Bathed in Ethnicity

Bathed as we are in ethnic diversity the UAE is a hodgepodge of everything you would expect from a hub where all lines intersect. The tower of babel fell long ago and nowhere is this clearer than right at this very point of longitude and latitude. With all things, people have an easier time pointing out the negative than the positive. Relative to human nature this makes sense since one requires less effort than the other. And we do typically take the road of least resistance, don’t we? This discounts a good chunk of forward thinkers who are wide in scope of thought, rich in emotion, and very liberal towards what we would normally consider in a locality to be ‘cultural normality’. Such a thing has to be excluded from the equation when you are an expatriate. You have to participate with the ongoing desire to contribute and in that fashion amplify what you learn and receive.

With the summer well underway mall culture ensues as one of the most impactful and consistent pastimes for the UAE dweller. Roaming through the aisles of the Mall of the Emirates, for instance, you may notice advertisements for shoes specially designed, or at least specifically marketed, for use in malls. Funny, isn’t it, when you are so engrossed in a new world that you can actually see such a spectacle and find no oddity or comedy in it? What would be interesting is to survey the different ethnicities and evaluate which ones find it more comedic, more odd, and which ones find it novel, practical, and generally clever. Cultures merge here, their perspectives do not clash but rather mix and melt into some type of medley which becomes the flavour we know of as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and the rest of the emirates.

How someone goes about interacting and relating to others is a tantamount issue when you’re in this type of environment. In a locality where there is, more or less, one dominant ethnicity this is far less an issue. Arguments, conflicts, disputes all can have their place and processes which resolve them play their role quite naturally in the dramas of daily life. Far more sensitive an issue is it in a place where no dominant ethnicity can be found. You may say the Arabs are the obvious dominant ethnicity but this isn’t necessarily true. Perhaps from a limited perspective you can apply that statement and get away with it but the Arabs in truth splinter into a wide variety and each nationality has their own particular flavour to them which serves equally as a border between types as, would say, Arabs and Asians, Russians and British, French and Iranian.

Many lines intersect and each line has a particular hue and tone which distinguish it from the rest. The formula for success here is like the formula for success in any sensitive environment. Caution, consideration, virtues of respect, and so on. Polity takes you miles in a world such as the one developed and developing in the UAE. It is only when someone visits or lives and works in a truly global mix and stubbornly and obstinately affirms that they behave in a fixed way for which they have become accustomed to that the tensions of daily life rise. Each environment has different ceilings in how bad things can get if you act in a way which is in favour of you in a disproportionate balance to what is in favour of the society in which you exist. In a place with a few ethnicities or one dominant ethnicity that ceiling is far, far lower than the ceiling of a culture where hundreds upon hundreds of ethnicities swim continuously in every direction. So be advised!

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