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Elements of Culture

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First Part: Culture

Culture is a complex dimension that comprises values, morals, beliefs, art, social conventions, and customs accepted, shared, and acquired by individuals and groups of people in a particular society. Matsumoto (1996) sees culture as both individual and social entity. It can be observed in each person individually, as well as on the worldwide level.

There is no single classification of elements of culture. However, the most widespread approach names seven main elements:

1. Social organization

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Family is the core element of social organization. Thanks to family, future generation learns how they should behave and what they should believe in. Social organization of a family falls into two categories: extended family (it comprises several generations working together, sharing the same household) and nuclear family (it comprises mother, father and the children).  Extended families are still widespread in such preindustrial societies as Taiwan, Japan, India, and China. Extended family is also predominant in Emirates, as stated in the research of professor Yahya El-Haddad (2003). The professor states that the average family size in UAE is 7.28 people. The nuclear family is a typical type of families in modern society (the US, Western and Central Europe, Canada).

There are two main social classes in Emirates: the nationals and the incomers (foreign immigrants). The nationals are further subdivided into four main strata: the ruling families who hold power and the highest political positions, the merchant class whose members usually sell international goods, the middle class that consists of a number of professionals, and low-income groups that are represented by oasis farmers, pearl drivers and others. In Emirates, nationals are considered to be a privileged group that gets numerous benefits from the state.

2. Custom and traditions

The UAE is the country of rich customs and traditions. According to United Arab Emirates yearbook (2007), many of ancient traditions are widely practiced even now. For example, boating is still a very popular tradition in UAE. The dhow is considered to be one of the most beautiful sailing crafts. Falconry tradition speaks of close connection between Arab people and nature. The relation between the Beduins and the camels is also special one. Throughout the centuries, the camls provided the locals with mobility. A flourishing tradition of pearls and pearling provided people with wealth long before the oil discovery. The pearl oysters occur on the shallow banks of the Gulf. Music and dancing traditions also play a crucial role in people's lives in UAE. There are particular songs that accompany diving for pearl oysters, hauling water from the well and other everyday activities.

3. Religion

Islam is a monotheistic religion founded on Prophet Muhammad teaching. It affects all aspects of life in Emirates from marriage and family life to economics and politics. The followers of Islam worship Allah. In Emirates, the core religion ritual is to pray five times a day. Emiratis usually pray at home or go to the closest mosque. Moreover, there are the rules of personal conduct influenced by Islamic law. US report in The National journal (2010) states that in general, Emiratis have tolerant position towards other religions. The law allows immigrants of other faiths to have their own places of worship in UAE.

4. Language

Arabic is an official language of the UAE. Moreover, it is the sacred language of Islam. The majority of local journals, newspapers, and media in general are in Arabic; however, they sometimes may be dubbed in English. The same is applied to road signs. The UAE is a very modern and cosmopolitan country. Thus, people use English for business purposes.

5. Arts and literature

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The UAE government provides generous support to painters, writers and dancers, popularizing Arabic arts and literature in the country. The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature are considered the most popular among public artistic events (“Contemporary culture,” n.d.). Poetry is regarded as the most elaborative form of literary expression. Since the 16th century, Nabati poetry has been characteristic of Arabian Peninsula. It is also known as “the people's poetry”. There is a translation of a piece of his verse titled I Am Patient (2007) written by Sheikh Mohammed:

I am patient should be, but the patience brings me pain,

Favor may come for my patience.

For the only one the heart sweetly weeps,

My pain and my tears will not cease.

6. Forms of government and political culture

People organize governments to keep order within a society and protect people from numerous threats that might come from the outside. There are three main forms of government: democracy, republic, and dictatorship. The UAE is a federal presidential elected monarchy (“UAE Government,” n.d.). The country comprises seven emirates. Each emirate has its own ruler. The ministers of the cabinet are usually chosen from the emirates' ruling families.

7. Economic systems

Economic systems are divided into different types. Capitalism is a leading system in the modern world. It relates to the system where industry and trade are in private ownership and are operated for profit. In free-market economies, prices are freely set by supply-and-demand aspects. UAE is known to have a very strong economy thanks to the massive oil production.

Second Part: Society

Society is a complex of social relations within a group of people that share common territory and culture, and experience day-to-day interaction with each other. Society is a collective term designed to denote groups of people related to each other. It can be a family, crowd, gang, nation etc.

Western society is founded upon Greco-Roman civilization and the Christianity. Kurth (2004) in his article outlines how greatly ideas of Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment have influenced Western society. Western society is also related to Western Christian countries and their traditions and culture. The term originally denoted geographic concept, contrasting European countries with Middle East, South Asia, Far East and other civilizations. Currently, such understanding is irrelevant as the term West has largely expended its geographical boarders.

The term “Western Europe” denotes societies of the westerly countries of Europe. According to UN classification, Western Europe is comprised of nine countries, which are: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Monaco, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Liechtenstein (“Composition of macro,” 2011). According to Kurth (2004), Western European society evolved from Christian heritage, artistic ideas of Romanticism and Renaissance. Western societies can also be defined through the concepts of political pluralism, middle class, numerous subcultures, and cultural syncretism.

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