Ask Ali: Being born in Israel shouldn’t affect marriage plans

What matters is not who you are or where you were born; it’s how you feel about him and about this valuable relationship.

Dear Ali: Recently I was proposed to by my Syrian partner, who is born and raised in the UAE. We both love each other a lot, but, for many reasons, I never got the right chance to explain to him that I was born in Israel, even though I’m not a Jew. I’m afraid that he would leave me for such a fact in my life. I never appreciated what the Israeli government is doing there and I’m afraid that he would hold this against me. I wonder, from a cultural point of view, how would I bring this up with him? VB, Dubai

Dear VB: What an interesting question, but also very easy to handle, in my opinion, as no one chooses where to be born. Breathe and take it easy. I’m sure that your fiancé would understand and this may also give a better picture of whether he loves you for who you are or any other reason. Here’s how I would advise you to handle this situation. First, you should definitely tell him the truth as soon as possible. How you bring up the subject is up to you, but I would recommend that when you bring this up that it’s face-to-face and that you explain how you appreciate and love him. It’s all about how he would see this situation – and it’s his decision to either be shallow and let go of you just because you were born there or appreciate your honesty and actually take this as a positive, that he fell in love with a lady who was born in Israel yet does not appreciate the Israeli regime. Finally, remember such a situation is occurring every day with different individuals from different backgrounds, such as the conflict between India and Pakistan, and Turkey and Greece, not to mention different faiths and cultures. What matters is not who you are or where you were born; it’s how you feel about him and about this valuable relationship.

I wish you both all the best. And don’t forget to invite me to the big day.

Dear Ali: Are there any specific guidelines or etiquette to follow when meeting an Arab potential mother-in-law? I’m an Eastern European lady who comes from an open-minded society and have lived in the Middle East for more than 10 years, but my relationship is becoming more serious and I really want to make sure that I’m not making any mistakes nor offending my potential in-laws. HM, Doha

Dear HM: Relax, there’s nothing more fun and awesome than meeting your in-laws. OK, it’s a bit of a worrying situation, but once you start on the right foot, the rest is a piece of cake. The best advice I can share with you from a cultural point of view is to simply be yourself.

There are some general respectful social codes when greeting and meeting your in-laws. Begin by making sure that you’re dressed well. Don’t wear clothes that reveal a lot of your skin, but that doesn’t mean cover up completely. Stay true to your taste of dress.

Also, try to learn how to make some Arabic coffee, juices and tea. Prepare them in a proper and nice way. If you are visiting them at their house, then make sure to always offer a hand when they serve the tea and coffee and even offer to help in the kitchen. The point is don’t act as if you’re a princess who can’t do a thing – at least offer and that will raise the respect level that they have for you.

Another important point is to try your best not to speak a lot and don’t be too loud when laughing. Also don’t forget to keep a close distance from his mother and sisters, as in Arabic culture it’s always appreciated when a woman comes across as shy and respectful to her surroundings. I hope this helps and I wish you a lovely time with your potential in-laws.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.

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Published: May 22, 2014 04:00 AM


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