Most expats say they have made efforts to integrate into UAE society

Nine in ten of expats say they made efforts to learn more about the UAE’s culture. 

Sanooj Assad, 27, came from India three months ago. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // By far most expatriates feel they have made efforts to integrate into UAE society.

When polled, nine in 10 expatriates say they have made efforts to learn more about the country’s culture and traditions.

Integration is something that has to be worked on, says Abu Dhabi resident Dyala Raoufi.

“You can’t wake up one morning and immediately fit in. But it is not that difficult either,” Ms Raoufi says. “The country provides a platform for every culture to survive in harmony and respect is given to every individual no matter what their background is.”

Forty per cent of Emiratis and 49 per cent of expatriates mainly agree that social integration in the UAE equally relies on efforts made by both groups. Indians Sanooj Assad, 27, Ramnath Krishna Swamy, 26, and Ashir P P, moved to Abu Dhabi to search for work.

They knew little about UAE culture and heritage before they moved three months ago, but Mr Swamy found visiting the Qasr Al Hosn Festival in February a chance to gain insight into the growth of the emirate and history of the UAE.

“We did not know much. But we went to the Qasr Al Hosn and it did help a lot to know about the culture, and the lifestyles and the way they are living here and the traditions of Abu Dhabi,” he says.

Anthropology professor Dr Jane Bristol-Rhys says social integration is easier for some. “Some people are more adventurous and interested in the world. When people come here, unless they already know people it is quite a daunting task to make new friends.

“You are always more comfortable with someone who is from your part of your country as there are common cultural references and you don’t have to worry about language. Other people want to meet people who are nothing like themselves and gain as much as they can culturally.”

Residents should also take advantage of a culturally diverse workforce, says Abu Dhabi resident Sally Mohsen Antoun.

“At work we can try to talk to people we never imagine we can be friends with,” she says. “Just don’t be afraid or intimidated by different people or cultures and don’t feel they’ll judge you because your language is not good enough.”

Alaeddine Ghazouani, of YouGov, says many expatriates regard the UAE as a second home.

“For this reason, learning about the UAE’s history, language, religion and other cultural traits is important to them and something many have placed a great deal of emphasis on as it enforces their feeling of belonging,” he says.


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:

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

UAE residents stress importance of preserving Arabic language

UAE residents happy to mix with different nationalities, survey shows

'Western workers favoured in UAE', survey respondents say