Cultural identity can be defined as an individual’s sense of belonging to a cultural framework that develops as a result of being educated in the certain cultural environments. In this context, culture is learnt within the society, and it influences the individual’s vision and identity (Assumpta & Sandin, 2009, p. 2). However, cultural identity is not stable because during a life, a person can learn many different cultures, value systems, and beliefs, and he can discuss them as meaningful and affecting the identity. For instance, people living in such states as the United Arab Emirates often have the multicultural identity because of their belonging to several cultures (King, 2007, p. 12). From this perspective, cultural identity can be discussed as mobile and often in flux because this concept consists of two important elements that change under certain circumstances; thus, even if the culture can change during a long period of time as a result of different social processes, the individual’s identity is quite mobile, and adaptation to a new culture can greatly influence the cultural identity.
Cultural identity can change as a result of active migration processes observed globally and in certain world regions. The UAE is a unique state where the number of nationals as representatives of the Arabic culture is comparably small in comparison with the number of former migrants who are the state’s residents today (King, 2007, p. 54). As a result, it is possible to speak about the significant effect of the processes on the person’s cultural identity that changes depending on the circumstances.
It is important to state that the culture needs some time in order to mix with the other cultures’ elements and change. Therefore, the cultural identity of the Emiratis does not significantly change if they belong to the older generations. The different situation is observed in relation to the young Emiratis who discuss their cultural identity as the Arabic one, but they actively use the English language or interact with many foreigners and representatives of other cultures (Hopkyns, 2014, p. 4). Such persons can gradually change their cultural identity because of the impact of the language they use. The language is one of the most important elements of the society’s culture, and the active use of the English language in the UAE leads to changing the cultural identity of many people living in the country.
The cultural identity of migrants is even more mobile because their visions of cultural values and norms change as a result of assimilation. In the UAE, there are many representatives of different cultures whose identity changes because of their adaption to the Arabic culture. For instance, those women who migrate to the UAE need to adopt the new dress code and principles of communication with men. In their turn, men are oriented to developing their knowledge of the Arabic language and principles of business communication in the Arab world (Sadri & Flammia, 2011, p. 38). The results of these processes are changed identities.
Each individual has the specific cultural identity as a sense of belonging to a certain culture and sharing values. Cultural identity can be discussed as being in flux because it is not stable in its nature, and it can change under the impact of social and linguistic factors. Referring to the case of the UAE, it is possible to state that the majority of people living there can describe their identity as bi-cultural and even multicultural because of the adoption of cultural values typical for different societies.
Migrants usually face a range of challenges associated with the necessity of adapting to new cultural environments because migrants are those persons who left one culture and need to familiarize oneself with another one. Discussing the unfamiliar society as hostile, migrants can provoke a range of cultural conflicts as they focus on differences in cultural values and on the ignorance of the opponent’s beliefs (Assumpta & Sandin, 2009, p. 3). Therefore, migrants need to know what challenges they can face in other cultural environments and how they can overcome the barriers. The adaptation of migrants within the new cultural setting can be successful if migrants focus on learning the aspects of the culture with respect and attention and if they are oriented to adopt the principles of the new culture because this strategy leads to avoiding cultural conflicts.
The expatriates living in the UAE usually face a lot of challenges associated with adapting to the uniqueness of the Arab and Islamic cultures. The culture of the UAE differs significantly from the other cultures in terms of dependence on religious beliefs, special attitude to the personal space, interaction between men and women, initiation of any other social interactions, and the dress code (King, 2007, p. 82). For instance, migrant families can face difficulties when a woman takes the active social position or when the couple prefers to demonstrate their affection in public because such behavior is not only offensive but also illegal. Moreover, migrants should adapt their daily habits to the period of Ramadan when they should not eat in public during the whole day. The other challenge is the difference in visions of hospitality. It is normal for a westerner to greet equally both males and females and offer alcoholic beverages to guests, but this practice is not appropriate for the context of the Arabic culture.
The key principle of the adaption to the culture is the focus on learning and adopting the cultural norms spread in the certain country. In the UAE, migrants can avoid a lot of cultural misconceptions while following the dress code, respecting the religious beliefs, respecting the personal space of people, addressing their traditions regarding social interaction and communication of men and women (Sadri & Flammia, 2011, p. 112). For instance, a woman will avoid blame if she covers her head in public and does not demonstrate her open back, shoulders, and legs. In order to avoid cultural conflicts, it is also important to be aware of the risks of developing biases, stereotypes, and prejudice against nationals and migrants. The problem is in the fact that both groups can have negative attitudes towards each other in spite of the fact that they are based on wrongful conclusions. For instance, migrants need to get rid of stereotypes that the Emiratis can be ignorant and aggressive toward them. The distance made by the Emiratis in their interactions with foreigners is the part of their culture, and migrants need time to gain the sympathy of the locals although they are usually polite and generous.
From this point, in order to adapt to the new cultural context, it is necessary to learn a lot about the culture of the country where a person plans to go. The main cause of all intercultural conflicts is the dependence on stereotypes as a result of faults in cross-cultural interactions. In this context, migrants coming to the UAE need to focus on the specific features of the local culture and respect its differences because of the necessity of adapt to the society. The cultural assimilation is the prolonged and challenging process because it is based on breaking stereotypes and adaptation to the norms that can often seem unusual.
Assumpta, M., & Sandin, M. (2009). Intercultural and cross-cultural communication research: Some reflections about culture and qualitative methods. Qualitative Social Research, 10(1), 1-12.
Hopkyns, S. (2014). The effects of global English on culture and identity in the UAE: a double-edged sword. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, 11(2), 1-20.
King, D. (2007). United Arab Emirates. Dubai: Marshall Cavendish.
Sadri, H., & Flammia, M. (2011). Intercultural communication: A new approach to international relations and global challenges. New York, NY: A&C Black.