CultureShock! United Arab Emirates (Review)

November 28, 2011

Book cover for "CultureShock! UAE" by Gina Benesh.Title: CultureShock! United Arab Emirates

Author: Gina Benesh

Publication Year: 2008

Pages: 256

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased from Chapters

From the cover:

CultureShock! United Arab Emirates orientates you into a country that is moving forward at a breathtaking pace unlike any other. The thriving economy attracts a large and diverse expatriate workforce, while luxurious hotels, spectacular skyscrapers and top-class shopping places continue to draw tourists from all corners of the globe. Beneath this cosmopolitan surface though is a culture deeply rooted in Arabic tradition and tribal values that continue to exist till this day. Learn more about the Emiratis’ lifestyles, mentalities and religious practices, and pick up vital tips on how to behave, act and speak in a manner than will help you settle down into your new environment more comfortably. CultureShock! United Arab Emirates is indeed your invaluable companion in making the most of your time in this exciting desert paradise.

This is really a very specific book for a very specific purpose – information on surviving the customs and etiquette in the UAE for newcomers to the country. So I’m going to keep my commentary short and sweet, hopefully helpful for people wondering if it’s a good choice for them while preparing, but not super detailed since, well, most people probably couldn’t care less about it if they aren’t planning to move or visit here!

There was definitely some good information in CultureShock! UAE, especially about practical concerns (like the raging bureaucratic red tape) and what to expect every day life to be like here, including clothing and appropriate public behaviour. On the whole, I have found – in my three months of living here so far – that the information is rather accurate and some of it was definitely helpful while I was settling in. Probably the best thing that I can say about this book, aside from commenting on its informational content, is that it was well organized. And in a book of this nature, which is trying to get you prepared for a huge change in a very short time, clear organization and concise writing style is essential, so kudos to the author.

One of the things that I did find a bit disturbing, however, was an occasional moment where the author seemed to make very sweeping generalizations, often inaccurate, and mostly about religion. For example, the word “Arab” would often be used interchangeably for the word “Muslim” while talking about religious beliefs and customs. And it should be mentioned that Arabs are not all Muslim, and Muslims are not all (or even mostly) Arab. And for someone who has ostensibly spent years living in and/or researching the country she’s writing about, that’s a rather large mistake for the author to make.

So, in the end, I would still recommend CultureShock! UAE for anyone looking at moving to the area, or who is already living here and wanting some more insider information … just make sure to read it with a critical eye. There’s lots of good information in the book that really shouldn’t be overlooked.

Rating:

3 Comments

  • Helen Murdoch November 29, 2011 at 4:29 am

    I’ll bet you really looked forward to this one and it is so timely for you. Too bad about the Arab/Muslim word choice issue as the author had a great opportunity to be culturally sensitive and accurate

  • Amy November 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Sounds like a useful book but yeah, those generalizations are not so good at all. Frustrating.

  • Nana Fredua-Agyeman November 29, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I have found that people make generalisations about things they don’t understand; however, instead of researching more about it, they make general remarks based on weak knowledge.

    However, since on the whole it is good, the author has to be congratulated. Perhaps he will have to make the corrections in the next edition. There are Muslims in almost every country yet they aren’t all Arabs.

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