See people don't really get the reality of the values embedded in the society here. Personally, I always thought I was more Eastern than Western... but after four years, I can proudly, happily and confidently state that I am very much a Westerner. A practicing Muslim Westerner. For instance, I always say "please" and "thank you" - it doesn't matter to whom; and it doesn't sit well with me when I don't use pleasantries or niceties. Arab women, no matter where they're from, don't do this.
The other thing I don't particularly like about the Arab culture is that they don't view marriage in the same light as we do. We think of it in terms that embody the words serious, forever, intertwined, always... i.e. doused in romanticism and idealism. Not everyone here has the same ideas. They are much more detached from their partners. There are very few love marriages and they view marriage like a transaction - each of them being the commodity to the other. To others, marriage is as significant as a disposable shower cap. This has been evident to me from the very beginning of my time here in Arabia.
On one particular day I was returning some gluten-free bread that I had bought that had soya as a key ingredient, which I couldn't consume. I approached the customer service counter, in a hurry. The commute had put a dent in my plans to just veg out in front of the tv and I was anxious to return to my hotel.
He looked up from his phone and without putting much thought into it, he blurted out "You are beautiful". I knew he meant it because he had this sincere look in his eyes and seemed taken aback by what he'd just confessed - and, I looked like absolute shit. I had no makeup on, with my glasses - and my hair was a mess under a frumpy headscarf that wouldn't stay on my head, exposing tufts of hair in the most unkempt way. I didn't care though, because I just wanted to return the product and rush back to take a nice shower.
I said "Thank You", eyeing him carefully. I thought I'd test out a theory of mine. I asked him, "Are you married?", knowing for a fact that he had to be married since most of the youth in that region of the country get married at a young age.
He said "yes", somewhat reluctantly. I replied by saying, "too bad". And in a flash, I could see every emotion cross his face as he contemplated what that meant. I could literally see his thought processes as he thought about his wife and kids at home, and trying to think of ways he could relieve himself of them, what that would mean, what it would take...
I studied every expression, thoroughly amused. He immediately asked me my name, where I'm from and what I do... I could feel his heart rate increase from across the counter, his expression still transparent, his eyes darting frequently from the cash register to me and back to the product. I could see his brain frantically contemplating and calculating all the information he was being fed, trying to come up with an equation that would entitle him to this prize.
It wasn't long before one of his colleagues and friends snapped him out of his frenzy with a question, and I smirked knowingly, took my refund, and said goodbye.
I felt his heart sinking from across the room as I walked away, wishing he knew where I was going and hoping that I'd return so that his brain could find the time to conclude the internal transaction between his heart and his genitals.
And during all that time, I thought to myself... this is why I couldn't and wouldn't get involved with an Arab man. It would tear me apart knowing that the man I chose to devote myself to would so readily, and eagerly throw away everything, just for the thrill of something new and foreign. That he would even consider a compromise...
Arab women in general are accustomed to this kind of behaviour and culture, because they ascribe to it too. They expect nothing more or less from the men. But like most things - there are many exceptions to varying degrees in either direction. There are many - especially among the younger generations - that have a more modern aka Western approach to their relationships.
Culturally, we just value different things.