A look behind the curtain of the Arab world? Knowing more about the Arabic culture, local customs and daily life in the Middle East? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Where can you find the people to make contact with? And how? To really get insight into the Arab life it takes some time and effort.
Each culture has its own customs and habits. So has the Arabic Culture. In general, one can say that Arabs live in a different rhythm than Westerners do and practice other activities in their leisure time. Spending time with the family is of great importance to them, and honour, and respect are considered paramount importance. Some habits, gestures or values that we value as normal, can be considered as inappropriate to them. And vice versa. An example of that is the hand gesture ‘Shwaya Shwaya’, with means a ‘little bit’ or ‘a moment please’ in Arabic.
Warm and welcoming
People often find it difficult to start a conversation with Arabs. They hesitate to approach them. And that’s a shame. Arabs are warm and welcoming people. They are interested, hospitable, and always lend a helping hand to someone in need. But it is not so easy to get to know them. Their social life takes place primarily within the family about which they are quiet and reserved. Arabs do not reveal their laundry, dirty or clean. But they are certainly up for an interesting conversation. They are known for their animated stories about their culture and history. They like lively dialogues about world politics, sports and travel and more.
It is important to realise that not all Arabs in the Middle East are the same. There is not one Arabic culture. Not even within the different Gulf States. All countries in the Middle East are self-contained cultures and all have their own customs. Some of them are more willing and able to meet with strangers than others. For example, Omani and Emirati people are overall quite accessible, while the Saudi tend to keep more distance.
To get in contact with the local community it is important to understand their life and culture and respect their values. Wear appropriate and modest clothing and show humility. A bluntness mentality may be accepted in many Western cultures, in the Arabic world directness bulldozes pleasantries. Finally, know the right times and places to meet them.
Let me begin with the first step, an introduction to the culture and making contact. I start off in the United Arab Emirates.