Culture Shock - Oman


Fraser Clarke

‘Culture Shock’ can be a major factor in preventing expats from getting the most out of their new life overseas. Defined as “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes”, it’s something that will have been experienced in some degree by anyone who has previously taken their career to a foreign environment.
In order to try and help you and your family work through the symptoms, we’ve taken a look at the most common factors likely to affect you in each country we work with, and how to combat them. After all, preparation can be the key.
In part four of our exclusive ‘Culture Shock Cures’ series we’ll look at a stunning location that we’ve only recently started working with. Oman.

Little mixing between men and women

Gender segregation is still widespread in Oman, and this can make many Westerners feel almost instantly uneasy. In workplaces, restaurants and shops different entrances may exist for men and women, whilst within buildings separate areas may be in place to keep the two genders apart.

This can also be apparent outside of the public eye. If you’re invited for dinner or to a private party with an Omani colleague, don’t be surprised to see the men and women taken into different rooms to eat and socialise separately.

Top Tip: Do your research before a move to try and take some of the shock out of just how widespread gender segregation can be. It can be frustrating, however it’s always best to go along with your hosts and respect their way of living.

A very slow pace of life

The Middle East is renowned for working in its own time, with the phrase ‘Inshallah’ (or God willing) being used frequently throughout the region. As a result you have to be prepared to wait for everything. Bureaucracy is widespread within the administrative side of things, and this can result in lengthy delays. Issues also exist when it comes to setting up utilities such as internet, water and air conditioning, with many Omanis taking their own time to get work done.

Top Tip: Be prepared to be patient. If you’ve lived elsewhere in the Gulf it shouldn’t take much adaption, whilst planning in advance can be the key to preventing you getting held up at crucial times.

Few Western Products

Oman is one of the few Gulf states that remains relatively traditional and, as a result, the impact of immigration has not been as character-changing as it has been in locations like the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain. This has plenty of benefits for those looking for a totally unique cultural experience, however it can also have drawbacks for expats, with few leading to culture shock quite as much as the lack of availability of Western products.

Western food and drink has to be imported into the country, and with the expat market smaller than in neighbouring locations the demand is a lot lower. As a result the availability of these products is far from widespread, and goods that are available come at a premium. This can lead to grocery shopping bills being more than double what they would be in Europe, if you continue to buy the same items and brands.

Top Tip: Try to buy local to save costs, whilst introducing yourself to a new range of flavours and products. Travel to locations like the UAE too, and then bring any home comforts that aren’t available in Oman back with you, just make sure they don’t break any regulations over what can and cannot be taken into the country.

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