Monday, January 12, 2009

12th Interview: Dubai's society

1st order: I had my 12th interview with the regional head of a financial institution, responsible for GCC and Yemen. I asked him not just about Cross-Cultural Project Management, but also about his perspective on Dubai’s society.
Two challenges for Dubai’s society
Firstly, the expatriates bring their own core culture/Leitkultur (see: preliminary findings>>>) with them in terms of ethics, standards, values, and morals. This in fact is a normal process, however due to the population composition (10% locals, 90% “newcomers”) these Leitkulturen are not challenged. An adaptation or exposure with the local culture is not really happening.
Secondly, the local Emirati culture faces a lack of transparency, which has consequences in many fields such as politics, gender issues, business, etc. The local Emirati culture is for most “outsiders” – which constitute the larger part of the population – a black box shrouded for outside views. Consequently, the Emirati codes of society are not accessible.
Work ethic and attitude
My interview partner told me, that he observes a split in two groups within the younger elite of the local Emirati community. The first group has the tendency to lack a healthy work ethic and shows little attitude to contribute to society. The enormous prosperity and wealth transformed them to some kind of a “fun” society. Shopping, cars, and parties are some of the constituting elements. The young professionals of this group demand disproportional positions in management, when it comes to corporate life, without necessarily having the experience and qualification (“Emiratisation”). On the other side, there is also a smaller group, which is very good educated, skilled, and socialized. Some of the young leaders hold already important positions in business and government.
Bigger, better, stronger or are there some concerns?
My interview partner told me, that he recently talked to two local Emirati young professionals working in governmental institutions. He was interested in how they think about the Dubai’s current development. In the beginning the answers seemed to be solely positive, a lot of pride about the current status of Dubai in the world, about its constructions, etc. but after digging a bit deeper they revealed another perspective. In fact they feel like foreigners in their own country, he told me (this corresponds also to information I gathered). A problem of identity and the fear of foreign infiltration are accompanied with that.
The tribal system: still in place and a determining factor
I have been told that when living in the metropolitan city Dubai one tends to forget that the tribal system is still in place. Clanship is a determining factor and tribes differ in power and importance. Maintaining the equilibria between those tribes are an important task using instruments such as, trade relationships, festivities, war (back in the days), and marriages, which is probably the most important in these days. The tribes are highly interfolded and beside rivalry there is also a lot of support. Face keeping, pride and dignity play an important role in this system and consequently are the reason for the lack of transparency.
The challenge of cross-culturality
The greatest challenge when working and living in a cross-cultural context is not to loose oneself, not to loose ones own identity. But on the other side you also have to let go part of your identity in order to expose to the other culture. This sounds like a paradox in the first place, but is in fact rather a balance act. The process itself is very complex and contains a lot of fear. In order to expose to the other culture you have to let go parts of your own culture, which use to provide you with safety and security. You have to let go of one of your pillars and you are afraid whether the loss of this pillar will break-down your cultural system. But I have been told that in the end the divergences are an additional value and make you even stronger not weaker.
About the future strategy
Asked about the future my interview partner told me that he thinks the most important strategy would be to foster the usage of the Arabic language. This is the only way how to really get in contact with a culture. If Dubai wants to keep is local traditions somehow, it has to foster the speaking and especially learning of the Arabic language.

1 comment:

  1. Dubai become a style icon in middle east, also they having their great culture, i love to travel in dubai