators are provided (some of the time). I went on an Arabic course run by the Brisih Council, however it was social Arabic. Whilst I can understand some conversations, my Arabic is not a great deal of use.

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?

The culture shock is in the way work progress is achieved in the public services. Culturally there is little difference to Spain, however the short working days, the reluctance to make any decisions at all, the minor functionaries who prevent progress, are all still surprising to me.

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 think I probably did, although at the time I didn't recognise them as such.

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.

Certainly frustration, but none of the others.

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

The friendliness of the Emirati people. I have been made more welcome in the UAE that in several parts of the UK I have visited.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Moving to a middle eastern country is so different to other European countries, the greatest challenge is understanding how and why things happen in the workplace. One expects differences in food and the day to day shopping, bargaining etc. Working in Government I was and still am to a degree, challenged by the completely different way of internal working when compared to the UK. The language is a barrier, but it is also the unwritten codes of the tribes and families, the office politics etc which pervade every thing, every day.

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

I was visiting an office with a young Emirati colleague and was offered the customery Arabic coffee and dates. I had the coffee cup in my right hand, and took a date with my left hand. My young colleague was scolded by the more senior people, in Arabic, that he had not told me how to accept food - which he had indeed not. The correct way would have been to transfer the coffee cup to the left hand and then accept food with the right. The left hand is of course unclean, but early on, I just never thought and used both.

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

If you are moving to the Arabian peninsula, look for "27 Articles" by T E Lawrence (whose world are banned in the UAE). Although written for the British Army in 1917, if you strip away the military stuff and look beyond into the culture, the advice he gives for working closely alongside Arabian peninsula people is as valid (for me) in 2013 as when it was written in 1917. It helped me to understand some of the cultural issues.

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Time Stamp 14-Jul-20 02:42 PM
Locale English (US)
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Remote IP 172.69.63.227
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Execution Time

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getphotos (Datasource=reports, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/rspnet.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT DISTINCT img, photocaption, summary, hpimg, twimg
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and headerparagraphweight = 'high'
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gethealthsummary (Datasource=expert, Time=7ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
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gethealthcare (Datasource=tipripper, Time=11ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
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WHERE answers.answerid = 80153
AND (100 = answers.rid or 99 = answers.rid)
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getbrief (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
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getheading (Datasource=tipripper, Time=4ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
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FROM allreports, Networks 
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and allreports.topicid = 11
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FROM topics
WHERE topicid = 11 
getanswerstext (Datasource=tipripper, Time=4ms, Records=12) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
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FROM answerstext, answers, topicquestions, questions 
WHERE answers.answerid = 80184
AND (100 = answers.rid or 99 = answers.rid)
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and topicquestions.qid <> 62
AND topicquestions.topicid = answers.topicid
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AND topicquestions.qid = answerstext.qid
AND 80184 = answerstext.answerid 
ORDER BY topicquestions.order ASC
getbrief (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
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getheading (Datasource=tipripper, Time=3ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
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	WHERE answerstext.answerid = '80184'
	and qid = 391
getphoto (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	SELECT DISTINCT hpimg as photo
	FROM answers
	WHERE answerid = 80184 
getlocationtag1 (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT shortname, networkname, networkid
FROM Networks
WHERE networkid = '112'
checkculturefeature (Datasource=expert, Time=6ms, Records=2) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
		Select networkname as ctry, city, networkid, rid, networkname, answerid
		FROM allreports
         where rid = 95
            
         and allreports.answerid <> 45404         
         and networkid = 112
          and citynetworkid = 4242
         and city <> ''
         order by date DESC
getsummary (Datasource=reports, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
		Select summary, hiimg, hpimg
		FROM answers
         	where answerid = 25630 
getsummary (Datasource=reports, Time=1ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcityrptsmobile.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
		Select summary, hiimg, hpimg
		FROM answers
         	where answerid = 24825 
gettaxgeneral (Datasource=expert, Time=6ms, Records=3) in /home/www/html/rspnet_ctygd_readnext.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	Select title, hitopic, hidescript, author, articles.articleID, hiimg, summary, authorurl, hpimg
	From articles, articlePlacement
	Where hitopic <> ''
	and articlePlacement.networkID = 112 
	AND articlePlacement.articleID = articles.articleID
	and hidescript <> ''
    and type = '3'
    and articles.topic <> 'Weekly Quizzes'
   	and articles.topic <> 'Weekly Quizzes: Answers'
    and general <> 'bb'
    and hpimg <> 'none'
    and keycity = '0'
   and cityintro = 'n'
    and summary <> ''
    and publishdate < "2020-07-14"
    and publishdate > "2014-01-01"

    ORDER by articles.articleID asc   
    
gettopbanner (Datasource=expert, Time=1ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navbottomad_rdesign5.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	Select *
	From banners, bannerPlacement
	WHERE status <> "hold"
	AND position = "eebannercountry"
    and toDate > "2020-07-13"
    and fromDate < "2020-07-14"
    and bannerPlacement.networkid = 112
    and bannerPlacement.bannerid = banners.bannerid
    and banners.promised = ''
    and banners.type <> 'swf'
UpdatePageViews (Datasource=expert, Time=2ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navbottomad_rdesign5.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
  UPDATE banners
  SET impressions = impressions + 1
  WHERE bannerid = 869 
gethpbox (Datasource=expert, Time=1ms, Records=0) in /home/www/html/navmpu_rdesign5.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	Select *
	From banners, bannerPlacement
	WHERE status <> "hold"
	AND position = "eehpboxcountry"
    and toDate > {ts '2020-07-13 14:42:02'}
    and fromDate <{ts '2020-07-14 14:42:02'}
    and weight > 7
    and bannerPlacement.networkid = 112
    and bannerPlacement.bannerid = banners.bannerid
    and banners.type <> 'swf'
gethpbox (Datasource=expert, Time=1ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navmpu_rdesign5.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	Select *
	From banners
	WHERE status <> "hold"
	AND position = "eehpbox"
	and weight > 7
    and toDate > {ts '2020-07-13 14:42:02'}
    and fromDate <{ts '2020-07-14 14:42:02'}
     and banners.type <> 'swf'
       
UpdatePageViews (Datasource=expert, Time=1ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navmpu_rdesign5.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
  UPDATE banners
  SET impressions = impressions + 1
  WHERE bannerid = 866 
GetMessages (Datasource=forum, Time=1ms, Records=0) in /home/www/html/commentsnew_rdesign4.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
  SELECT *
  FROM comments m 
  WHERE m.tpcid = 45404 
  and m.commenttype = 2
  and m.isapproved = 1
  ORDER BY msgid ASC
getguidesummary (Datasource=expert, Time=1ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	Select summary, hiimg 
	From articles, articlecityplace
	Where  articlecityplace.citynetworkid = 4242
	and articlecityplace.articleid = articles.articleID
    and articles.cityintro = 'y'
 
gethealthsummary (Datasource=expert, Time=0ms, Records=1, Cached Query) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	Select summary, hpimg
	From articles, articlePlacement, articleCategories
	Where articlePlacement.networkID = 112 
	AND articlePlacement.articleID = articles.articleID
   	and articleCategories.articleID = articles.articleID
   	and articleCategories.section = 9
   	and articles.sectionintro = 'y'
    ORDER by articles.articleID desc
gethealthcare (Datasource=tipripper, Time=12ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT *
FROM allreports, Networks 
WHERE rid = 100
and Networks.networkid = 112
and allreports.networkid = 112
 and allreports.citynetworkid2 =  4242
and allreports.topicid = 7
and hide <> 'y'
order by allreports.answerid DESC
getslugs (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT topics.slug, topics.slugcity, topics.slugstate,topics.slugcitynostate, topics.slugcountry, topics.slugentry, topics.topicqid, topics.topicqidanswer, topics.promolinktext, topics.articletitle
FROM topics
WHERE topicid = 7 
getanswerstext (Datasource=tipripper, Time=5ms, Records=5) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT DISTINCT answerstext.aid, questions.question, topicquestions.required, questions.qid, questions.type, answers.answerid, answers.reviewed, answers.rid, answers.dbid, answerstext.answer, answerstext.qid, answerstext.answerid, answers.img, answers.hiimg, answers.hpimg, answers.fbimg, answers.photocaption, answers.photocredit, answers.summary, topicquestions.outputtext, answerstext.uniqueheader, answerstext.uniqueheaderprop, answerstext.answerstextphoto, answerstext.photoplacement
FROM answerstext, answers, topicquestions, questions 
WHERE answers.answerid = 80153
AND (100 = answers.rid or 99 = answers.rid)
and topicquestions.qid <> 391
and topicquestions.qid <> 62
AND topicquestions.topicid = answers.topicid
and answerstext.answer <> ''
AND topicquestions.qid = questions.qid
AND topicquestions.qid = answerstext.qid
AND 80153 = answerstext.answerid 
ORDER BY topicquestions.order ASC
getbrief (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	SELECT summary
	FROM answers
	WHERE answers.answerid = '80153'
getheading (Datasource=tipripper, Time=4ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	SELECT DISTINCT answerstext.answer, answerstext.answerid, answerstext.qid
	FROM answerstext
	WHERE answerstext.answerid = '80153'
	and qid = 391
getphoto (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	SELECT DISTINCT hiimg as photo
	FROM answers
	WHERE answerid = 80153 
getlocationtag1 (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT shortname, networkname, networkid
FROM Networks
WHERE networkid = '112'
gethealthcare (Datasource=tipripper, Time=10ms, Records=2) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT *
FROM allreports, Networks 
WHERE rid = 100
and Networks.networkid = 112
and allreports.networkid = 112
 and allreports.citynetworkid2 =  4242
and allreports.topicid = 11
and hide <> 'y'
order by allreports.answerid DESC
getslugs (Datasource=tipripper, Time=1ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT topics.slug, topics.slugcity, topics.slugstate,topics.slugcitynostate, topics.slugcountry, topics.slugentry, topics.topicqid, topics.topicqidanswer, topics.promolinktext, topics.articletitle
FROM topics
WHERE topicid = 11 
getanswerstext (Datasource=tipripper, Time=5ms, Records=12) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT DISTINCT answerstext.aid, questions.question, topicquestions.required, questions.qid, questions.type, answers.answerid, answers.reviewed, answers.rid, answers.dbid, answerstext.answer, answerstext.qid, answerstext.answerid, answers.img, answers.hiimg, answers.hpimg, answers.fbimg, answers.photocaption, answers.photocredit, answers.summary, topicquestions.outputtext, answerstext.uniqueheader, answerstext.uniqueheaderprop, answerstext.answerstextphoto, answerstext.photoplacement
FROM answerstext, answers, topicquestions, questions 
WHERE answers.answerid = 80184
AND (100 = answers.rid or 99 = answers.rid)
and topicquestions.qid <> 391
and topicquestions.qid <> 62
AND topicquestions.topicid = answers.topicid
and answerstext.answer <> ''
AND topicquestions.qid = questions.qid
AND topicquestions.qid = answerstext.qid
AND 80184 = answerstext.answerid 
ORDER BY topicquestions.order ASC
getbrief (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	SELECT summary
	FROM answers
	WHERE answers.answerid = '80184'
getheading (Datasource=tipripper, Time=4ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	SELECT DISTINCT answerstext.answer, answerstext.answerid, answerstext.qid
	FROM answerstext
	WHERE answerstext.answerid = '80184'
	and qid = 391
getphoto (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
	SELECT DISTINCT hiimg as photo
	FROM answers
	WHERE answerid = 80184 
getlocationtag1 (Datasource=tipripper, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
SELECT shortname, networkname, networkid
FROM Networks
WHERE networkid = '112'
checkculturefeature (Datasource=expert, Time=0ms, Records=2, Cached Query) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
		Select networkname as ctry, city, networkid, rid, networkname, answerid
		FROM allreports
         where rid = 95
            
         and allreports.answerid <> 45404         
         and networkid = 112
          and citynetworkid = 4242
         and city <> ''
         order by date DESC
getsummary (Datasource=reports, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
		Select summary, hiimg, hpimg
		FROM answers
         	where answerid = 25630 
getsummary (Datasource=reports, Time=0ms, Records=1) in /home/www/html/navcontentboxcitypc.cfm @ 14:42:02.002
		Select summary, hiimg, hpimg
		FROM answers
         	where answerid = 24825 


Scope Variables

CGI Variables:
AUTH_PASSWORD=
AUTH_TYPE=
AUTH_USER=
CERT_COOKIE=
CERT_FLAGS=
CERT_ISSUER=
CERT_KEYSIZE=
CERT_SECRETKEYSIZE=
CERT_SERIALNUMBER=
CERT_SERVER_ISSUER=
CERT_SERVER_SUBJECT=
CERT_SUBJECT=
CF_TEMPLATE_PATH=/home/www/html/rspnet.cfm
CONTENT_LENGTH=
CONTENT_TYPE=
CONTEXT_PATH=
GATEWAY_INTERFACE=CGI/1.1
HTTPS=on
HTTPS_KEYSIZE=
HTTPS_SECRETKEYSIZE=
HTTPS_SERVER_ISSUER=
HTTPS_SERVER_SUBJECT=
HTTP_ACCEPT=text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING=gzip
HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE=en-US,en;q=0.5
HTTP_CONNECTION=Keep-Alive
HTTP_COOKIE=
HTTP_HOST=www.expatexchange.com
HTTP_REFERER=
HTTP_USER_AGENT=CCBot/2.0 (https://commoncrawl.org/faq/)
PATH_INFO=
PATH_TRANSLATED=/home/www/html/rspnet.cfm
QUERY_STRING=rid=95&answerid=45404&networkid=112&start=45404
REMOTE_ADDR=172.69.63.227
REMOTE_HOST=172.69.63.227
REMOTE_USER=
REQUEST_METHOD=GET
SCRIPT_NAME=/rspnet.cfm
SERVER_NAME=www.expatexchange.com
SERVER_PORT=443
SERVER_PORT_SECURE=1
SERVER_PROTOCOL=HTTP/1.1
SERVER_SOFTWARE=Apache
WEB_SERVER_API=
Session Variables:
cfid=31889138
cftoken=22297447
sessionid=IBEXPATEXCHANGE.COM_31889138_22297447
urltoken=CFID=31889138&CFTOKEN=22297447
URL Parameters:
answerid=45404
networkid=112
rid=95
start=45404
Debug Rendering Time: 15 ms