I’m a citizen of the world. Born and raised in France, I have never lived in a city for more than five years. This has seen me tour Europe and the Middle East, finally finding my home right here in the UAE – for now.
Being half Irish and French, I am used to a multi-cultural environment – and I love working in the UAE, but sadly, I don’t speak the language.
That is the most challenging part of working and living here – probably the only challenge, because in Dubai it is hard to experience a culture shock with so many types of people co-habiting in harmony in this booming and bustling hub in the Middle East.
In the office, listening to people buzz about speaking Arabic doesn’t bother me; it is a language that I enjoy listening to and quite frankly have gotten used to hearing.
Unfortunately, at times, my colleagues forget that I do not understand everything they say. And most of the time it is for the most important topics. They get so carried away that they start PRing away in Arabic, and there I am trying unsuccessfully to make out at least a small proportion of what they are discussing. Sadly for me, the only vocabulary I have is food related (which does come in handy when someone suggests ordering such and such).
Not being able to speak Arabic in a PR agency based in the UAE is not easy every day. Let us take for example an event I recently helped with. Our client was an Arabic speaker and had the impression I understood what she said. It was only after a few days that she noticed I did not. That presents a challenge since I’ve found that multi-lingual speakers will unconsciously float back and forth between languages, even after being fully aware that they will lose me with one of them.
Furthermore, I can only be of use when it comes to relating to English media. Although most Arabic reporters do speak English, it is always best to communicate with them in their mother tongue. This is mostly a disadvantage during events as I cannot help organise interviews or answer any of their different requests.
But, having said all that, I bring something else to the table – I bring a deeper understanding of my end of the culture spectrum. That means it’s easier for me to relate to some than it is for other people in the office.
Being a Public Relations agency in Dubai, it’s is important to have people from all different corners of the world; because we are charged with bringing cultural understanding, but with universal appeal.
Do you speak the language?