United Arab Emirates: Conversation
Welcome topics of conversation
It is the position of the host to set the subject of conversation at the outset. He will normally begin with platitudes [How are you?, How are you enjoying your visit?, etc.]. If others were present before your arrival, he will tell you the subject of prevailing conversation and invite you to contribute. Be forthcoming but always polite. Intelligent argument is admired and welcome but only when it is courteous and reasoned. Argue as appropriate but never quarrel. The more feedback you provoke, no matter how forceful so long as it is not angry, the more highly you are esteemed.
If alone with your host, platitudes may continue a bit longer, such as questions about your home country. Assuming the host respects you, however, you will soon be asked your opinions about controversial issues. If you genuinely agree with your host, he may take some convincing about your sincerity. Do not, therefore, be afraid to disagree but, having made your point, give him the opportunity for rebuttal. The object of the exercise is not to win a debate but, rather, to probe each other's thoughts and thereby enlighten one another. A conversation from which one learns nothing is a waste of time.
The foregoing applies if the host is a UAE national or a native of elsewhere in Arabia. As the UAE is so cosmopolitan and has such a small native population, the likelihood is that one will find oneself dealing with other nationalities [except for government business]. Conversational manners should, therefore, adapt to the nationality of the host, which could be anything except Israeli!
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