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Globalization has significant impacts on the economic, social, cultural, and political affairs of a state. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is among the countries that have benefited from globalization. The country’s economy has grown tremendously due to its cordial relation with trade partners (Bisley, 2014). Despite the numerous economic advantages, globalization has impacted the traditions and culture of the Emirati people. It poses a significant threat to the cultural values and practices that Emiratis hold dear. This essay will analyze the impacts of globalization on the UAE culture.
Twenty-five years ago, the Emirati society lived as one community. Emiratis observed Islamic religion and were scared of losing the sense of communal and cultural identity. According to Looney, Fox, Mourtada-Sabbah, and Tripp (2012), the Emirati society was against globalization because it viewed it as a threat to shared values, traditions, and heritage. The Emiratis perceived globalization as a subculture and associated it with the western nations. The increased pressures of compliance attributed to globalization resulted in the Emirati society uniting in a bid to preserve its unique cultural heritage and customs. Looney et al. (2012) aver, “The intensified globalization process stimulated reactions among cultural groups who sought to rediscover particularity, localism, and difference” (p. 21). The society did not only regard globalization as a threat to culture but also an alien force that contradicted Muslim realities. The Emirati people associated globalization with western consumerism, which they believed exerted pressure on their culture.
From a personal perspective, the Emirati society interpreted globalization based on its impacts on cultural and social values. Thus, while the Westerners viewed the pressures of globalization from a commercial perspective, the Emiratis interpreted them based on an aesthetic viewpoint. The society was conservative, thus opposed to anything that would result in the introduction of foreign ideas or changes in social values. A large group of those opposed to globalization feared that it would introduce the concept of human rights, which would be a threat to the conservatives. The association of globalization with cultural imperialism resulted in the society believing that embracing it would degrade its cultural values.
The Emirati society has changed its attitude towards globalization over the past twenty-five years. The Emiratis have realized that for them to remain competitive in the global arena, they must embrace globalization. Moreover, society has recognized that it is difficult to wish away globalization. Today, the community does not trust that embracing globalization would result in the loss of cultural identity. Dasgupta (2013) posits, “Many Emiratis believe that the effects of embracing globalization are superficial amid the society given the strong historical attachments to cultural and traditional heritage” (p. 24). Nowadays, people can own cell phones and espouse Western dressing code without fearing that it would impact their culture. Additionally, Emiratis celebrate birthdays, watch western television programs, keep dogs, and listen to pop music without worrying that it might compromise their culture. Dasgupta (2013) maintains that strong identity, attributed to religion, family, and tribe helps the society to retain its culture. Emirati people have not embraced the custom of industrial society that is associated with globalization. Instead, “they have adopted a limited acceptance of such a culture of consumerism and kept the pressures on the surface of their societal norms due to strong attachments to the historical sense of traditional cultural values” (Stone, 2012, p. 137).
Currently, the majority of the Emiratis have moved away from legendary careers. Moreover, changes in social and economic realities have forced society to reconsider its stance regarding globalization. The economic and commercial growth attributed to the discovery of oil fields led to the community abandoning cultures like pearl diving that was not profitable. The Emiratis realized that globalization was not only inevitable but also desirable. Today, society appreciates that some tenets of globalization can benefit people. Thus, instead of rejecting globalization entirely, the community has opted to embrace the features, which are beneficial and discard those that pose a threat to its identity.
Globalization is bound to result in significant changes in Emirati society in the next twenty-five years. Currently, there is a high influx of immigrants into the United Arab Emirates. The increase in the number of foreign experts will result in language changes. Today, most Emirati young people prefer to speak English. With time, English will be the widely-spoken language in the UAE. While this will open global opportunities in trade, communication, and education, there are fears that it might have negative impacts on cultural identity. Hopkyns (2014) argues that the influence of English is already being felt in Emirati families. Parents hire nannies who can speak English to ensure that their kids understand the language before they enroll in school. In return, it has become hard to teach kids the Emirati traditions at an early age. Indeed, globalization will affect the perceptions of tribal connections and familial ties, which are essential elements of Emirati society.
The traditional areas that will not be influenced by globalization include burial, childbirth, marriage, and death customs. According to Tehranian and Lum (2014), these areas are not on the fringe of cultural standards but at the core of what assists in distinguishing one culture from the other. Globalization has revealed that people have a role to play in economic development. The United Arab Emirates cannot escape the impacts of globalization. Therefore, the country has to make adjustments to ensure that it accommodates globalization. The Emirati society will require striking a balance between traditionalism and commercialism to make sure that it does not cling to cultural practices that do not add value to the community.
Bisley, N. (2014). Rethinking globalization. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dasgupta, S. (2013). Globalization, altruism, and sociology of humanity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Hopkyns, S. (2014). The effects of global English on culture and identity in the UAE: A double-edged sword. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, 11(12), 232-248.
Looney, R., Fox, J., Mourtada-Sabbah, N., & Tripp, C. (2012). The Arab world’s uncomfortable experience with globalization: Review article. The Middle East Journal, 61(2), 17-33.
Stone, L. (2012). The Islamic crescent: Islam, culture and globalization. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Sciences, 15(2), 134-152.
Tehranian, M., & Lum, J. (2014). Globalization and identity: Cultural diversity, religion, and citizenship. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.