Cultural Diversity Essay

This essay has a total of 2128 words and 10 pages.


Cultural Diversity




Doing Business in the Middle East
Presently Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen are the 14 nations in the Middle East. The
majority of Middle Easterners share in common the Arab culture, language and religion. It
is especially important to take note of the Islamic belief. "Islam means the act of giving
one's self to God or Allah" (Harris & Moran, 2000, p.385). Visitors and business people
must understand the powerful religious and cultural force of Islam to appreciate or
comprehend this country. Although this paper focuses on establishing and doing business in
the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the writers have also given attention to the demographics
and culture of this intriguing country.

Demographics
The United Arab Emirates is bordered by Saudi Arabia and Oman. Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai,
Fujairah, Ras as-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain are the seven emirates. Most of the
inside areas of the UAE are desert, and from May to September in Abu Ddhabi and Dubai, the
humidity and daytime temperatures stay around 105 degrees Fahrenheit. These high
temperatures keep people inside during the daytime hours, and often leaving their homes in
the evening to conduct business. Business hours in this region vary, but are generally
from 8am to 1pm, reopening at either 3pm or 4pm and closing at 6pm or 7pm. Bank hours are
generally 8am to midday. Markets and food stores are open at the later evening hours when
it is much cooler (http://jafza.co.ae/ad1.htm).

The population of the UAE is approximately two million people of whom only 500,000 are
United Arab Emirates citizens; the others are from other Gulf countries, Pakistan, Iran
and India. Although English is widely understood, Arabic is the official language. Most
Emirates, approximately 96%, are Sunni Muslims (the remaining 4% are considered Hindu),
and their paramount virtues are considered to be dignity, honor and reputation.

Although mostly hot and dry with little rain to speak of, the UAE has one important
natural resource - petroleum. This marketed the transformation of the UAE's economy in
1962 with the first export of oil from Abu Dhabi (Johnson, 1987). The UAE became one of
the most stable and untroubled international business centers in the Arab world.

A hereditary emir or prince rules each of the seven emirates. The chief governing body of
the federation is the Supreme Council of Rulers, made up of the seven emirs. It elects
from among its members a president and vice-president. The president appoints a Prime
Minister to head the Council of Ministers. The legislature is the Federal National
Council, whose 40 members are appointed by their respective emirs (Grolier). Within the
military branches, Army, Navy, Air Force, and paramilitary (including Federal Police
Force). The armed services have a total male population of about 425,000 (http//) [get
reference from Sandy].

****We have to try to break this up some. There are four ref. right here together*****
The UAE death rate is very low, about 3.06 deaths in 1000, whereas, the birth rate is
18.61 out of 1000. The fertility rate for women is 3.56 children. Life expectancy for
males is about 74 years of age and for females, 76 years of age. The literacy rate is
79.2%, as last listed in 1995 9 [???????] (Http//). [Need to get reference from Sandy).

The Gross Domestic Product or GDP is in the $40 billion dollar range, using United States
figures. Furthermore, the inflation runs about 5% even though annual growth is negative 5%
(http//).

In an interview with Roger Biddle, a United States of America soldier who was stationed in
the UAE for a short time prior to the liberation of Kuwait, he talked about what he
described as the "three strikes and you're out" law. For instance, if a person steals
anything at all, the first time offense would be to cut off the person's hand that took
the item. If the same person stole a second time, then the person's other hand would be
cut off. On the third offense, the person would be beheaded. These punishments were always
conducted in public. Needless to say, the crime rate is extremely low.

Culture
Arabs prefer close, personal relationships. In a conversation with friends and relatives,
they will be close enough to smell the other's breath and will breathe on the other when
speaking. It is desirable for an Arab to smell a friend's breath and would feel ashamed if
denied. When dealing with strangers, Arab's may not keep such a close distance, and in
some social situations, may talk from across the room. Ironically enough, although Arabs
are actively involved with others, they will resist crowds in enclosed spaces.

Arabs communicate both verbally and nonverbally, and in conversations, they will
constantly gesture with their hands. Pointing at another person is considered to be
impolite, and unlike the United States, the "thumbs up" sign is offensive. Also offensive
is showing the bottom of your foot. Arabs, when sitting, never cross their legs. Gesturing
with the left hand should be completely avoided, as Arabs believe the left hand to be
unclean.

The loose fitting clothes worn by men and women of the UAE are well adapted to the hot
climate. The various layers provide insulation against the heat, and their movement gives
a cooling effect. Most of the local men wear a long white gown, called a dishdasha, and a
head cloth called a ghutra. In the summer, the ghutra is normally a thin white cloth,
while in the winter thicker, more colorful ones called shemaghs are worn. A skullcap is
normally worn under the ghutra. A twisted black coil holds the ghutra in place. Sometimes
a flowing white or brown cloak known as a bisht is worn. It is usually made from camels'
wool and it's edged with gold braid.

Women in the UAE wear loose baggy trousers called kandura. The dresses are often
embroidered around the neck, sleeves and hem with gold or silver thread. Over the kandura
is the thaub, a rectangular piece of cloth with holes for the arms and head. When women go
out they wear a black cloak called an abaya which covers them from head to foot. The
Islamic religion requires women to cover their hair in public. Most women wear veils, and
some wear masks called burqas.

Since the right hand is always preferred over the left, eating is always done with the
right hand, even if a person is left-handed. The left hand should only be used when
handling something that is considered unclean. Utensils are only found in the most
westernized of Saudi homes. According to the Lonely Planet's Guide to United Arab
Emirates,

The UAE's cuisine is the staple Middle Eastern fare of fuul (paste made from fava beans,
garlic and lemon), felafel (deep fried balls of chickpea paste served in a piece of Arabic
flat bread), houmos (cooked chickpea paste served with garlic and lemon), and shwarma
(usually lamb or chicken served on a flat bread or pita) (Lonely Planet's, 2000).

Alcohol can be purchased in restaurants or bars that are attached to three-star hotels or
better, but the prices are very expensive.

Continues for 5 more pages >>




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