For spring break this year I am lucky enough to be traveling to the two largest cities of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, for an in-country study of the economic growth in the UAE and the region at large. Prior to the class trip, which begins this weekend, I decided to come to Oman since it was next door to the UAE and despite knowing little about the country, it had been listed in several “places to travel in 2015” lists. On the flight into Muscat a free copy of the English-language Gulf News had an interesting comment piece titled “A hunger that defines Dubai’s spirit to achieve.” It speaks of an intense hunger to achieve something more, first driven by the need to build infrastructure to become the hub for regional trade, and then the farsighted need to build an economy that wasn’t entirely driven by oil. The people who built Dubai “craved something more; they wanted to help people to have personal incomes, to have the best life possible.” Over time, as the country grew and became what it is today, that hunger built on need became a hunger of habit. Ambition, power, and achievement became a daily way of living, both addictive and infectious (MBA’s can surely relate to this).
For many of my classmates, this culture of (extreme) wealth and a rush to build the biggest building, mall, etc., is the first and maybe only thing that comes to mind when thinking of Dubai. For some that may seem nouveau riche, but for the author of the comment piece, that ambition when combined with need can create purpose and action. It’s something to be proud of and defines the leadership style that is unique to Dubai, allowing people there to “achieve what others are afraid to even think about.” This outright and perhaps blatant pride in “super accolades,” as the writer calls it, might be received differently in the States. It seemed odd to be so forthright about the need for material recognition. I have always found that reading foreign news publications allows a great deal of insight into another culture, and this proved no exception. Of course to actually visit a country and meet locals is an even better way to learn about a different society, and I hope to gain greater understanding of this mindset next week. Luckily we have quite a full slate of company and cultural visits on the agenda! I’m looking forward to sharing more, but until then, signing off from the Gulf of Oman.