Working in Dubai has been an incredible learning experience.
One of the most valuable things has been my experience working with so many different cultures.
My office is a perfect example of that – an international organization in Dubai, with people from many different cultures and places represented.
When we think of multiculturalism, it’s mostly the different languages, foods, and ways of dress that come to mind. The things that are easy to see and allow us to think that we understand different cultures.
In her blog, Janine’s Music Room, Janine describes these things as the tip of the cultural iceberg.
However, there is so much more beyond that. Beliefs and assumptions, body language, humor, relations to authority. Things that you don’t always see when we celebrate multiculturalism in tokens.
As I reflect on my past year in Dubai, I realize what an education it has been in understanding different cultures, and what it means to work with people who have different ways of being both within the workplace and outside.
While I absolutely still have much to learn, I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts on how to work in a multicultural office:
1. Be open
You have so much that you can learn from the people around you. Be open to understanding different ways of doing things, different values, and different priorities than you’re used to.
2. Be respectful
Make an effort to understand the culture of those around you. Take cues from your colleagues; ask questions; listen. Your home culture’s way of doing things is not inherently superior (as many North Americans and Europeans like to think). A little respect goes a long way.
3. Be clear
For example, just because you know fancy, long words in English, it doesn’t mean you have to use them. Avoid slang. Be willing to explain things in different ways. For a lot of people, English isn’t their first language – and if you were using a working language that wasn’t the one you grew up with, you’d appreciate a similar courtesy.
4. Be resourceful
Google is a great place to start. Take your own time to do some research.
For example, if you’re planning on working in Dubai, here’s a good place to start. Also, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding offers opportunities for you to enjoy a meal and ask questions about Emirati culture in an open environment.
5. Be patient
You’ll make mistakes. You may something that someone may find offensive, and vice versa. Be patient with yourself and with others.
While I’ve had the opportunity to travel before, living and working in a different place has been incredibly illuminating. It is also a reminder of how much I didn’t know and how much I still have yet to learn.
What have been your experiences working in a multicultural environment? Do you have any tips to add?