In a country where nationals constitute more than 80% of the population, ramadan experience is nothing new! I mean, every couple of years a new fashion pops up, and everyone starts following the trend.
In Jordan for example, everybody goes through ramadan with almost the same set of habits. And since this post is not about Jordan, I will not go through the details.
But here in Dubai, where 92% of the population are expats! Where Arabs are a minority, and Muslims are a small majority (if this expression is actually correct, & if they actually make up more than 50% of Dubai's population, which I doubt) Ramadan can be very different.
I spoke in a previous post about how my ramadan experience was different in Saudi from that one in Jordan, from this one in Dubai. But how do other people - other nationalities, non-muslims - actually react to the event?
From my experience, and considering the conversations I had with the above mentioned segment, and from my real life encouters with people, I will try to describe how major nationalities handle it.
British & Australians: (Generally an Elite group in the society): They deal with it very conservatively. Probably won't greet you on the first day fearing that this will start a sequence of events leading to them having to be more considerate during the month. They act as if nothing happened. Some of them though, would complain! about restaurants being closed, and females will complain about having to dress modestly!! As if they actually do. Nevertheless, they will cut down on eating in public.
Americans: (Also, a super Elite group in the society): Well, how can you put this?... They are totally disconnected. This is the way they are even during other months! I think they have some kind of paranoia that people are out there to get them! Courtesy of their government's efforts to make the US the most friendly country on earth!!... However, they will generally greet you, and you will rarely see them eating in public.
South Africans: (British wannabe's) Complain more than those they claim to be like.
Other Europeans: (Also Elite) Generally more polite & considerate. They will greet you, and try to enjoy the atmosphere with you. You'll see them in Iftar buffets & smoking Shisha in coffee shops after iftar!! Credit goes to us for making them think this is actually one of the month's customs!! They'll apologize if you saw them eating in the office!! which is usually permitted. They ask so many questions about the spiritual importance of the month! And sadly, a lot of us screw up the answer, and we end up giving the impression that the month is a bunch of silly customs which usually mean nothing.
Filippinos: (From all levels of society) I usually call them the HAPPY PEOPLE. They are fund of dancing, singing, partying, taking pictures & meeting other people (Other than filippinos). As a result, they are very polite, considerate, they also try to share the spirit, and one office mate of mine actually fasts just like us!! They also ask a lot about the spiritual significance of the month.
Indians: (From all levels of society) Generally speaking, indians operate within a very small wavelength! Meaning, it is extremely rare that you'll meet an indian who will have abrupt changes in his lifestyle or reaction to events!! Very systematic. As a result, nothing changes. They stay the same. However, they are still considerate and polite.
Non-muslim arabs: (From all levels of society) Generally speaking, they are the least considerate and polite people during the month!! Which actually comes as a surprise!
The thing is that in jordan many of my best friends are christians, and they were very polite, very considerate & extremely well mannered! In a car, my christian friend would be the one to turn music down when the call for prayer is on! But here, and I hope I'm unfairly generalizing, they eat, drink, & dress like nothing happened! In fact, In the office - during other months of the year - I rarely see any of them eating on their desks!! Now, they all do it!! every single day! Despite the fact that the food court downstairs is working with full capacity!!.
It begs the question; is there a reason why this observation is so prevelant???
Having said all that, I think the muslim population is to blame for whatever misconception other people have regarding Ramadan. We are killing the spirit of the month, and we take the blame for the results.