Monday, February 25, 2013

Stories from the salt mines - 2

These posts are true stories from work where I develop young Emiratis to become the future leaders of the organization. Some are funny, some sad, but all have taught me about the cultural differences we face and the joy of understanding another approach to life.

What in a name?
It's taken me a looonnngg time to get used to Arabic names, and while I'm still not even close on most of the pronunciation, I can now usually at least pick up the name without asking the individual to repeat it 5 times. Still, they cause me endless frustration and stress. Here are some examples of the names in our program - I think you'll see what I mean.
  • Fathima Abdulla Al Mulla - not to be confused with Fatima Adil Al Mulla, which shouldn't be confused with Fatma Mohamed Al Mulla. And keep in mind please that all of them will use Fatima Al Mulla when they send an email or introduce themselves.
  • Mohamad, Mohamed, Mohammad, Mohammed and Mohd for short and this should not be confused with Muhannad, Muhaned, Muhanned or Muhannad
  • Shaima is not the same as Shamma or Shaikha
  • Abdulla vs Abdalla and Hamed vs Hamad
With the help of one of my groups, I have finally cracked the code on Arabic names. Here's a short lesson.

Abdalla Rashid Omar Al Marzooqi means Abdalla, son of Rashid, who is the son of Omar, from the family tribe Al Marzooqi.

Mariam Khalaf Mohamed Al Ketbi means Mariam, daughter of Khalaf, who is the son of Mohamed, from the family tribe Al Ketbi.

When women marry they do not take their husband's family/tribe name but some will add it so you could have:

Hessa Marwan Al Hashemi, wife of Anas Mohamed Al Ali (imagine that on a passport!)

Fun huh?

An important aspect of UAE culture is generosity, warmth and respect. It starts at the very top with the ruling families who have made sure that the wealth of the country is shared by all. All UAE nationals receive free health care, schooling, even housing if needed. It is an incredibly generous society. And that is also true of the participants in our development programs. Here's a short list of some of the gifts either I or my counterpart colleague have received over the past year.
  • Perfume - eau de parfum in fact and quite an expensive brand. This was a birthday present.
  • Flowers and boxes of chocolates. My counterpart received a HUGE gorgeous bouquet of pink roses to thank her and her team for getting the logistics of his travel overseas coordinated.
  • Carmel Popcorn from Garretts in Dubai mall. Simply because we were talking about our favorite places to eat in Dubai and we both agreed that Garretts has the best popcorn in the world. A few days later, a bucket of popcorn was left on my desk, just because.
  • A little incense holder from Thailand from an employee who had recently returned from a trip.
  • A jar of gourmet brownies from Kuwait because, "I saw these while on vacation and thought you might like them. They're not as good as yours, but they're still really good." I had made this group brownies for one of our meetings a few months prior.
It's actually a bit awkward because it's not at all culturally appropriate for me to reciprocate, especially if the gift is from a male. Instead, I try to do little things like bake cookies or brownies for the whole group when I have the opportunity.

More stories to come ...

No comments:

Post a Comment