Multilingual, multicultural, communication mishmash

When I first got here, I had a few minor mishaps. I didn’t realize that, in general, workers aren’t Saudis, so quite likely don’t speak Arabic, or at least Saudi Arabic.On my first day here, I had a one hour taxi ride, trying to find my hotel. I now walk the distance in 15 minutes. I gave him the card, which had the directions in Arabic. But my taxi driver called my hotel three times and talked to the front desk clerk, who is from Yemen, with me yelling directions from the back seat in English. Finally, I called my employer and he arrived 5 minutes later, and 2 minutes after that I was ‘home’ (back at the hotel). At that point, I assumed that most non-Western-looking people here were Saudis so of course spoke Arabic. But, later realized he didn’t speak or read Arabic, nor English.Similar miscommunications happened when the Nepali staff desk, told the Yemeni guy to call, who had me tell the Lebanese guy my order. A phone call to clear it up, only made it worse.Well, the supreme pizza was awesome, but it definitely wasn’t the veggie one we ordered.The point is that the workers here tend to be anything but Saudis. According to a <a href=”http://en.news.maktoob.com/20090001262268/Expat_remittances_trouble_Saudi_authorities/Article.htm&#8221; title=”Expat workers in Saudi”>Reuters article published yesterday</a>, <strong>9 out of 10 private positions are indeed held by expats. Like me.</strong>Unlike Korea, which is a pretty homogenous bunch, here, most business transactions you do are likely to be done by a non-Saudi, and thus you’re not sure if they’re more likely to speak English, Arabic, Urdu or a host of other languages. I’m saying “Yemin! Yemin!” (right — in Arabic), and the taxi driver from India replies in perfect English, “Okay, we go right at the next light? Right?”Fellow teachers and staff at the university are English speakers, hailing from the Phillipines, Iran, U.K., Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia, as well as Canada and the US.In taxis, in shops, ordering pizza, and sometimes even at work, it helps to first figure out where someone is from, then try to find a way to communicate.We, the multicultural, multilingual workforce, make a mishmash of communication as we try to interact.

Multicultural, multilingual workforce: 9 of 10 private jobs held by expats

 

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