Culture Shock in Oman
The frustrations of culture shock in Oman may initially overshadow the many advantages of calling Oman home, but expats will soon find the high quality of life makes adaptation easier.
Oman is a Muslim 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. Nevertheless, it’s still important to familiarise oneself with aspects of the Muslim culture, and act appropriately.
Arabic is the main language in Oman, but English is widely spoken.
On a more universal front, expats moving to Oman can look forward to living in a beautiful region that plays host to a variety of activities. There are mountain hikes, snorkelling, scuba diving, camping under starry desert skies, four-wheeling, rock climbing, and so much more.
As an incredibly safe and family-oriented country, one will often hear expats rave about the many benefits of raising children in Oman.
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, don't wear 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 that a person arrives in Oman, the weather can be a primary source of culture shock. 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 is typical during January.
Driving and orientation in Oman
As in many other Middle Eastern countries, driving in Oman can seem intimidating.
The average speed limit is 75 mph (120kph), but drivers often go much faster, a habit that’s not only dangerous, but irritating, as every vehicle comes pre-programmed to make a beeping noise if the car is driven over 75 mph (120kph).
It is also 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 somewhat 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 that 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. The staring is a common annoyance for most expat women, but 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 over the item as a gift.
Toilets in Oman
Finding a decent public toilet can be a challenge. It is a good idea to always carry tissues and hand sanitiser because these items may not be readily available.
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.
Western products in Oman
While it is possible to find Western products in local Omani supermarkets, they’ll come at a hefty price. Again, as a Muslim country, certain food products are limited. It is possible to find pork in a few places, but prices are high.