View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Your Business is My Business and My Business is Your Business in the UAE

It happened again this week. I visited a company seeking information and before long I was ushered into the General Manager’s office where the receptionist hoped I would get my answers.

The GM was on the phone speaking animatedly in Arabic. A woman was sitting on the other side of his desk waiting for service and two men were sitting on a couch a few metres back also waiting to be served. I was shown to a couple of leather armchairs to the side of his desk. Everybody could hear the telephone conversation and the issues to do with the female customer even if we all couldn’t understand the lingo.

After the telephone conversation the GM came over and plonked himself in one of the chairs alongside me and asked how he could help. I made gestures towards the other customers and said I did not want to be jumping the queue but he didn’t understand what I was saying and my Arabic wasn’t sufficient to clarify the matter. As a male and a western expat, I was seen to have ‘wasta’ (standing) so I was given preferential treatment.

I then launched into my request with everyone listening in to my business.

It has happened before especially when I have visited banks. I have been ushered into the manager’s office and asked to sit while he attends to other clients. Then when it was my turn, others were welcomed into the room and they sat in the ‘spectator gallery’ and tuned into my affairs that I shared with the manager.

It does not happen every time but it happens often here in Fujairah. My business is your business and your business is my business. I find it different and uncomfortable depending on the privacy and confidentiality of the matters I am seeking to raise.

Perhaps I should not be surprised that this happens in a country where the early dwellers lived in tents but now, in a country of veils, high walls and ‘a land of secrets’ as Michael Palin called one of UAE’s neighbors, I find this issue intriguing.

Other Stories and Related Sites
Americans Claim RAK Unsafe While Alinghi and Locals Highlight Peaceful Haven, America’s Cup in the UAE, 5 October 2009.

Rental Property Update in Fujairah UAE, Fujairah in Focus, 5 October 2009.

Luxury Pen to Commemorate Gandhi’s Birthday is Not Write, Stories for Speakers and Writers, 4 October 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.