How I Went From Being A White Girl Judging Arab Countries, To Living In One

(I wrote this back in 2008 and things have dramatically changed, hopefully for the better, but the topic of how we jump to conclusions and judge on what is usually an unfair situation is still very relevant today)


As I stood in line to board Emirates Flight 97 from Houston to Dubai, I noticed for the first time in my life that I was a minority. I was about to embark on a new career in a foreign country, which meant I would be adding “ex-pat” to my resume. How exciting! My duties would consist of creating strong business and personal relationships with the United Arab Emirates as a marketing manager for a new Dubai-based insurance company. I would be learning their needs and desires to help enhance the customer service lifestyle in a city that did not believe in insurance.

What?! Doesn’t believe in insurance?! Well, according to the locals, life is based on “Inshallah” meaning, ‘If Allah wills’. For example: “My car was broken into…Inshallah!” Of course, many ex-pats do not necessarily feel that way and would appreciate the opportunity to have quality customer service like we have grown accustomed to in our home country. That said, learning how other countries live and prosper through their traditions and culture can be intriguing, especially in a start-up city that seemed to be flourishing by the minute.


Back at the airport, a wave of fear ran through me. My nerves tensed up. I was a bit shocked by the suddenness of that emotion and very quickly realized my fear turning into humility for the judgment I had thrown on the people surrounding me. Was this all because they dressed differently than I did? No, but as a smart, mature woman who can think for herself, our biased news channels and newspapers appearing before me on a daily basis definitely had claimed a victory over me. All the articles, documentaries and speeches about 9/11 had led to even an educated American feeling fear. How was I supposed to build relationships and create a healthy community personally and professionally when my first reaction had led me to negative judgments? An hour later, I was sitting comfortably on the plane in my Lululemon apparel, blond hair, pale skin, typing away on my Mac. I had calmed myself by a release of self-forgiveness for judging the unknown and actually took the time to see each person through my heart.


Judgment happens without us even realizing it. A quick thought and then an emotion takes over. This is most likely due to our own insecurities. Judgment is a normal reaction, but for our world to prosper we must take the time to find out where that feeling has come from and work through it. No human being deserves to be judged and put in a box just because they might remind you of someone or something you have experienced as negative. Fourteen hours later, I landed in the desert, and found myself in an entirely Muslim world. The laws, the cultures, the wardrobe, food, and language were completely foreign to me. I looked at this as an opportunity to grow. I had the power to create this experience any way I liked. Had I entered the country with judgment, I would have closed myself off to the endless possibilities of living as an ex-pat. Believing that we are all divine beings having a human experience will bring forth the wisdom we need to release any judgment we hold on others and on ourselves, while becoming the women we have always envisioned ourselves to be.


Susan Singer

This story was originally published on



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6 comments to "How I Went From Being A White Girl Judging Arab Countries, To Living In One"

  • suzanne

    My daughter moved on her own to Amman Jordan a little over 3 years ago. She is a behavior therapist and works with children on the Spectrum.. She had an opportunity to help some families privately. She loaded up her then Bassett puppy, got on a plane and was to stay 10 months.. that was over 3 years ago. She lives on her own, the children come to her for therapy. She has learned “taxi aerobic” She has friends who value her and she needs no appointment to see them. Life is different, values are different and if it is meant to be she will return home and be forever changed.. She is not Muslim , her mother is also blond and blue eyed. I have learned so much during her journey.. I hope to have her home again one day.. Insha Allah

    • Thank you for sharing Suzanne. You never know where life is going to take you. The face that your daughter took that initial step is so courageous. Clearly she felt a higher power and knew she had to jump. She found her mission in life. Fear blocks most people. Your daughter is an inspiration. Best to you, Susan Singer

  • Zoe

    I also lived in Dubai as we briefly discussed in LA. When I entered the country, I was filled with anticipation and excitement, hoping to find stories that would prove that there was propaganda filling our news. After living in USA for 13 years coming from a Latin country I was used to diversity but experienced the limitations of American life when it comes to tolerance and acceptance. However I was shocked at the daily mental short circuitry of trying to connect to a group of people that perhaps are marked by years of conditioning that result in a conditioning of mistrust, therefore lies. Since it was so baffling, I pretended I was part of a character in a film and the plot would eventually have an end. By sheer miracle I was able to return to American soil. This was during the Arab Spring. In my experience I entered with optimism and left with judgement, and that is OK. Judgement can be an ally some times.

    • ZOE!! Thank you so so much for sharing. Yes, it was a world like no other. What an experience you had and how interesting ours lives aligned to meet. I am really looking forward to connecting again soon! We must chat!

    • Zoe!! Thank you so much for sharing. How interesting it is how our worlds came together with such similar experiences. I look forward to having our chat.