From 26 to 200 nationalities: the key to cross-cultural communication


A Brex-ette; that’s me. A British woman who, some eight years ago – well before the actual notion of Brexit had entered our social and political consciousness – nervously left behind trusted friendships nurtured over several decades across the UK and Europe, to try and forge new international networks in a global environment.

The European connection isn’t just a trite play on words; it’s a nod to the fact that I actually owe the first 12 years of my career to Britain’s membership of the Union – working with nationals from the then 26 member states. What’s more, it’s a tribute to a time that served me well, as I now face the challenges of communicating with an audience of more than 200 nationalities.

New opportunities, new challenges

Moving to the UAE I discovered a young, vibrant nation with an entrepreneurial mindset that simply draws you in. Home to the world’s tallest building, iconic man-made islands and pioneering smart technology, Dubai in particular has a vision and ambition so infectious that, as a resident, it is hard not to embrace in one’s own approach to life.

This makes Dubai an exciting place to set up in business and the micro-enterprise sector is certainly starting to flourish. For anyone with ambition, it is a land of opportunity. Yet of course, despite the ease of and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in the UAE – as with anywhere in the world – certain challenges remain. In this case, one of the most difficult prospects is communicating about your business, in what is inevitably a competitive marketplace.

The language lesson

One of the first lessons to be learnt it that, for the most part, the language of business is English; however, for over 90% of the UAE population this is not their mother tongue. This means that language accessibility is the key. Every aspect of your messaging – from tag lines, advertisements and commercials, to corporate brochures and executive manifestos – need to be clear, precise and understandable to an audience operating in their second, or even third, language.

What’s more, your visual identity – the one that crosses language barriers – needs to be ethnically diverse, culturally sensitive, while communicating to almost 200 nationalities in an instant. There are few other places in the world you will face the opportunities – and challenges – of engaging with such a diverse audience.

These challenges should never be overlooked. Nor should they be underestimated. The fact is, when you’re confronted with the difficulties of meeting the needs, let alone expectations, of such a diverse audience, there are inevitable pitfalls.

Consulting the experts

This is where it makes sense to retain the services of experts; those who’ve already discovered, but more importantly, found their way around these pitfalls. In a multicultural context, this means a team that has lived, worked, and experienced what you are facing, and knows its way around the marketplace you’re operating in.

Upscaling from 26 nationalities to almost 200 was certainly something of a challenge for me, but now, at The Loop, we have 18 years combined experience of delivering marketing and communications in the UAE. Times have certainly changed, and with that, our experience has evolved. We have got to know what works – the who, how, what and where of getting your message across effectively.

We can help. Contact us.