Cultural Sensitivity – Bradley Barker

The United Arab Emirates is frequently referred to as a cultural melting pot made up of many different nationalities. This is evident by simply visiting one of the many attractions that U.A.E. has to offer. That being said the U.A.E. is steeped in tradition and culture dating back many years.

I moved to the U.A.E. nearly 10 years ago and in that time I have seen a lot of changes. Not only has the U.A.E. population nearly doubled in size but the country has become one of the leading cosmopolitan cites of the world. What is important to remember is that the U.A.E. is a Muslim country, founded on those beliefs. In order to become an inclusive expatriate (expat)  there are a number of “do’s and don’ts” that people should adhere to.

The Common Practice

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Appearance is very important in U.A.E., especially in the business world. For U.A.E. national males/females the standard dress code is the dishdash/Abaya respectively. Although this is widely accepted as traditional business attire in the U.A.E., expats should not adopt this style of clothing as offense may be caused. Instead, expat men should wear a suit and tie or at the very least a tie, jacket and trousers. Women should ideally wear modest clothing in public, high necklines with sleeves that cover their elbows and hemlines which cover their knees.

Greeting each other in the U.A.E.: There are many different greetings in the U.A.E. It is common practice for males to shake hands whist saying “As-Salaam-Alaikum” (Peace be unto you) the correct response to this would be “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” (And unto you peace), this is usually followed by “kaif halak” (How are you). More traditional greetings may include the shaking of the right hand, whilst placing your left hand on the shoulder of the person you are greeting and exchanging kisses on each cheek. When greeting women, males should wait to have a hand offered to them, if this doesn’t happen a simple nod of the head will suffice. Likewise, for women greeting men, they should also wait for a hand to be offered. If you are unsure what to do, let the other person instigate the greeting.

For meeting etiquette, be sure to arrive on time, but do not be surprised if your meeting does not start on time. There is a more relaxed attitude to meetings in the Middle East. Once your meeting does commence allow for interruptions, either by the person you are meeting (answering their phone) or their colleagues (asking to speak with the person privately). A common faux pas in meetings is to sit with your legs crossed showing the sole of your shoe. This is considered very rude and something you should be mindful of. Do not be surprised if tea/coffee and pastries are brought into your meeting. Common practice is to accept these offerings and compliment your host on their hospitality.

As I stated earlier the U.A.E. is a Muslim country, therefore a more modest code of behavior is required. Public displays of affection should be kept to a minimum, holding hands is acceptable but anything more is frowned upon. There are many licensed bars in Dubai where you are able to enjoy a drink, yet you should remember that being drunk and disorderly in public is deemed as unacceptable and could result in a fine or worse. Finally, swearing or being rude/aggressive will not be tolerated in the U.A.E. and this could also land you in trouble should you be caught acting in this way.

The Decade of Changes in U.A.E.

Like most British expats, the lure of tax free earnings and 365 days a year of constant sunshine brought me to the shores of the U.A.E. When I first arrived in market the growth of the U.A.E. was driven predominantly by the oil and gas industry. Over the course of the 9 years I have been here this has changed and incorporated many other industries such as hospitality, medical/pharmaceutical and real estate. More recently the U.A.E. has seen a massive push to increase renewable energy sources. The Abu Dhabi government have committed to generating 7% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The nine years I have lived in the U.A.E. have brought me a lot both personally and professionally. From a personal perspective I met my wife and am now the proud father of William and Amelia. I couldn’t think of a safer environment I would want to raise my children. On a professional level, due to the continuous expansion and growth of the U.A.E. I have been able to build a successful career in recruitment which has enabled me to work for a market leader, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.

The U.A.E. is a progressive, inclusive and proud country ruled by a visionary leader. As long as you are in acceptance of the countries traditions and ways of life the potential for personal and professional success is limitless.

Nature Protector – Sail Jamaludin

Ever since he was a young boy in Malaysia, Sail Jamaludin had a love and appreciation for the local Sabah environment. As a child, Jumaludin’s father would lead his brother and him through the jungles of North Borneo to explore native plants and wildlife. After years of study and experience working with the local environment, Jamaludin devotes his days to preserving and protecting the local environment as the Director of Nature Reserve at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu.

To celebrate World Ranger Day on July 31, we sat down with Jamaludin to get to know more about him, his background and what drives him to help protect the local environment every day.

For almost 30 years since graduating from university in 1987, you have worked professionally with the environment. How has your past experience working with Sabah’s environment shaped your vision for the reserve’s involvement to help preserve and protect the local environment?

My past experience has taught me that my responsibility stems from more than just my job title. It is my social responsibility as a Malaysian citizen to help protect the environment at the Nature Reserve and in Sabah. I am proud of the work the team and I have accomplished, such as implementing awareness programs to encourage visitors and locals to help preserve the environment.

In your opinion, what is the biggest threat to the local environment?

The biggest threat to the local environment is forest clearing, in which vegetation such as trees and bushes are permanently removed from their natural environment to convert the land for cultivation purposes. This practice affects the environment in a very negative way, especially the animals that are losing their homes in these ecosystems. People can help alleviate these threats by participating in awareness talks and adhering to the existing laws that protect the Sabah environment.

What has been the biggest positive change of the environment throughout your years of working with the Sabah environment?

The biggest positive change I have been a part of is controlling forest clearing. Also, I have helped villagers initiate eco-villages where they sell handmade goods and teach visitors about the local environment. This helps the villagers maintain sustainable incomes and helps prevent more forest clearing.

From your time working with the Sabah environment, what has personally impacted you the most on an emotional or mental level?

Managing the Danum Valley Conservation Area has impacted me the most. During my time there, the majority of my role was to ensure that no illegal logging and trapping of animals occurred in the area, which is about 46,000 hectares of preserved forest. While the role took up most of my time, I would say the sacrifice pays off for the continued protection of the local environment.

Since 1996, you’ve been a part of the Shangri-La family when you led a team to set up a 64-acre nature reserve at the resort. Now, what is your favorite part about being the director of nature reserve?

I love meeting tourists, leading nature activities and teaching visitors about the conservation and rehabilitation work that occurs in the Nature Reserve and in Sabah. It is my responsibility to share the success stories of conservation and rehabilitation programs at the Nature Centre and throughout Sabah so every visitor understands and connects with the programs and the work that is being done.

Shangri-La is proud to have Sail Jamaludin on the team at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu. We look forward to the continued positive impact he will have on the Nature Reserve as well as the environment throughout Borneo.

Master Sommelier – Yohann Jousselin

The unique Shangri-La experience is created by our people who keep hospitality at the forefront and genuine from the heart.  Let’s see how our colleague Master Sommelier in Hong Kong, Yohann Jousselin, perform his duty with passion and joy.

Your role is what some people may dream of.  Can you share with us what are your duties?  What is the most difficult part of your job?

I ensure that all wine lists in all the restaurants are up to date and that we only serve the as high quality wines as possible at a competitive price.  I like being creative with my wine lists and as such I am always looking out for new wines.  I also do wine training for my colleagues to continue to elevate the high standard of dining experience in different restaurants.  During lunch and dinner service, I’m usually on the floor interacting and serving guests.  This is also the best time that I get to connect with guests and turn them into regular customers.  I think the most difficult part of my job is to stay on top of the market and to ensure that we are better than our competitors in terms of wine selection, pricing, delivery and service.

How did you discover your passion for wine?  When did you decide to become a sommelier?

My fond interest in wine grew from an early age when I started to help at my uncle’s vineyard in Loire Valley, France before attending wine school.  That’s when I decided to pursue a career in wine and moved to the United Kingdom to broaden my horizon.  I had an opportunity to work at Hotel du Vin, where I was mentored by Master Sommelier Dimitri Mesnard who encouraged me to enter competitions in order to enhance my wine knowledge and develop my skills as a sommelier. I was named Young International Sommelier of the Year in 2009 and U.K. Sommelier of the Year in 2011.

What is your personal favourite wine?  Why?

I don’t have a favourite wine but I’m someone who like to discover new wines / wineries.  I’m keen on trying new wineries in areas such as Eastern Europe – Slovakia and Hungary as well as upcoming areas including Uruguay, Greece and Brazil.  But if I need to stick to one region, then that would be Bordeaux.

Do you still remember your first glass of wine?  What was it and how did you feel at that time?

In France, we start drinking wine at a young age, usually 9 to 10 years old.  It was probably a wine from the Loire Valley where I am originally from and was given to me by a family member.

If you were not a sommelier, what would you be?

When I was young, I really loved playing football and I thought I would be a professional football player when I grew up.  I also love teaching and developing people’s skills which is something I’m able to do now as I can share my knowledge of wines with my colleagues.

Watch the interview –
Part 1:
Part 2:

What makes a good employer brand? – Carol Marsh

What makes a good employer brand? Whether it is consumer goods or services , a brand name seems to impinge on  a public’s consciousness. It is no wonder that millions are spent on advertising to create brand awareness.

When I stepped into my talent acquisition role, I was inundated with candidates who wanted to join the Shangri-La Group. As I conversed with candidates, I realized that the name of Shangri-La struck a chord with candidates. What I took for granted was what they desired – a brand name synonymous with the upper echelons in the world of hospitality. True, Shangri-La offers endless possibilities with its vast number of hotels but there was something else that was more intangible. Speaking to those who were formerly from the Group, there seem to be a consistent thread: Its People.

In recent months, the world of social media got a glimpse of the people behind the Shangri-La curtain. Recent campaigns such as the #5StarsChallenge, #ShareASong and #HIStory/#HERstory created a buzz online and showcased the employees who made Shangri-La what it is today.

As we sought to create awareness of who we are as an employer, we received a pleasant and unexpected accolade from the Employer Branding Institute.

On 4 August 2016, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts along with Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore were proud recipients of the Asia’s Best Employer Brand Awards 2016.  Standing side by side with other renowned brands across all industries, it was a crowning glory moment and a celebration of our people – the Shangri-La family.

For that is where lies the true spirit of the Shangri-La.

Author: Carol Marsh, Director of Talent Acquisition, Shangri-La Resorts and Hotels

Shangri-La Scholar – Wilmarie Dano

Wilmarie’s story has touched many of our colleagues’ hearts.

Despite the hard time when she was young, Wilmarie paid a lot of effort in her studies that she hoped to help her family in the future. She graduated with honors and was qualified for the Shangri-La Scholarship, which allowed her to get into college and to continue her studies.

After graduation, she joined Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu as a service associate in the kitchen. After years of diligence, she is now able to support the living of her family with honor and grace.

Let’s watch Wilmarie’s sharing about how her success is tied to Shangri-La.