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Bahrain : The complete guide for visitors and expatriates - Understanding Arabs: A westerner's guide
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Understanding Arabs: A westerner's guide Print E-mail

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Understanding Arabs: A westerner's guide
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As honour and saving face are so important, the Arab may have a slightly different concept of reality than the Westerner does. Reality is what and where you believe it to be at the time of conversation. An example of this could be that, addressed in the wrong manner, a small shopkeeper will say that he does not stock an item that you can clearly see on his shelves. On the other hand, an emotional plea for help in getting particular seats on an airplane that were previously unavailable, might free them up.

As T E Lawrence said “Arabs believe in persons not in institutions”. The tradition of the majlis has continued to this day. If there is a problem within a family or community, there will be open discussions about it with the oldest or most respected member of that group chairing those discussions. In the business environment, Arabs will not accept no as an answer. They will immediately ask for the manager and make a personal appeal straight to the top using a mixture of emotion and logic. This is often successful.

This use of emotion is widespread meaning objectivity is often the standpoint from which many decisions are made. The use of emotion and its display is highly valued. The popularity of Umm Kilthoum and her haunting love ballads, long after her death is testament to this. Convoluted discussions on politics and religion are common, popular and certainly enjoyed. The Arab will use reiteration and volume to make a point. To hear an Arab shouting does not necessarily mean that he is angry, he may be simply stressing or emphasizing an issue. The Western manner of speaking softly and only saying things once, can lead to the conclusion that the speaker is not sincere.