Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nice Comment!!!

This is a comment made on the previous post. I just found it so fascinating that I think it deserves to be posted as an entry.

SevenSummits said...

Dear All,
Certainly Local Expat was not asking for a terminology debate and in addition I believe that his quest was indirectly quite clear. So assuming we all got the point, the second part of the question would be: Do you really tolerate an honest response?

First of all we all know about stereotypes and of course are all aware that not every UAE national "has the same character". However it is generally accepted that certain societies or nationalities have special "general characteristics", such as in development policy we can identify something like a "special African culture", certain aspects that are common to all "black" African societies in Sub Saharan Africa. (To all anthropologists - please cool down! We are not into details here) "Individualism", "existence of civil society", "gender equality", etc. are just a few keywords of this debate.

Here are just a few honest observations I made and of course these are still subject to further investigation:

First most striking aspect one will notice as a tourist:
As a typical "lonely planet" traveler, one of my favorite pastimes is to go out there and explore different cultures. The best recipe to learn and understand all those positive and negative curiosities about a different society is to mix with "locals". Now with an open mind going to e.g. Brazil, Ghana or Singapore it will take you less than 24 hours to interact with "them" and exchange your different viewpoints. In Chile you can read a huge signboard "a tourist is a friend" and it seems to be true, the average Chilean will welcome you with open arms and will proudly say: "You came such a long way to see my country?"

You will experience the exact opposite, if you will visit the UAE. The segregation aspect was already mentioned and the average tourist will certain not have any chance to get into contact with the real "locals". He/she will also not have a chance to learn and see anything about Emirati culture or find e.g. a real "Emirati cuisine" restaurant. The picture in fact is distorted and "belly dancers" as well as "shisha places" will give a completely wrong impression. On the other hand one will also get the feeling of outright "hatred", especially from local women. Honestly something I have never experienced anywhere in the world. Certainly being a tall blond German, I have received many curious and astonished stares during my travels and with a not so glorious past even had a few clashes in the States with non-forgiving Jewish citizens. (However dialog has often worked wonders)

So to answer your question: As a tourist the image of a UAE national and the culture is highly distorted. (and therefore not so positive!)

As a foreigner that has professional contact with highly educated UAE nationals (Ph.D.), I have come to the following conclusions.

Each and every "male" UAE national I encountered up to this point was very polite, friendly, considerate, helpful, etc., but even thou they stay in contact I never felt the closeness of real friendship, as I have with many other colleagues from around the world. (from Niger to Iran)
Deep inside, I feel that I am the just tolerated "foreigner" - I still need to explore this phenomenon and analyze, if this is just a general superficial attitude or a sign of serious intolerance?

However the most outstanding characteristic I noticed among UAE nationals was "the pretence" – double standards all the way. Maybe in general it can be considered a characteristic of Arab societies in general, but in a way I felt that the UAE are the hotspot of this. (Kuwaitis for example seem to be much more open minded) Maybe it is a sign of a "lost society" – a society caught between dysfunctional cultural traditions and an artificially induced modernity that did not bring the necessary socio-cultural development with it.
This notion certainly brings me directly to the next point: DENIAL!
Nowhere I heard the sentence "No, this is not true, not us" as many times as in the UAE. (Anyone who doubts this, just have a look at some of the answers to certain blogs – especially when it comes to taboo topics)
Or if it is not complete denial – we can move to "BLAME".
Another standard response in the UAE is to find someone else to blame: We all know the usual suspects – no need to go into details! I keep on being told that "the Hollywood lifestyle" …. - don't people get the message that this is just fiction, an artificial movie dream world – often sarcastic - that has nothing to do with real everyday Western life? Maybe the educational system should start to introduce the idea of "creative individual thought – to question the public opinion"

Finally "lack of curiosity" should be mentioned: When you take a longer bus trip in Peru for example and the seat next to you is empty, other customers will takes shifts to sit there and to torture you with all those questions they always wanted to find an answer to. This is good and broadens our horizon! But in the UAE people don't seem to have any questions or maybe they already have a stereotyped answer in place.

Now in the UAE you can take a bus ride (from e.g. Al-Ain to Dubai) and find interesting people to talk to from Pakistan, Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc. – they all have exiting stories to tell, just like from every taxi driver. However better not ask them this same question.

My wish would be that you guys would really mix with the rest of us. The world is more beautiful when cultures intermingle – need a proof – go to Brazil!

Emirati woman:
You would not even want to know – I am still recovering from the shock! (Will take some time!) Anyhow I don't believe that was the question and that you were referring to Emirati males.

1 comment:

Zafar said...

You have come back after a long gap and without anything new.

Kindly update and inform us the reason of your absence.