Culture Shock in Oman
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The frustrations of culture shock in Oman may initially overshadow the many advantages of calling the country home, but expats will soon find the high quality of life makes adaptation easier. As an incredibly safe and family-oriented country, one will also often hear expats rave about the many benefits of raising children in Oman.
Oman is an Islamic country, but is more liberal than the surrounding countries in the Gulf. While upholding Islamic principles, Omanis embrace bits of Western culture more and more every day. For example, in the capital city of Muscat, it’s common to hear of popular American and European shops and restaurants being opened. However, it is still important for expats to familiarise themselves with aspects of the Muslim culture and act appropriately.
Dress in Oman
Expats will find many Omanis are laid-back and open-minded, but it is still a good idea to be cautious of dress and conduct. Non-Muslim women don't need to wear a headscarf unless they visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, in which case they are also required to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants or an ankle-length skirt. In general, it's best to avoid wearing clothing that is too clingy or shows off too much skin to avoid unwanted stares from men.
Ramadan in Oman
Showing sensitivity during holidays such as Ramadan is very important. During this time, expats in Oman should be extra cautious when picking out outfits. Eating, drinking, chewing gum and smoking are not allowed in public throughout this period. During the month of Ramadan, most restaurants are closed during the day but open again in the evening. Many restaurants cover their windows out of respect.
Weather in Oman
Depending on the time of year in Oman, the weather can be a primary source of culture shock for new arrivals. Summer begins mid-April and continues through part of October, with highs of around 115°F (46°C), and lows that still hover above 100°F (38°C). It's also very humid.
Thankfully, the winter from October to March is pleasant, ushering in temperatures that range from 65°F to 80°F (18°C to 25°C). Rainfall is not common but typically occurs during January.
Driving and orientation in Oman
As in many other Middle Eastern countries, driving in Oman can seem intimidating. It is normal to see people running across the freeway, taxis slowing down unexpectedly to pick up passengers, vehicles crammed to the max and children without seatbelts.
Roundabouts are common in Oman, but may be a bit of a fluster at first. When approaching the roundabout, it is important to stay in the inside lane if not taking the first exit.
The Sultan Qaboos Highway is the main road that runs through Muscat. It is easy to navigate Muscat, but finding specific businesses and homes can be difficult as most establishments do not have a physical address. Landmarks are an essential part in giving directions.
It is also a good idea to read online forums for directions if planning to venture outside of Muscat. Local maps are often not updated properly.
Customer service in Oman
Customer service can seem non-existent in Oman. It can be difficult to find employees that are helpful and knowledgeable. This can be an adjustment for Westerners who are used to a different standard of service. When great customer service is found, it is not forgotten within the expat community.
Something else which often infuriates new arrivals is that life in Oman unravels at a much slower pace than back home. Whether trying to set up the internet and phone service or open a bank account, expats will need to come to terms with the fact that it’s going to take time. Nothing is done quickly and, unfortunately, being forced to wait patiently to sort out logistics can prolong the adjustment period for an expat.
Men and women in Oman
Oman is a safe country for single women, but it is still a good idea to be cautious when out alone. It is very common for local men to stare. Though an annoyance for most expat women, it is not threatening, and it’s something most expats eventually adapt to.
When men greet each other, they generally shake hands and sometimes kiss on the cheek. Only shake a local women’s hand if she extends hers first. If invited into a local family’s home, try to avoid admiring an item excessively. The host may feel obligated to hand it over as a gift.
Alcohol in Oman
As a Muslim nation, the number of places in Oman in which expats can purchase and consume alcohol is limited.
Alcohol can be bought in selected restaurants and hotels, or a liquor license may be obtained through the local authority with the employer's approval. This allows expats to purchase alcohol at designated liquor stores in Oman.
It is also important to mention that the legal alcohol limit is close to zero. Drinking and driving is considered taboo in Oman.