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10 Shocking Moments Arab American Immigrants Face

posted on: Jan 31, 2018

By: Randa Necola/Arab America Contributing Writer

Moving to a new place in your own country can be very stressful and hard to adapt with. But, what about moving to a new country where people speak a new language and have different culture? Can you imagine leaving everything in your life to start again from zero as does a newborn baby? Arab immigrants feel like that initially when they leave their country. Let me walk you through 10 shocking realities for Arab immigrants!

1.Where to shop is a mystery!

Arabs struggle when they figure out that they need to shop or to buy something. What if you woke up and did not find your brush and toothpaste? Where would you go to purchase replacements? It’s very difficult to find out  where to go for what  they need in a new country. Arabs like the market system (Al Souk) and expect to see shops in the streets and markets. Also, Arabs at first are shocked by U.S.currency.

2.Being respectful in Arab culture can be rude in American culture

Arab cultural norms regarding body language encourage avoiding direct eye contact, as is the case with a number of other cultural groups in the United States. For example, Mexican, American Indian, and some Asian cultures also share this cultural norm.  In addition, it is the norm in Arab culture to speak softly in a low voice to show respect, especially if the person is a  woman. However, in the western culture you have to be “LOUD AND PROUD” and to make eye contact to show engagement with and respect to others.

3.Are you in pain? Good luck!

Arab Americans get shocked when they find out the prices of medical services in the U.S. and they probably pay a lot of money unnecessarily for medical services before they figure out how to use the American insurance system. Arab immigrants do not understand why they have to wait up to a month when they book an appointment to see a doctor! Not to mention that getting most medications only by prescription, such as antibiotics or ointments is a complete mystery for Arabs.

4.The United States’ educational system is a maze for Arab American immigrants

School is the number one challenge for any Arab American student who immigrate to the United States because the system is totally different from their home country. Arabs are not familiar with standardized tests or searching for information online. Additionally, Arab students struggle with presentations and public speaking because  Arab schools require students to be completely silent in classes!

5.Mail is from 1800’s

Arab Americans get creeped out by receiving a lot of mail! It is rare to use mail in the Arab world to exchange important information. Bills and/or other important papers are delivered personally to Arabs in their homes, so that they can pay or receive important things on time.

6.Why so early?

Accepting relatively little night life is extremely difficult for Arabs! It is rare in the United States to find a shop or a clinic that is open until midnight. Arabs do not stop working at night and their streets are always busy, bright and crowded because they love night life. So they wonder why it is so quiet after 6 P.M in this country.

7.You don’t know anyone

Arab Americans start from zero to build relationships and to get involved in the community. Can you imagine how it feels to not have all your friends and family members nearby and to start a new comfortable life with only new people?! Nonetheless, Arabs are very friendly and build relationships quickly.

8.Driving is your only mode of transportation

Arabs are used to know their way without GPS or to stop a taxi in the middle of the street to go wherever you want!  There is no reliable transportation system here except for obtaining a car and learn to drive, unless you happen to live in a big city!

9.Weather is not very easy to negotiate

Arab Americans expect snow and rain to be as much fun as shown on television and in movies. People do not understand how hard it is to deal with rain or snow storms if they have not experienced it. Arab immigrants enjoy seeing rain or snow  until their umbrella gets flipped by strong winds and they get totally wet or they slip on ice. Ouch!

10.Casual at a wedding?

It is a terrible moment when an Arab American immigrant gets invited to a wedding and is dressed in a very formal manner from head to toe only to find the other wedding guests wearing casual clothes! Let me tell you one important fact about Arab weddings..  They are always over the top! Not to mention that the American lifestyle is more casual than any other culture and that is one thing that Arabs do not understand.