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Yemen: Culture and Value Differences Essay

Through interaction with others on a daily basis, we acquire the meanings, values, norms, and styles of communicating” (Ting-Toomey). Culture can be defined as the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving. Studying Yemen, not only have I learned the physical and cultural adjustments such as climate, language, and material things, but I have learned about the cultural differences such as, religion, worldview, values, notions of time, and roles.

This research paper is not merely just about Yemen in general, but how Yemen’s way of life and history has had an influence on their modern beliefs and values today. This research paper will discuss cultural variables that we learned in class and will be a good way of preparing the reader if he/she were to go to Yemen and will have an insight of my reflection. Yemen Background Information

Yemen is in the Middle East, bordering Saudi Arabia, Oman, and The Gulf of Aden. Major geographic landmarks include the Red Sea to the West, the Arabia Sea to the South, and the great Rub al Khali desert to the North and East (Adensafari). Due to Yemen’s land of mountains and desert, the climate in Yemen is generally hot and arid, with rainfall in the western mountains supporting the agriculture (Collins 215). Yemen has a population of 20,764,630 mainly living in the north and consists of mostly Arab Muslims, coming from the Zaydi or Shafii sects. The powerful Zaydis live in northwestern Yemen, and the wealthy Shafii sects live in the southern most part. These two sects of power and wealth have caused a division. The official language is Arabic with English taught as a second language in school (Adensafari). Sanaa is Yemen’s capital and the largest city. Sanaa is also known as North Yemen which merged to form Yemen in 1990.

Yemen has for seen a problem with terrorism due to the greediness from Asia and Africa over oil. This terrorism problem has involved up to a million
refugees, mostly made up of Somalis, to flee to Yemen from the Red Sea where the war rages. These refugees have found a welcome in the poor land of Yemen with its extremely high unemployment rate. Yemen is known as a young country with around 50 percent of the population under the age of fifteen and has one of the highest birth rates in the world in which each woman bears an average of six children (Adensafari). The literacy rate is extremely high within the female population, but over the years electronic media, including mobile phones, have become prevalent. In the Yemen Islam is the main religion with the Sunni branch of Islam, represented by the Shafii school being the prevailing religion. In Yemen there is a small community of non-Muslim due to foreign visitors and workers, however, worship is free to all (“Yemen : Daily Life and Social Customs.”).

There are also groups of religion including Jews, Hindus and Christians. In Modern day Yemen the constitution provides religious freedom to the followers of other religions. This however has changed. Between 1949- and 1950, many Arab countries had anti-Jewish riots that broke out and accelerated the exodus. Jews were departed from Yemen and organized to Israel. Yemen had a isolated Jewish community, but 45,000 Jews were transported to Israel in planes in what became known as Operation Magic Carpet (De Lange). Yemen’s have many different Islamic festivals that are celebrated within their religion. During the month of Ramadan, all Muslims excluding children, the sick, the elderly and other groups stipulated by the Qur’an, are required to refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours. Non-Muslims, however, can choose to not fast although there comes the respect of doing those things in front of the participating Muslims that are fasting. Economy and Unification

According to the Arab’s, Semitic people invaded what is now northwestern Yemen about 2000 B.C. When the Semitic people invaded Yemen, they brought farming and building skills to the herders who lived there. In 1400 B.C., caravans carrying pearls, and spices passed through Yemen, creating an important trade route. During the 900’s BC, cities, castles, temples, and dams were being built and the Queen of Sheba ruled Yemen. In A.D. 300’s, local leaders fought among themselves, and Ethiopia then invaded Yemen. For
the next 1300 years the Yemeni tribes and religious groups began fighting against invading Egyptians and Turks.

In the 600’s, the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali, introduced Islam to the people and in 1517Turkey took over Yemen, having various degrees of control for more than 400 years. When the Treaty of Lausanne was formed, Turkish rule ended in 1924. When the Turkish rule ended, Yemen became controlled by the British. Turkey still ruled Northwestern Yemen and when it became free it was named Yemen (Sanaa) and the British control was named Yemen (Aden). Treaties were signed by the United Kingdom with the tribal leaders, promising protection and aide in return for loyalty.

By 1959, six tribal states formed the federation off the Arab Emirates of the South, to grant independence. The British controlled the federation’s foreign policy and provided military protection and economic aid. In 1965, Aden and all but four tribal states joined the federation, but by 1967, the federation government collapsed due to radical Arab nationalist leaders in Aden and tribal leaders both wanting to rule, causing the United Kingdom to withdraw. After the Turks had withdrawn from North Yemen, military officers supported by Egypt overthrew the ruling and set a republic in Yemen (Sanaa). The imam’s forces, called royalists fought to gain control of the government and the republicans set up a new government that included republicans and royalists. In 1974, army leaders took control of the government of Yemen and they were conservatives who opposed communism.

Through the 1980’s, unification talks between Yemen (Aden) and Yemen (Sanaa) continued and the two countries increasingly cooperated in economic and administrative matters and in 1990, they officially merged and became the country of Yemen. In 1999, Yemen held its first election in which the president was elected directly by the people. Ali Abdullah Saleh won the election and continues today as president (World Book pg. 563-64). Throughout history and certainly after the unification,

Yemen’s economy is represented as the most impoverished Arab nation. Only slightly smaller in population compared to Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s GNP is just
around $23 billion, which is less than one-sixth of Saudi Arabia. In 1996, Yemen was given a monetary fund package of $80 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This monetary fund, while helpful, Yemen has very little to work with. While oil has risen since the 1990’s as its central to the economy, comparing it to their neighboring countries, Yemen’s oil is negligible. While Yemen does bring in many tourist and agricultural sectors like coffee, fruits, grains, khat, and vegetables, their financial sector is seen as poorly run, which to foreign investors is a very scary feel. Yemen: Collectivistic or Individualistic

We learn that today Yemen has been seen as a collectivistic country precisely due to the reuniting of North and South Yemen. We see this collectivistic culture in the government because now that they have a unified government system of republic democracy, it allows the Yemen citizens to take part in decisions that affect their society as a whole (Lee).

We also see collectivism in the Yemen Religion. With religion, it brings society together through goals that are set together on how to make Yemen a greater society for everyone. Being a participating member of the United Nations, Yemen sees great value in setting goals not only for their country, but for the world. Another wonderful aspect that I have found admiring about Yemen is that it is one of the poorest countries, however, by working together to set goals they are aiming to help the poor members of their society.

Collectivism can be seen within the family in the fact that the entire family, including all extended family lives with one another. When comparing Yemen with the United States, it is very different because in the United States many families do not even get together with extended families and the decision is made based on everyone’s personal feelings and not thinking about what others in the family would want or enjoy. Also in collectivistic cultures like Yemen, the development of long term relationships is very important. As a family they want to be close and continue to bring up their family traditions over generations. In the United States we have a more
short term look on relationships.

Gender Roles
Yemen is a very interesting place for women because although Yemenis observe traditional gender roles, “encouraging men to be more active in public, while women have a larger role in the home, this is by no means a universal belief” (ycmes). In Yemen, Women drive cars, go to college, work, and during 2011 a Revolution took place where women went alongside men to protest against the regime of former President Saleh. Although men are active in public at times, Yemen is a conservative country so the relations of me and women, specifically, if they are not married are often seen as social scrutiny.

Between a male and female, males are the gender that should know not to have discussions with females they do not know because it puts the women in an uncomfortable situation.Women, however have more leeway when talking to Yemeni men but if seen talking there is always a risk of it being looked at as something more (Ycmes). What I found fascinating about women in Yemen is that if I was to go to Yemen, being a woman, I would be met with respect because they see me as someone trying to observe the rules of the country (adensafari).

Gender roles within marriage is a little different from what I have studied before. The women relatives of the bridegroom are to find the groom a bride though arranged marriage. In many cases of arranged marriages, the father of the bride will ask for the Brides wishes before the marriage contract is intact. Family is very important in the aspect of marriage. In some cases cousin courtship takes place from the father’s brothers daughter. In Yemen, the Shari law allows a man to marry up to four wives as long as he treats them with equality, by doing this the polygamy is low (everyculture).

Power Distance: High or Low?
Studying Hofstede’s Power distance we learn that power distance measures the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations an institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. The power distance in
Yemen can be demonstrated within the family. In Yemen, Family and tribes are very important to their culture and with that importance comes respect. In the family of a Yemen, the head of the family is the eldest male and will make all the decisions (Britannica). Thinking about the United States, I honor and respect my parents but it sometimes the decision can be made my me, my mom, my sister, or my dad.

In Yemen having one specific person to make the decision means that everyone in the family is to have respect for the decision made. In Yemen, unlike many Eastern countries, Women are allowed to work outside of the home. Even though they are able to make a decision of work they are not considered the dominate person within the family or tribe.Within the schools, power distance could be seen as low power distance. The relationship between teacher and student is very informal in which the student will call the teacher, “teacher” and the follow saying the teacher’s first name (yfuusa). Reading this article I was shocked because I had assumed that with the distance in the family, the power distance would be the same within the classroom. Power distance within Business is a high power distance.

In the United States, young people can be identified as “fast-trackers” in which they are provided tough assignments that would possibly include negotiating a business deal with an international partner. In Yemen and other Arab countries, age is respected, and the workers position such as manager is correlated with age. Due to this age respect, it would be hard for an Arab to do managerial tasks especially if they are still in a young age. They Arab young student, would rather respect the authority based on its culture. Yemen: High or Low Uncertainty Avoidance?

Yemen, since its unification of the North and South has become more collectivistic, lower in power distance, and low uncertainty avoidance. Yemen does not run on time and reading about the honey business in Yemen, I learned that it isn’t about how much money they make but the enjoyment they have with it. The author, Grace Pundyk states, “Our Western lives are complicated with so much surplus, so much choice, and so many convoluted
rules and regulations, that it is little wonder confusion reigns out there in the big world. I make a mental note and put ‘simplicity’ on my list of important things to remember (Pundyk).

I loved this quote because like Grace, I come from this Western world in which everything is about constantly going, not enjoying the moment, and everyone is always so busy trying to be on top. Living in a world that is not planned out constantly and there are not constant rules. In Yemen and many other Arab cultures, time in the business world is still overlooked. If I were to go to a meeting, the meeting would not only start later than the specified time, the meeting would be interrupted by family and friends who wander in to exchange pleasantries (prenhall). Yemen: Communication

As I discussed earlier about Yemen, the official language is Arabic but English is taught in school. Going to Yemen, the language boundary may not be a major issue, however, Yemen still has nonverbal communication that may be different from the United States. One of the major nonverbal that you would see in the work force in Yemen is gift giving and hospitality. Arab businesspeople are like the Japanese in the fact that they are very concerned about working with proposed business partners (prenhall).

Yemen: High or Low context?
I feel that High or Low context variables go with communication in different cultures, especially within non-verbal communication. Yemen, an Arab country, is a high context culture. What exactly does that mean? When living in a high context culture and having a conversation, the context of that conversation is just as important as the words actually spoken, therefore cultural cues are important when trying to understand what is being communicated. Individuals acquire and develop their identities through interaction with others in their cultural group (prenhall). Country vs. Culture Shock

Before going to a new culture specifically Yemen, it is important that even if we research and learn all about the country, and people, there is a deeper understanding that needs to be grasped. In class we learned about
country and culture shock. Below are some of the obstacles that one would face if they did no research. Culture Shock- rooted in cultural differences

* Values
* feelings
* authority roles
* concepts of truth
* worldview
* assumptions
* belief about the gender roles
* motivations

Culture Shock- rooted in cultural differences
* Values
* feelings
* authority roles
* concepts of truth
* worldview
* assumptions
* belief about the gender roles
* motivations

Country Shock- both physical and cultural adjustments
* Climate: heat, humidity, cold, wet
* Changed routines
* Language
* Material things
* Developing countries: electricity, communication,
transportation, water, health, insects, etc.

The adjustments in both cultural and country shock have been established in this paper, and should be learned and established before anyone goes to another culture. While knowing the language and being prepared for the heat is important. I know that personally I would not want to be seen as a fool because my non-verbal cues where wrong or by assuming I have disrespected
someone. In Yemen, it is very obvious that respect is a very key value to the Yemen’s and just as someone in the United States would want another culture to understand our ways of beliefs and doing things in everyday life, we should understand there point of view. Conclusion

Studying Yemen, I have a clearer since of the culture and if someone was to ask me the five Hofstede dimensions in relation to Yemen, I could tell them. However, even though I have researched this country, read lots of books, articles, and other people’s opinions, I cannot really understand the culture until I experience it. Even if I was to go to Yemen and experience the culture, I still would not have a definite understanding. We studied in class about building trust and I believe that by building trust you can form a deeper relationship with the culture. By building relationships we can experience the culture. * Consideration (open-mindedness)- you must enter the country with knowledge but be open-minded knowing that you don’t know everything and you will learn something that you had never experienced before * Acceptance- You must accept adjustments or boundaries when things go wrong, and pick you up. * Respect- You must furthermore respect the country and its differences. Always remember that without respect, brings no trust, and no trust can cause your experience to be a risk. * Empathy- No one will be perfect entering a different culture because, like I have mentioned, you do not really understand the culture until you experience. If the culture gets mad or irritated at you, don’t get defensive, but rather show them that you are sorry and you want nothing more than to show them respect. Yemen has been a very intriguing country to study, and mainly because the unified Yemen, and what it is today as a country has only been in position for 22 years. Something that I did not realize was that even though Yemen began foundation in early BC, it is still a developing country. Learning more about themselves as a culture of collectivists, and valuing one another as a whole rather than as separate divisions from the North and South is intriguing and I can look on that as an American, are we really valuing our values. Are we working together through the thick and thin? When different cultures come into our culture are we treating them like we would want to be treated?

Works Cited

Adensafari. “Yemen Today.” Yemen Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.adensafari.com/Yemen-today.htm>. De Lange, Nicholas, and Jane S. Gerber. The illustrated history of the Jewish people. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997. Harper Collins. “Yemen.” Collins Nations of the World Atlas. London: Harper/Collins, 1996. 215. Print. Lee, Robert B. International Business. 28 Mar. 2008. <http://internationalbusiness.wikia.com/wiki/Yemen%27s_Power_Distance>. Prenhall. “The Role of Culture.” PDF Role of Culture Intercultural. 2006. Pundyk, Grace. The honey trail: In pursuit of liquid gold and vanishing bees. New York: St. Martin’s P, 2010. The World Book encyclopedia. Vol. 21. Chicago, IL: World Book, 2009. Ting-Toomey, Stella. “Theorizing About Intercultural Communication.” Google Books. N.p., 2005. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=FQtdsLaPe3AC>. “Yemen : Daily Life and Social Customs.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/652831/Yemen/273063/Daily-life-and-social-customs>.

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