Patricia Varley, consultant, speaker and contributor to our book, Upside: How to Zig When Life Zags, recently visited and spoke at a conference in Dubai. Here are some of her impressions regarding life and work.
What cultural differences stand out?
Dubai is like a melting pot similar to the USA in many ways.
80% of the population of Dubai is ex-pats from US, UK, Europe, Asia, Australia, etc.
20% are local Arab Emirates. You can experience the culture through their dress. Both women and men dress in local garb and all the women have Berkas covering everything but their faces.
There is no unemployment in UAE. You must have a work visa or work sponsor to stay in the country. Therefore, there is very little crime and minimal poverty compared to USA.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are more conservative than US, especially around sex and advertising, clothes, women, etc.
If you bounce a check they can and do through people in jail!
What experiences were meaningful?
I visited the Abu Dhabi which is the 5th largest and most beautiful mosque in the world. All the women entering had to cover up in the black Berkas. I felt very emotional the entire time I was wearing the Berka. I had a strong feeling of grief, suppression and repression of women. It was a very meaningful and intense experience for me.
I celebrated New Year’s Eve by going on a safari in the desert. What an experience to be among lots of camels! I also saw Dubai by water.
What were some impressions of women’s lives?
In some ways the local Emirate women are repressed because they must cover themselves with the black Berkas. The husbands can have up to 4 wives provided they are all equally taken care of. In other ways women seem more respected in UAE as they are not sexualized– unlike the US and other cultures.
Regarding careers and dress, the expat (non local) women are more like Europe and America. However it is still a more conservative environment.
Men and women unless they are married cannot show any signs of affection in public. Husbands and wives can only hold hands.
What can you expect to experience in Dubai?
It feels like NY meets Miami, meets Las Vegas, and meets Disney World. It is opulent, wealthy and very materialistic with expensive cars, shopping malls, skyscrapers, and 42 five-star hotels. It has a big city environment, yet, it is on the Gulf of Arabia in the desert.
The common languages are English and Arabic. The money exchange (AED,dhiram) is similar to the US dollar. Even though 80% of the people are not local it is a friendly and very diverse culture. (Many Americans) Transportation is easy with a large metro and taxis.
Are there business opportunities?
Yes. It is a growing business culture with lots of commerce. Making money is why people go there. In 15 years Dubai will be out of oil so they are growing other businesses such as retail, construction (everywhere!!), tourism, financial, sustainable energy, leadership, business, University education and women’s issues. There are many work opportunities.
Unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi has 120 years of oil left. It also has more traditional Arabian culture and is very wealthy!
How safe did you feel?
Very safe—there is low crime and it is very clean. It is a police state though you rarely see police.
Did you encounter any anti-American sentiments?
No. It appears they were not only trying to be like America but working to “out do” America by having a multitude of buildings that are bigger and better. There are a multitude of American products and advertising.
These are exciting times and important events with the new protests as they indicate changes are in the air. People are frustrated and looking for solutions. The world has become more difficult to navigate and people are angry and confused, and want to make the world a more livable place for themselves and others. In our book, Upside, we discuss “the not known is the new norm” which is happening and creating instability. People want stability and that comes when change occurs at all levels—corporate, government, and individual.
As I listen to comments from protesters one theme seems to reoccur: the American Dream. One protester in Florida said, “I feel like the American Dream has passed me by.” Others have said, “What happened to the American Dream?” We have researched this topic and address it in our book at length– It is time to reinvent your American Dream to adapt to the changing times. Your American Dream will look different moving forward than it did in the past. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy and prosper. It does mean that you will have to change the paradigm so it is sustainable.
My hope for the protest groups is that they organize at some point to address their issues and put them in categories so we all can brainstorm and begin problem solving. There are answers and ways to address all the issues but it will take a commitment and willingness from our whole society to change. The New American Dream will be at the core.
Economist and best-selling author Juliet Schor has a new video describing the new American Dream: http://vimeo.com/26573848. The film shows why economic and job-related strategies from the past that don’t work in today’s economy. It depicts, in her words, “what a post-consumer society could look like, with people working fewer hours and pursuing re-skilling, homesteading, and small-scale enterprises that can help reduce the overall size and impact of the consumer economy.”
In our book Upside, we talk about the need for creating your own career crystal ball of the future. This film is an excellent example of our concept: taking advantage of emerging job opportunities based on the needs of the future. It also takes into account the need to pay attention to our dwindling resources as that affects job opportunities, too. (more…)
Recent statements and interviews regarding the economy have promoted the idea that we all must experience the pain of the downturn. I’m puzzled by the phrase because pain isn’t what is needed. Rather, we need to be mindful and aware of our choices in our lifestyles, finances, and careers. Being aware means that we do our homework and research to make the best choices for the changing times. It doesn’t have to painful – it needs to be smart. (more…)
As the economists and media specialists have us all in frenzy about another downturn, there is something else we should focus on besides just our financials. It isn’t only our stocks and bonds that create financial issues — it is our way of life, lack of long term planning and unrealistic expectations of the “American Dream.”
A recent New York Times and CBS poll conducted June 4-28 showed that 55% still see owning a home as very important to their American Dream. Forty-nine percent of those polled are also saying that buying a home is generally safe.
Based on all that has happened since 2008, these individuals haven’t yet come to terms with a new definition of the American Dream—one built on realistic expectations. If owning a home becomes the all-important goal instead a sustainable lifestyle, there is a good chance individuals are putting themselves at risk. (more…)
While attending a recent conference, I heard an interesting definition of the difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is the belief that you are 100% skilled in the situation, event or project you are about to undertake; arrogance is the belief that there is absolutely nothing else you can learn in or about a situation or topic.
We all know arrogant people, either at work, home or in the general public. What struck me about the definition for arrogance is the predisposition that there is nothing to be gained from new ideas or information — that resistance to an opposing point of view, which sends the message that “I’m right and you’re wrong.” (more…)
Last night I had the honor of addressing a truly remarkable group of women. The Executive Women International (EWI/ www.executivewomen.org) chapter in Birmingham, AL asked me to be their after-dinner speaker for their annual awards banquet. It was a festive, heartfelt event that reminded me of the power of gratitude.
EWI sponsors a scholarship program for women “off the grid.” These are not traditional students; most are moms going back to school to make a difference in the lives of their family and community. Called ASIST (Adult Students in Scholastic Transition), the program awards four women scholarships from $1000 to $5000. The women who won are truly inspirational – and these are their stories… (more…)
Our current road trip to Chicago took us through North Carolina last week. While in a little town called Maggie Valley, an unusual blue building that looked like a mini warehouse caught my eye. It turned out to be a unique used bookstore on a residential side street. The building was surrounded by trees with the Smoky Mountains as a backdrop while a fish-stocked pond and flowers were in front of the building.
When I entered the building, I had the feeling of being smothered with books, some a little musty. Every single space, ceiling to floor, was filled with books, with a few very small aisles to walk through. Almost disguised in a corner was a middle aged woman smiling and welcoming. After some pleasantries, she began to tell me her story. She is the author of a biographical story of her growing up. This isn’t an ordinary growing up story—it is a horror story and one of endurance. I won’t go through all the brutality as you can get her book but I was taken aback at her willingness to share—extreme poverty (no shoes or winter clothes), continuous beatings by parents and teachers, hunger, sexual abuse, repeated physical danger from bears, panthers, and poisonous snakes. I think you get the picture.
Yet, I kept looking at this jolly, smiling woman as she recounted some of the episodes and wondered how she ever made it through—alive. After I bought her book, her parting words to me were, “People need to know that they can change their lives even under the worst circumstances. It is possible to find a new life filled with love and compassion. They don’t have to repeat brutal patterns suffered in their childhood. They can change their lives” (more…)
Being a speaker and trainer, I visit a lot of airports to reach my clients. There are certain expectations or standards that rank some airports above others – easy access to connections, a Starbucks kiosk and short lines in the restrooms. Not glamorous, I know, but these are the basics for me when travelling.
Recently, I’ve noticed an increase in smart technology when I travel. It all started with my smart phone. When texting, the phone often “spells” the word it thinks I am typing. (An annoying habit as apparently, I am one of the few that still texts using proper grammar and full words.) That’s livable since the feature can be turned off — I appreciate the fact that the manufacture still gives me the option to apply my own intelligence over “artificial.”
That’s not always the case. Back to the airports…I’ve noticed an alarming trend of automating the process of travel. Those check-in kiosks are convenient – until you have an unplanned flight change and need a live person. Don’t even bother trying to call the airline as you will go through a series of automated options before ever reaching a live person. And then there are the moving sidewalks – again, very convenient if you choose to walk on them. Unfortunately, they can be very cumbersome if one treats them as a “ride” instead of walking.
My biggest beef of trying to automate our lives happens in the restrooms with automatic flushing. The idea is honorable but perplexing to me. Do we really need someone else to be in charge of flushing the toilet? What happens we return home? There is no magic sensor there to do the job – we must actually take action. And there-in lays the rub: are we becoming a society so engrossed with technology to the point of losing our ability to think beyond automation and “smart” options?
Just the other day I called a hotel to book a client’s rate. Apparently, the rate listed showed a king bed and since the hotel had no king beds left, she told me there were no rooms available. Yet a call to the 800 # service booked me at the rate with a double vs. a king. I see hundreds of examples of this inability to think or problem solve beyond technology all the time, and it concerns me that we are losing critical thinking skills thanks to the automated conveniences.
What about you? Where do you see a shift in skills or abilities because we are no longer required to think for ourselves? What are your pet peeves about technology that is supposed to enrich our lives but may have the opposite affect? Let us know and we’ll share your ideas in the weeks to come.
Often the most difficult stage of transition is “limbo” – the past is still somewhat active and we are not yet fully anchored in the present or even future plans. I hate limbo. I’ve always struggled with limbo in my life and find it challenging to remain positive when all I want to do is move ahead…but the timing isn’t right.
Personally, I’ve been struggling with a professional decision for several years now. There is a goal, plans even, and yet the timing has not been right. Now, I find myself so used to treading water in the land of limbo that it’s difficult to get excited about finally moving ahead. Isn’t that often the case? We are excited initially but after the first adrenaline rush, reality sinks in and is not nearly as much fun.
So that’s the topic of discussion: how do you launch from limbo? That question came up today at lunch with a very sharp colleague. While we are on different professional paths, we both agree that launching successfully requires clear vision and strategy. While neither of us don’t mind working and working hard, neither is willing to risk our personal lives to get there.
And that’s when it hit me – we can’t live our lives based on the “what ifs” that involve other people. We can only assess, redirect and make plans based on “what is.” Read that again, because it’s deeper than it seems.
My hesitation is based on a family decision that has not come to fruition in almost 3 years. The time is finally here – when I see the situation as it really is and not how I want it to be, the path, the plan and the strategy become crystal clear.
“What ifs” are not knowns and refuse to be rushed – they evolve in their own time. What are the “what ifs” in your life? What hesitations are standing in the way of you launching your new life direction from limbo? It may be time to take a good long look at the “what is” to find your motivation to move forward.