Misconceptions about the Arab World

By ANDREW DULLOCK, ARABNEWS

Moving away from your comfort zone can be an easy task for some people, but for some, moving to a new culture and environment drastically different from your own can be quite overwhelming.

There are many instances where you will feel very anxious about your new surroundings, and even very stereotypical about the culture, food, and native people. Understanding the culture as a whole instead of the individual parts is key to your success in a foreign environment.

Living in the Middle East is no easy task for a Westerner, but with a little help understanding the misconceptions that the media and/or your friends and family have regarding your move can alleviate tension and make your time in the new environment more enjoyable.

Saudi Arabia is very different from most Middle Eastern countries. The notion that religion plays an important part in decision-making, business practices, and daily activities is an elaboration of the

media and Western ideals. The truth is, Saudi Arabia is not just one society ran by religion, rather is not one society at all, its many different cultures intertwined to make up one centralized view in operation with everything.

Misunderstandings occur when individuals cannot distinguish between what is an Islamic law and what is culture. Although there is pressure from the outside world, in all actuality, this pressure is helping transform the country in understanding Western society by the country spending millions of dollars each year to educate its young citizens in Western schools and allowing them to interact and educate Western citizens about their culture and return home with a fresh approach about how to incorporate many ideals and principles into their society.

The big question is, what is religious law and what is cultural? Religion plays an important part in everyday life from scheduling your daily routine to business practices. The main features of Islamic law are observance of prayer times, separation between sexes in private settings, woman must cover their hair, and respecting your acquaintances. As many people realize, the misunderstanding about Saudi Arabia isn’t the religious law, but cultural.

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