Working in the Middle East
Considerations when seeking, transferring, or starting a new position in the Middle East.
Working in the Middle East as a hospitality professional, will be highly rewarding and different from working in other regions. The key to success can be summed up in three words: Respect, Understanding and Patience. I am about to start my third assignment in the Middle East and would like to share the following observations:
Before you arrive:
1. Research the culture, politics, religion and history of the country where you will be working to gain an understanding of, and respect for, the culture.
2. Research the operating and owning company that you will be working for, and ensure that they both have a good reputation.
3. Fully understand all the terms of your contract including: probationary period and terms, currency of your base pay, frequency of pay (usually monthly), type of housing provided, meals provided, medical insurance provided, bonus plan, end of service payment, home leave, vacation days, which position you will report to and which positions will report to you. If you are moving with your family, you will need to understand the schooling situation and allowances, moving expenses, home leave and family medical insurance.
4. Work and Residency permits take lots of paperwork and time. This is where your patience will be tested. Several documents will need to be attested by both your home government and the host government. Unfortunately this is a result of some expats inflating their qualifications.
When you arrive:
1. A positive attitude will be essential to your success and the longevity of your assignment.
2. There will be three phases to your cultural journey; learning, frustration and acceptance. Optimally it will take one year to pass through these phases.
3. As with any location, it’s the people who make the difference. Developing friendships with your host nationals will yield the greatest personal and professional benefits.
4. Contact your home country’s Consulate to ensure that they can communicate with you in case of any emergency.
5. Respect and adhere to the laws, religious practices and cultural practices, many of which will be different from what you might have experienced.
6. Most hospitality companies recruit and hire staff from many different countries. It is also important to understand and respect the cultures of your staff.
Year two, and beyond:
1. Enjoy and keep learning from the experience. Learn some Arabic. Shop in the old Souks.
2. Avoid the tendency of only socializing with fellow expats as this will limit your experiences. Expats also move on frequently as their assignments end. There are usually a large number of expat departures at the end of the school year, and before the searing Summer heat.
3. Appreciate the local food, culture, sports and attractions. Venture beyond the cities.
4. Avoid becoming complacent about adhering to local laws and cultural norms.
5. Stay aware of the local political and security situation.
6. Our profession can consume all our time, but it is important to maintain Family time.
7. Explore the region since the neighboring countries offer different cultures, landscapes and food.
8. Keep improving your skills. Working in the Middle East can provide you with the time to continue your studies.
Working in the Middle East will be a highly rewarding personal and professional experience provided that you practice: understanding, respect and patience.