Myths about Omanis

October 21, 2014

Misconceptions are erroneous formations or mistaken notions, views or attitudes brought about by ignorance and misunderstanding.

Misconceptions can prove perilous in a globalised world, as all cultures can be victims of such acts which serve as catalysts for fatal stereotypes affecting interactions in business and intercultural settings.

Here, I visit two of the main misconceptions plaguing Omani people which I have gathered as part of my ongoing research into the nature and identity of modern Oman.

Omani people are naïve: This palpable fallacy dates back to the first book on Omani character, as portrayed in Omani proverbs collected by an Indian diplomat in the 20th century by the name of A S Jayakar.

Together, the collected proverbs paint a vivid image of Omanis as practical, hard-working, but, at times, naive. The “naivety” feature has continued being associated with Omanis over the years, especially among people in the neighbouring countries who keep referring to Omanis as simple-minded and gullible; as a result, Omanis, the argument goes, could easily be fooled.

In their misunderstanding of this quality, some go as far as proclaiming the inability of Omani people to fare well in leading positions, due to their “naivety” and lack of savviness.

Omanis are indeed naïve but positively; that is, the misconception that Omanis are naïve rings true but only to a certain extent. Omanis are not imprudent, which is the negative connotation of the word naïve, but rather they are ingenuous people who lead a simple life; hence, they revel in giving people the benefit of the doubt.

This stance stems from a deep-rooted spiritual means of life which Omanis practice summarised in the Omani mantra “All is well”. This mantra is the highest religious and spiritual teaching that Omanis engage in on a daily basis leading them not to sweat the small stuff. Thus, it makes sense that Omanis are not quick to judge or act. They are easy-going, resulting in the erroneous view that Omanis are simple-minded. Omanis are spiritual beings who know exactly when and how to act. And when they do, the world listens.

Omani people are passive: That Omanis are passive, an ubiquitous misconception among Arabs in the Arabian Gulf, is the result of Omani people’s low participation in social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This deference to social media has erroneously resulted in describing Omanis as having no freedom of thought and action: Omani people are inaccurately characterised as a nation with no say or drive.

Omanis indeed are not very much present on social media. However, the reason behind this fact is not so much the lack of opinion or resolution; Omanis tend to shy away from social media because Omanis, in conjunction with the Omani government, prefer not to interfere in the business of others.

At the same time, they rather handle internal matters privately through WhatsApp, for instance. This feature of Omanis, which is also reflected in the policies of the Omani government that celebrates tolerance and peace, is something that sets Omanis apart, for it builds a strong, stable character that can handle anything, quietly, respectfully and resourcefully.

In other words, Omani people are neither incompetent nor complacent; they are highly intelligent people who are not easily swayed by positivity or negativity: Omanis have nothing to prove. The mindset of Omani people: The most prevalent feature of Omani people is that Omanis (and the Omani nation) do not sweat the small stuff, or care about minute occurrences. Omanis represent a character that values independence, non-exaggeration and revels in finding joy in small things. Omanis are strong, adaptable characters who not merely extol independence; they revel in making lemon juice out of lemons. Collectively, then, Omani people represent a spiritual character who realises there is more to life than taking things personally or seriously; on the contrary, they take it easy, for they see life for what it is: Full of wonder, simplicity, and soul!