Expats should be more aware of UAE culture, survey respondents say

A knowledge of UAE's habits and traditions should be a prerequisite before coming to live and work in the country, say expatriates and Emiratis.

Understanding of, and respect for, your host country are two simple and effective ways for expats and visitors to get on with Emiratis, according to a YouGov poll. Simple courtesy goes a very long way.

ABU DHABI // Expatriates must do their homework on the UAE’s habits, heritage and traditions before coming to live and work in the country.

A survey, commissioned by The National and carried out by YouGov, polled 1,056 expatriates and Emiratis on social integration.

The majority of those questioned believe expatriates should broaden their understanding of the country before moving.

“I think every person can, and should, know as much as they can about another culture before they move there,” says Dr Jane Bristol-Rhys, an associate professor of anthropology at Zayed University. “I am surprised by the number of people who live here for so many years but don’t know about the history of the country in which they live.

“We expect people to be familiar with the rules in our country, so we should respect the culture we are living in. Be it dress or culture, people often ignore rules.”

When asked whether expatriates should have a knowledge of the heritage of the country, six in ten (59 per cent) survey respondents agreed.

Similarly, when asked if a knowledge of the country’s habits and traditions should be a prerequisite, 71 per cent agreed.

This was especially true among Emirati respondents, 71 per cent of whom agreed expatriates needed to know the country’s heritage and 84 per cent of whom agreed expatriates needed to know about the UAE’s customs and traditions.

Khalifa Al Mansoori, a 40-year-old Emirati living in the Western Region, says all expatriates have an obligation to gain a basic knowledge of Arabic culture and Islamic influence.

“I think people should do their homework and understand the culture, Islam and what the UAE is all about before they come. That is for sure.

“When they (expatriates) come here they are more like guests and guests usually behave.”

The survey polled 129 Emiratis, 216 Arab expatriates, 521 Asian expatriates, 172 westerners and 18 from other nationalities.

“People who move here should definitely learn about the culture of the place and the traditions,” says 23-year-old Emirati Sumaya Al Breiki. “It is upsetting to see that some people disregard the rules.

“When I go to a foreign country, I respect the rules and expect the same when people come here.

“People also have to respect certain rules during Ramadan and they should be aware of these.”

Emirati Hassan Mohammed Al Najjar agrees.

“Knowledge of our UAE traditions, such as clothing norms and respecting the religion of Islam as well such as not eating in public during Ramadan at fasting hours is a must,” he said.

Abu Dhabi resident Dyala Raoufi also stressed the importance of people having an appreciation of the country.

“It is very important to have some understanding of UAE’s traditions before moving to settle in the country,” she says.

“It helps to establish a level of respect and also helps the transition through different cultures.”

Sally Mohsen Antoun, an Egyptian, says those who move to the UAE must be aware and respect the fact they are living in an Arabic country.

“It is not like living in Europe. Traditions and habits must be respected like Ramadan, prayer times, what to wear in some places.

“For me it’s not an issue, being originally from Arab country, but for many westerners this is new and sometimes against the freedom they were raised on.”

Alaeddine Ghazouani, research manager at YouGov, said the poll showed that the majority of respondents agreed expatriates have a responsibility to ensure an understanding of the UAE’s culture.

“Interestingly, not only Emiratis are keen to encourage expatriates to learn about the country’s habits, traditions and heritage, as expats also consider it’s imperative to learn about the UAE culture as a way of social integration and to preserve the UAE’s culture.”




A survey, commissioned by The National and carried out by YouGov, polled 1,056 Emiratis and expatriates on social integration in the UAE. Results showed that respondents believed expatriates had an obligation to gain a basic knowledge of Arabic culture and Islamic influence before relocating to the UAE. The survey showed that UAE residents are willing to mix with different nationalities however differences become apparent at the workplace where salary disparities exist depending on an employees nationality.

Read more on our social integration survery here:

UAE residents stress importance of preserving Arabic language

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