Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hating Expats?

Yesterday, "anonymous" posted a comment that I found really interesting. It's a follow up to the comment about the joke among expats:
Q: What's the difference between and expat and a racist?
A: About three weeks...

To turn it around, "anonymous" (same one or different?) wrote this:
"Injustice,stigma and discrimination against expats, which is institutionalised in Oman. Hence, an average expat is "perceived" racist by Omanis in the spirit of blaming expats for every ill of Omani society."

I'm not sure I completely agree with that, but it's a very interesting topic, that definitely has some truth to it. Do Omanis hate expats? I think there are two totally different sides to this. There are some Omanis who do indeed blame expats for causing many problems in Omani society. There are also the Omanis who idolize expats (the western ones) and seek them out intentionally. Then of course there is everyone inbetween, as there always is.

But let's take a look at the 2 extremes:

Expat Haters--There are Omanis who look upon expats (western and eastern) as the source of depravity in Omani society and distortion of Omani culture. I've been there. I've been told to my face that I am making Omani women impure and am leading them to be perverted like women in my culture. The entire population of Oman (you find figures anywhere from 2.5 to 4 million) is only about 70% Omani (again, very difficult to find consistent census data). That means there is, in fact, a decently large foreign influence of the people in Oman (particularly in Muscat), although this does not even compare to the UAE, where the Emirati population is closer to 10% of the total.
Nevertheless, the distain for westerners as poluters of the true Omani culture and heritage is not as prevelant as it could be. I think most Omanis, even those who would prefer a pure Omani nation, can accept that Oman just would not be where it is today in terms of development and progress if it were not for the influx of western companies and investments, which of course bring people along with them. There are those Omanis who would rather be undeveloped than have western influence, but I think there are very few who actively blame westerns for the ills of Omani society and who would bring that sentiment to the table when forced to deal with them.

Expat Lovers--Now this is even more interesting, in my opinion. I would say the the majority of this brand of Omanis lives primarily in Muscat and are generally well-educated and wealthy. Many Omanis (although, again, not as much as in other Gulf nations)enjoy the "bling" that comes along with western-style development. Cell phones are everyone. Many men own more than one for their differnt category of contacts. One for the family, one for the shabaab, one for work, and maybe one for the girlfriend. Gucci, D&G, and Armani all make abayas, or at least you can find knock-off labels to sew onto them. It's hip, even de rigeur in some circles, to be western in certain elements of style.

Now most Omanis, men and women, who sport this western bling do not necessarily associate it with being western as such. It's just the popular style. The thought process often doesn't go much farther than that. The hypocrisy of buying an Armani-designed garment which generated from one of the most conservative streams of Saudi Islam...doesn't cross their minds.
Nevertheless, there are Omanis, mostly men because they have the most freedom to circulate in a variety of social groups, who actively seek out friendships, and of course business partnerships, with westerns. They pride themselves on being remarkably open-minded and accepting of other cultural mores and customs. And a lot of the time, they are. You can see them sitting in cafes, with western men, or even with each other, most talking in English...just to show they can roll.
In any case, they definitely don't hate westerns. (They still might not want their wives and daughters hanging around men though...)

Enough for now. Let me know what you think. What has been your experience, for my expat readers? And for my Omani readers...what do you think about all this?


Anonymous said...

It is important to understand 90-10 principle applied in Oman. That means concentrate on 10% good quality of Omanis and 10% bad qualities of expats. 90% of bad qualities/situation of Oman/Omani is overlooked so as 90% good qulaities of Expats overlooked. This principle is applied in "Arabic" discussions as well as talks behind the back of expats like spreading rumours against expats. This principle is not applied on your face most times and definately not in English, exceptions excluded. To illustrate this point further just look at newspaper of anyday, you will see boasting about Oman/Omani and belittling of Expats/other countries, GCC/Arab/Muslim countries are excluded in this.

Fishcake said...

Isn't it the same in any country? This is not something new - in America the Native Indians were hip to have on a leash, then the europeans (who as usual came in and murdered everyone in the pursuit of happiness), then the negroes were brought in, the jews and now the arabs. Every sub culture will go through the phases of hate, ignorance, fear, shock, awe & possible some degree of acceptance. I for one find this topic a bit silly, as the answer is in the history.

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tanscorpion20 said...

Most of the simple views of the people about the Expats is that the expats causing problem related to their chances in getting jobs and living well. So they think that the expats got better life than them. They got job, cars, houses…etc. They look at the issue from jealousness position. Sorry to say that. Or they might see that this country belong to them, so the original people have to be in better life then other. I don’t know…
I don’t think most of the people here hate foreign because that they will influence people here in bad way…because the influence should be from the people themselves not from other.
Now for example, if you want to convince one of people here not to wear Dishdasha. How you are going to let him wear jeans if he doesn’t want to? He is proud of wearing dishdasha because that’s his culture. You cannot, even if u let him live with people wearing jeans every day.
It is difficult to change something related to culture. It take time. Well iam not asking to get rid of dishdasha. Iam just telling you how the people think and act.
The figure about population and foreign it might be correct. But most of them are Indian or Asian I guess.
Most of the people are happy of being themselves. Even American or western. People see other and not seeing themselves first.
For example I chat with many western people. I thought I might know them quickly and chat with them easier because I thought they are open minded and more free. But believe me, when I chat I thought they are omani … so it might be other way hahaha. The local people influence the foreigners hahaha!! I guess…