The last Arabic related class that I took before coming to the Middle East wasn’t actually about learning the language but rather about GILT (that is, Globalization Internationalization, Localization, and Translation). We spent our time delving into issues businesses might face when extending their operations across international borders. Transplanting a product or service from one country to another isn’t just transcribing the brand name and translating the description. It requires a method of adapting the product and its appeal from the originating culture to the host culture. To aid in the development of these methods, businesses look to cultural frameworks to determine how their business will be received and what improvements can be made.
Before coming to the Middle East, I revisited the cultural framework of Fons Trompenaar to give me an idea of what was in store for me and how I can prepare myself to adapt to this new way of life and two dimensions have been noticeable from day 1.
Time PerceptionSynchronous Time vs Sequential Time
The United States has what’s called a Sequential perception of time. This means that people generally prefer things to happen in order as expected and typically people will get a little tickled if they’re running a little late. In my short time in the Middle East it’s very apparent that people here have a synchronous perception of time. Meaning the past present and future are kind of blended into each other and flexibility is necessary in order to function in this society.
Perhaps what I’ve noticed most directly is how much time is spent in cafes and at dinner. I was with a small group of students at a café and we didn’t need to be back at school for about two hours and so we sat at a café and ordered some smoothies. We told the server that we’d be there for a while and after about an hour and a half we decided to get up and leave. The server was actually surprised we were leaving so soon! Apparently it’s typical to spend 2,3, even 4 hours in a café. Although I’m still adjusting, it definitely seems less stressful than how things are in the US.
Ties to the communityIndividualism vs Communitarianism
Anyone that knows anything about anything about the US knows that we pride ourselves in Independence. People take pride in being able to take care of themselves all the way into old age. Another stark contrast to the US is that Jordanians are emotionally invested in their community, are very quick to try to build relationships with the people around them, and taking care of the family is a huge priority. Coming from a Latino culture this is definitely something I value and am used to.
Ever since I’ve read about them it feels much easier to adapt to and appreciate Jordanian culture rather than to just brush off some things as weird or even archaic. I try to be wary of the danger of overgeneralizing and stereotyping a group of people, especially here in the Middle East. However, delving into the motivations that act as a catalyst for certain behaviors has been a useful tool for me and I recommend it to anyone who plans to study abroad!
Another useful framework is Geert Hofstede’s cultural framework:geert-hofstede.com/Jordan.html
Shout out to Dr. Smith for being the coolest GILTy person I know!