x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Native expertise in culture can guide the work to build the country

While we know that expatriate input has enabled our country to reach the level of achievement it enjoys today, we should also be aware that knowledge and awareness from abroad is not always better.

The words of Prophet Isa, "No Prophet is accepted in his own country", were spoken more than 2,000 years ago.

Without doubt, the UAE would not be where it is today without the countless expats who have joined us in building up a modern, industrial country. It is beyond debate that we need the intellect and expertise of expats, and we are keen to engage great minds to come on board. So far, so good.

However, we have been in the process of building up a modern nation for more than 40 years already.

While our parents had to go abroad to study at renowned universities, the latest generation can choose to stay at home and still attend an international university. This new generation has access to the best education and should strive to become equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the challenging business environment of the 21st century.

However, there is still a long way to go. Emiratis make up just more than 10 per cent of the total population and we cannot, and shall not, be able to run our country completely by ourselves.

Saying that, local expertise should be acknowledged, respected and utilised. While it makes sense to have native speakers as language teachers, it also makes sense to consult local experts for local and cultural issues.

Considering our country could be vastly different in so many ways from a migrant's home country, it may make sense for large organisations to help their workforce fit in by offering some cultural awareness training for their staff. These cultural challenges could be regarding dress codes, communication between different nationalities, the importance of religion here and even just more of a history of the country, to give a bit more appreciation of a worker's new home.

If the training institution is taking its job seriously it will engage local experts.

While we know that British and North American input has enabled our country to reach the level of achievement it enjoys today, we should also be aware, conversely, that knowledge and awareness from abroad is not always better, especially when it comes to our own culture. Otherwise, we might end up with a scenario whereby a campaign, for instance, to bolster Emirati national identity is coordinated by a company from abroad. Strange, but not beyond the realm of possibility.