Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hello Ladies!

Well, learnt something about the local culture today.  Had to go and see a lady from HR about my pay and she was a local Emirati lady.

I have been ultra aware of ettiquette etc and I am "conscious" in a sub-conscious way that Emirati women are not allowed to be alone with a man who is not her husband.  Fairly awkward in the work place and this is not a literal rule because some of the local ladies are Western educated (typically in UK universities) and are fairly relaxed about it.  As long as the office or meeting room door is open its pretty much ok.

So, anyway, I approach the lady I needed to talk to at her workstation.  I walked up, made her aware of my presence and politely introduced myself.  I had already emailed her this morning to tell her I was coming to see her which ticked the box of the other Emirati custom in that you need to make an appointment to see someone (males and females).  So, I was expected and was polite.

I then extended my hand to shake her hand and she almost visibly recoiled.  It was a "soft shake" I was attempting to make as I do when I meet a woman in the workplace but she leaned backwards and said "I don't shake hands".

Mmmm... awkward!

So I retracted my hand, said "oh sorry" and carried on with my issue.

Getting back, I asked one of the local guys if this was normal and was informed that you only shake an Emirati lady's hand unless its offered.  Never knew this and when I thought about it, the Emirati women I have dealt with in the office I have generally shaken hands with but I must confess I think the shake was offered by the lady and not me.  It seems some Emirati women get on the front foot and deal with the western custom and I guess the one I met this morning was not so inclined.

Just another cultural thing I have learnt... and now, so have you ;-)

1 comment:

fool said...

/me slaps ClayInfinity's hand away!

what is it about you and handshakes? I didn't see anything particularly repugnant about your mitts, but the reaction has not spread across genders, cultures, and borders. LOL...

Hope you don't get a complex. :P