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26 February 2024

Many expatriates lack knowledge of UAE

A file picture of UAE nationals and expats sit down to share a meal during National Day celebrations in Ras Al Khaimah. (WAM)

By Staff

A survey conducted by '999 Magazine' ­– the official English monthly of the Ministry of Interior – reveals that 7 out of 10 expats lack knowledge of UAE local customs and traditions.

The survey, which asked 2,000 UAE expats about their level of cultural awareness, shows that despite the abundance of learning resources and materials available, a whopping 72 per cent of expats know little about their host country.

Only 28 per cent of respondents had any real knowledge of the country’s local customs and traditions.

Similarly, only a third of the respondents set aside enough time to find out about the UAE’s culture, while the rest were comfortable with occasional glimpses.

In fact, 11 per cent confessed they never really bothered trying.

Lt. Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Kindi, Editor-in-Chief of 999, said: “The UAE is home to more than 200 different nationalities and has become known across the world for its low crime, modern outlook and the peaceful co-existence of its people.

“A survey conducted by 999, however, reveals a dismaying fact that many expat residents have a very limited knowledge of the customs, traditions, and heritage of the UAE.  We hope that the results of the survey will stimulate people to exert greater efforts in this area.”

The 999 survey, which randomly covered Westerners (39 per cent), Asian (42 per cent), Arabs (15 per cent), Africans and others (4 per cent), revealed a large gap in knowledge about the UAE, despite the fact that most of the people surveyed were not new to the country.

Indeed, 77 per cent of those surveyed had lived in the UAE for more than a year, 34 per cent between two and five years, 22 per cent between five and ten years and 21 per cent of them more than ten years.

Just 23 per cent had spent only one year or less.

Of the 2,000 people questioned about how good their individual knowledge of UAE history, customs and culture was, a huge 60 per cent said they only knew the basics.
And a brave 12 per cent admitted to knowing next to nothing.

In response to being asked how often do you try to learn about the UAE’s culture, half said “occasionally” and 16 per cent confessed to it being hardly ever.

This lack of cultural awareness exists despite the fact that a large majority (70 per cent) of the respondents admitted there were enough resources available through which expatriates could learn about the UAE.

One other issue of concern however is the source of the information they actually do have.

Most respondents depended on word-of-mouth for getting any knowledge, increasing the risk of miscommunication or incorrect information being passed on, especially as they tended to ask people who only knew only the basics as well (usually other expats).

The survey is published in the February issue of English 999 magazine, a part of the Strategic Plan of the Ministry of the Interior to provide media coverage for the activities and efforts of the ministry and Abu Dhabi Police. It also aims to encourage the public to contribute to the reduction of crime in the UAE.