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Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication in the UAE Essay

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Updated: May 20th, 2019

Introduction: Communication and Conflicts in the UAE

Communicational issues are nothing to be afraid of. The conflicts emerging in the course of communication can be used to find a common language in the process of solving them. However, conflicts caused by ignorance of the cultural specifics of a particular nation are most likely to lead to serious misunderstandings.

Since the business and cultural links established between the UAE and other states are crucial for the process of the states’ development, it is highly required that the root causes of intercultural and intracultural conflicts in the UAE should be researched and that the ways to solve these conflicts productively should be provided.

Cultural Differences in Communication: Concerning the Beliefs, Values and Norms

Speaking of beliefs, one must keep in mind that in the UAE, the official religion is Islam (Riel, n. d.). As for values, they are not that different from the European or American ones. A person’s life is a priority; however, it is essential to add that women in the UAE have considerably fewer freedoms than European and American women.

Hence a number of norms of behavior and conduct in the UAE stem. It is crucial to remember that the dwellers of the UAE are extremely conservative in their traditions and are very reluctant to change the traditional behavioral patterns (Sahai, 2008, 68). As a result, the patriarchal regime remains dominant in the UAE even nowadays.

The Acceptable Social Practices: Communication in the UAE at Its Best

According to what researches say, the UAE employees prefer to abstain from close relationships with their European colleagues, restricting the relationships to communication for solely the needs of the company and the production process. As the research conducted by Willemyns, Hosie and Lehaney says, the given phenomenon can be predetermined by the specifics of the communication within a group: “An interactant may emphasize his or her accent or dialect to signal that he or she belongs to a similar social class as the other interactant” (Willemyns, Hosie & Lehaney, 2011, 248).

Cultural Taxonomies and the Related Biases: What Deserves Being Taken a Proper Care of

It is also important to take into account the cultural taxonomies of the UAE society. Although the classification provided below cannot embrace the entire range of the UAE population, it is still important to keep in mind the basic cultural and ethnical groups that are located in the UAE, as well as the specifics of their communication manner.

According to the existing evidence, the UAE business society can be split into the following groups: a) nationals (employees, public sector); b) nationals (employers, public sector); c) immigrants (employees, private sector); d) immigrants (employers, private sector); e) migrant workers (employees, public and private sector).

It is worth mentioning, however, that the given taxonomy is comparatively recent; therefore, some of the calculations are rather approximate. Anyway, as one can observe in the provided table, the population of the UAE has become much more diverse than it used to be several decades ago, which can be attributed to the results of globalization.

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication: The Art of Misunderstanding

When speaking about the UAE culture of communication, it is impossible to avoid mentioning its non-verbal elements; often saying much more than words, movements and gestures make a great chunk of the Arabian culture in general and the UAE culture in particular. For example, showing the bottom of one’s feet is notoriously known by almost the entire world as offensive in the UAE (King, 2008, 88).

However, there are also certain gestures that have to be avoided by all means. Although the meaning that the gestures described below imply in the UAE might seem completely inconsistent and even absurd to the European or American tourists, they still remain one of the basic means for the Arabian people to express their emotions.

It is also noteworthy that most of these gestures do not coincide with the consequent European/American ones, which often leads to intercultural conflicts in the UAE between the local residents and the foreigners or immigrants who have left for the UAE comparatively recently.

However, the given phenomenon can also be observed “in reverse”: according to what Samovar, Porter and McDaniel say, there are six basic types of touching in the USA: a) accidental (e.g., in the crowd); b) professional (e.g., by a doctor); c) social politeness (e.g., handshaking for greeting/saying goodbye); d) friendship touches (e.g., a kiss on the cheek); 5) love-intimacy touches (e.g., a kiss on the lips); e) sexual touch (Samovar, Porter & McDaniel, 2012, 289).

As one can see, herein lies the cultural difference between the non-verbal communication of the Arabs and the rest of the population of the UAE. For instance, male immigrants who have not yet acculturated to the traditional Arabic behavioral patterns, might be shocked when their Arabian male friend or co-worker starts holding them by hand in the middle of the talk or while crossing the street.

While for a European or American man such behavior will most likely be considered the manifestation of homosexuality, for an Arabian, such type of behavior is traditionally accepted as the manifestation of friendliness and trust. As one can see, without the proper understanding of the Arabian traditions, as well as realization of the impression that these traditions are most likely to have on the foreign visitors, as well as the people who have not been accustomed to the UAE traditions yet.

In the course of verbal communication, however, the instances of misunderstanding can easily occur even between two residents of the UAE, not to mention the conversation between the UAE dweller and a foreigner.

Because of the specifics of the language, as well as the differences not only on phonetic, vocabulary and grammar levels, but also on the syntactical one, misunderstandings between the representative of an Arabian culture and the culture of any other nation are inevitable. Among the sources of the most often reoccurring problems in the process of an intercultural communication in the UAE, the following issues must be named:

  • Hesitation to use the learned Arabian phrases and collocations;
  • Application of learned material: the tendency to use tracing when translating from English to Arabian;
  • People’s tendency to “derive their communication comfort level from their cultural values” (Edmundson, 2010, 71).

Therefore, as one can easily notice, the key problem of intercultural and intracultural communication in the UAE is the unwillingness of both sides to learn about the specifics of each other’s norms and values. The solution to the given problem is, nevertheless, rather simple. There can be no doubt that the people who are trying to integrate into the UAE society must learn its basic communication principles.

Conclusion: Communication-Related Misconceptions and Issues in the UAE Can Be Avoided

Therefore, it can be considered that the communication issues emerge in the UAE in intercultural communications in most cases, which can be attributed to both the lack of experience in communicating with strangers, as well as to the huge gap between the UAE culture and the culture of any European or American state. Therefore, the residents of the UAE must take interest in the customs and traditions of the people living next to them; likewise, the immigrants must learn the culture of the state that they have moved to.

Reference List

Edmundson, A. (2010). Cases on globalized and culturally appropriate e-learning: Challenges and solutions. Hershey, PA: IGI.

King, D. C. (2008). United Arab Emirates. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish.

Riel, R. (n. d.). The cultural context – United Arab Emirates. Retrieved from

Sahai, S. (2008). Entrepreneurship. New Delhi, India: Excel Books India.

Samovar, L. A., Porter, R. E., & McDaniel, E. R. (2012). Communication between cultures. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Willemyns, M., Hosie, P. & Lehaney, B. (2011). Communication and social identity dynamics in UAE organizations. International Review of Business Research Papers, 7(2), 245–256.

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