Name the most notable cultural shock that Arabs may face when coming to westerm countries.
Moving to a new country is difficult. There are new sights, new sounds, and more often than not, a new language to master. Immigrants who find themselves moving to countries that are dramatically different from their home countries may experience culture shock, a sense of disorientation that results from trying to adapt to a whole new way of life. Arabs who move to Western countries are particularly prone to culture shock, as they face challenges with the food and formalities of their new homes.
One of the first challenges a new Arab immigrant will typically face in a Western culture is finding something good to eat. Many western countries, like Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, have harsh climates and short growing seasons. As a result, many of the foods eaten in Western countries are frozen or processed to have a long shelf life. Western cultures also tend to prefer bland foods, like boiled potatoes, steamed vegetables and fried meat.
In contrast, Arab nations have hot climates and long growing seasons that mean fresh food is constantly available. Immigrants coming from Arab nations are generally accustomed to eating food that is much more heavily spiced than the foods enjoyed by their new countrymen, and they may find themselves repulsed by the bland selections available (Kadi, 1994). Those hoping to get around this obstacle may be disappointed; common Arab foods, such as goat meat, dates, pine nuts, thinned yogurt and okra are often expensive and extremely difficult to find.
Another culture shock that Arab immigrants face is the level of formality in western relationships. In western countries, it considered rude to drop by at a friend or relative’s house unannounced – even if it is your own parent or child’s. Guests are careful to make sure that their host has plenty of advance notice; if you drop by unannounced, they might not have had time to prepare for your arrival, or they might be in the middle of important matters.
In Arab countries, on the other hand, dropping by unannounced is a normal part of daily life. Unexpected guests are considered a pleasure, not an inconvenience (Torstrick & Faier, 2009). For a new immigrant, scheduling visits with friends in advanced feels very cold and formal, and may prevent them from truly feeling close to the new people they meet.
- Kadi, J. (1994). Food for our grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian feminists. Boston, MA: South End Press.
- Torstrick, R., & Faier, E. (2009). Culture and customs of the Arab Gulf States. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
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