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Culture Shock Oman: Modesty in the LR

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Kevin Anthony Stoda
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By Kevin Stoda, Dhofar, Oman


Although I have traveled to or lived in more than 100 countries over the past 4 decades, I still run into culture shocks. (This is part-and-parcel of my personal lifelong learning project in any case. In short, I am committed to learning about new places, ways of life and different ways of thinking.) Culture shocks used to take me down--get me depressed for quite some time. However, nowadays, I usually try to take the bull by the horns and turn things around as fast as I can, i.e. chalking such "shocks" all up to experience and to the fact that the planet is filled with thousands of cultures.  If we are all going to get along, we have to be tolerant and open to different ways of doing (and thinking about) many things.


I want to share the following anecdote about an experience in a men's locker rooms at a major international hotel chain, a hotel which is not far from where I live in Salalah, Oman.  I do this--not because the incident in itself is all that profound--, but  rather, it is how I responded and began to search for explanation behind the "culture shock" and how I sought to recover from it which are a model for what I suggest you follow when living and working abroad, especially in the Arab world.


The Arab world is far from being a unified culture.  This is something almost any guidebook will note. Such a situation is inevitable when  one considers that there are some 22 countries which speak Arabic or Arabic dialects as their primary language of communication.  Nonetheless, even though I have lived and worked in Arab countries most of the past 15 years, this diversity within the Arab world is something that I can forget or fail to take into context from time to time.


I need to note that I have worked in Oman, Kuwait, and the UAE since 1999.  In addition, I have traveled to other Arab speaking lands--as diverse as Syria, Bahrain, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Lebanon. I should also explain that in most of these countries, I have undertaken my favorite hobby: swimming.  For various health reasons, I have undertaken swimming to relieve stress and to tone muscles.





Quite obviously, swimming procedures for females in the Arab world are certainly more proscribed than the procedures for males.  In many of the stricter Islamic countries, women must swim fully clothed.  Whereas, men can simply wear shorts in most places.  On the other hand, bikini shorts are out in most any place for both genders and men often need to cover themselves with at least a robe or t-shirt when leaving the area of the pool or the beach.


Of all the Arab lands I have swum in, the one where I swam in the most often was Kuwait. This is, naturally, because I lived in Kuwait the longest--five whole years.  I swam year round there on the Persian Gulf--either at the sea or in the municipal public indoor/outdoor swimming pool in Salmiya.

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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