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Ask Ali: How to handle the Emirati sense of humour

The best ways of telling and listening to jokes in the UAE

Dear Ali: I know you have a lot of humour but could you explain to me the Emiratis' way of joking around? FK, Dubai

Dear FK: I am not the only Emirati with a lot of humour but thanks. Of course, we tend to be rather shy especially when we are among the opposite gender. But we love to tell stories and joke around and even tease each other.

Did you know that humour is a great way to ease any conflict situation and break the ice? Yes, it sure is. It is also a very useful bridge for building relationships.

However, there are always boundaries as to how far you can go and everyone should pay attention to not offend someone.

In our culture, making a joke about someone, while making them "lose face" is not acceptable and crosses the line of respect and that of any friendship.

Besides, translating western jokes to Arabic or vice versa might not always be a good idea as jokes require more than translation to be understood.

Always note the English-speaking level of your Emirati friends or colleagues if you want to share a joke or a funny moment, as again they might not get it if their English is not that good.

But again, believe me when I say, we are as Arabs, really funny as joking around and sharing "nuktah", which means a joke, is a common thing to experience and share every day of our lives. And most of the broadcast messages we receive via our phones will always have a big portion of jokes.

So we do appreciate jokes as long they are not hurtful to anybody and do not relate to ethnicity, faith, background or values, but again there are those who like to share them!

By the way, did you hear about the lady who went shopping at Dubai's International Airport?

Hahaha! Get it?

That was a joke, as Dubai's airport is known for its huge size and a great number of retail outlets, which makes it like a great mall for people to shop at!

OK, now I didn't have to explain the joke, or did I?!

Have a lovely humour time!


Dear Ali: Why do Arabs raise their voices when they are talking? It sounds like an argument to me. LV, Ras Al Khaimah

Dear LV: You are right. Many Arabs tend to have a higher voice tone when speaking to each other. I believe it all has to do with the passionate level of how we express ourselves. Most of the time this happens when we meet up with our friends, but we usually do this to emphasise a point during a conversation. It is never something personal - just a matter of self-expression.

In case you come across an Arab who is being loud towards you, try to stay relaxed and not take it too personally. It is just a part of our communication style. I hope you understand.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //www.ask-ali.com">www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.

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