Two expats living in Dubai have created a Facebook page dubbed ‘Ask an Emirati’, in a bid to help new and potential visitors to the UAE.
With culture clashes and social faux pas an all too common occurrence amongst westerners in the emirates, current expats Debbie Steedman and Khaled Akbik hope that their Q and A page will prove to be a valuable resource in eliminating ‘east meets west’ problems.
The page was initially a brainwave for Mrs Steedman, a 45 year old British expat who has been living in Dubai since 1995. She said that her visiting friends would often ask questions relating to Dubai and its Islamic culture: “I didn’t know the answer to half the questions and I thought I couldn’t be the only one, I wanted to find a way to bring the two communities together” Steedman said.
Having already toyed with the idea on the popular site Twitter, Mrs Steedman thought the best way to realise her vision through a public forum “I thought it was a super idea, because even though I have lived here so long I also had lots of questions” she added. She then enlisted the aid of her friend, and fellow expat, Mr Akbik and together they started the Facebook page.
The ‘Ask an Emirati’ page now has over 500 members and answers around three questions a day, with queries ranging from accepted attire to religious issues.
Mr Akbik says the use of technology is a great boon in the battle against cultural differences: “There is an invisible barrier that we don’t understand that has always governed the relationship between Emiratis and the rest of the population. But social media is changing that, because people can ask questions over the internet that they might not want to do face-to-face”.
The ‘Ask an Emirati’ page is open to all members of Facebook and has already been of great assistance to expats in Dubai. Brit expat Karen Breakwell, who moved to Dubai earlier this year, praised the site: “I find myself thinking of questions as I walk around in the malls or supermarkets,” she said. “I never know whether I am doing right or wrong in this culture, so it is good to go to the website and find out for sure”.