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Culturally Aware Taxi Drivers Ensure Good PR for The UAE


If you’ve visited the UAE, then you’ll know that one of the things they do really well (particularly in Dubai), is to create great visitor experiences.

The UAE is known for its beautiful architecture, luxurious hotels, beautiful mosques, cultural landmarks and incredible tourist attractions.

It’s also well known for the high levels of customer service provided to those visiting.

Staff are typically very well-trained in customer service and are well known for providing great service across a vast multicultural portfolio of visitors and resident expats.

The customer service experience doesn’t just stop at the core customer service roles in the hospitality industry however, it also extends to taxi drivers.

The Taxi, Cultural Awareness and the Traveller Experience

Whether the UAE, or elsewhere, taxi drivers are often the first people that travellers come into contact with and, for travellers to have a good experience from the start, then it’s not sufficient for taxi drivers to know only the roads.

Indeed, the Road and Transport Authorities in Dubai are on a mission to deliver the highest global services in taxi driving by putting new drivers through extensive training in areas such as cultural and gender sensitivity.

The UAE is a multicultural melting pot with indigenous Emiratis accounting for only 20% of the population. The other 80% includes expats from over 200 nationalities with Indians and Pakistanis making up the largest nationalities. Although Emiratis can drive taxis, very few do, which means that the majority of drivers tend to be Indian or Pakistani.

Cultural Awareness Training

Since most drivers are expatriates, the importance of UAE cultural training is well recognised. Drivers are unable to represent the country well if they don’t understand the culture.

As such, when training, new drivers are trained in UAE culture and sensitivities. They need to understand, for example, the role of gender in the UAE and appreciate that looking at a woman in the driving mirror is unacceptable.

Equally, the sensitivities around offence also need to be understood, with an appreciation of the offence that music with swearing or inappropriate lyrics may cause if played during the journey.

Taxi drivers also need to be sensitive to practices such as the fast during Ramadan and understand restrictions relating to smoking, drinking or eating in the taxi during fasting hours.

The cultural sensitivity element of the training isn’t limited to drivers acquiring an understanding of Emirati culture only.

Since taxi drivers in the UAE service one of the most culturally diverse customer bases in the world, training also recognises the need to think about the cultural background of the customer, and to adapt one’s approach where needed.

For example, although customers from certain cultures would find it inappropriate to chat with their driver, in other cultures it’s expected, and the driver would be considered rude if they were not to engage with their passenger in some way. Take, for example, passengers from the UK and the USA, where good customer service requires the driver to engage in pleasantries and a little small talk.

The training programme developed for new recruits has gone a long way to reducing the complaints previously levied at UAE taxi drivers and the country is well on its way to achieving the global standards set out by the Road and Transport Authorities.

Commisceo Global provide online UAE cultural training and webinar cultural training to corporates globally. 

Photo by Fabio Achilli on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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