What Can Google Search Teach Us About UAE Culture?

Google Search Engine data provides a fantastic window into the cultures of different countries by giving us an insight into online searches.

By understanding what people within that country or culture are searching for, we can start to appreciate the topics and concerns that bind them together.

These insights can provide a great way of understanding the culture and social climate of countries we are planning to travel to.

For example, if search data shows an online trend for the key word ‘protests’ in your destination, then depending on the nature of these protests, you may want to rethink your plans. You may also want to rethink your plans if data shows that events such as ‘Ramadan’ are trending in Middle Eastern countries.

Another reason why search data can benefit travellers relates to relationship building and small talk. The Emirati culture, for example, tends to be very relationship oriented. When Emiratis are considering a business relationship with someone they don’t know, they will typically invest considerable time and energy into getting to know that person. It’s rare for any business transaction to take place in the absence of a trusting relationship.

By understanding topics that are important to people within the culture, then not only do you have relevant, ready-made conversation starters up your sleeve, but you are also able to show an awareness of what’s important to people.

This information is also key to people who remotely manage relationships with people from other countries. Keeping an eye on key trends again provides conversation fodder for phone calls and webinars.

Top 10 Searches UAE for 2018

Let’s now have a look at five of the top ten Google searches in the UAE, 2018 and see what these searches can tell us about the people and their culture.

1. World Cup
2. Indian Premier League 2018
3. Sridevi Kapoor
4. Priyanka Chopra
5. Passport Index
6. Fortnite
7. Bitcoin Price
8. Federal Tax Authority
9. Indian currency rate
10. Dubai Frame

Most obvious in the top ten is the prominent feature of Indian related searches (Indian Premier League, Sridvevi Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and the Indian Currency Rate) which, in itself, give a great insight into the UAE.

With a population of circa 9 million people, only 15% are Emiratis. The rest of the population are expatriates, with Indians forming the biggest part of this group – almost 30% in fact. It’s no wonder, therefore, that so many searches relate to India.

One - With the World Cup taking the lead in the Top Ten, it’s clear that football plays an important role in UAE culture. Football is, by far, the most popular sport in the UAE and some of the most talented international football players are UAE nationals who have grown up and trained in the country. You’re bound to get your UAE counterparts into conversation if you’re able to talk about people such as Mohamed Fawzi or Ali Mabkhout!

Two - With Cricket ranking in second place, we can safely assume that this is the next most loved sport in the UAE. It’s not only the Indian expatriates who love cricket in the UAE. The Indian Premier League has a huge Emirati fan base which was demonstrated by the great welcome given when Dubai hosted the league in 2014. With hosting a deeply rooted part of Emirati culture, then we’d expect nothing less! If you’re in the UAE during the annual IPL, then keep up with what’s happening so that you can engage with people about it. It’s also worth bearing in mind that as the popularity of the IPL grows, so too do the opportunities to engage with people using the IPL as a subject. For example, a particular hashtag relating to one of the IPL matches in 2017, was used 171.8 times. If you’re a brand trying to reach out to people in the UAE, then using a well-crafted hashtag during the IPL could gain you some interest.

Three - The much-loved Indian Bollywood Icon, Sridevi Kapoor, takes third position for the tragic reason that she died in Dubai, aged just 54, in February 2018. Her death from an accidental bathtub drowning, became a subject of great speculation in both the UAE and India.

Four - Priyanka Chopra Jonas is another great Indian actress, who is listed as one of the ‘100 most influential people in the world’. Online streaming of Indian films and soap operas and keeping up to date with celebrity news is an important way for Indian expatriates to feel connected to India and their home culture.

Fifth – The search for ‘Passport Index’ is something that the Emiratis had every reason to feel incredibly proud of in 2018 when the UAE passport was ranked as the most powerul global passport. UAE passport holders can now travel to 167 countries without needing a pre-visa. The online ranking of the passport demonstrates the diplomacy of UAE leaders and ability to build positive global relationships. Relationship building is not only a political success; it’s also testament to the Emirati people, who embrace and host large numbers of multicultural immigrants while continuing to preserve their own culture and traditions.

These high-level insights reinforce the wealth of online information and materials available to those working or travelling globally.

Whether you’re travelling to the UAE, or elsewhere in the world, then consider Google search data as a compliment to any other preparations you might be making and take a look at what’s trending before you leave!

Doing business in the UAE? Then you might want to invest some time in taking our online cultural awareness course on the UAE.