Smashing Middle Eastern Stereotypes With Corina Goetz

250 years ago the founding fathers drew up the U.S constitution.

They had been able to learn lessons from older nations and avoid some of their mistakes. This disparate union of states grew to become the world superpower. Today, there is a new and ambitious union that is looking to launch itself as a global player.

As a region it is having to unify many tribal interests in massive unified goals.

I’m always interested in examples where groups unify behind a single goal. It is also a great source of opportunities, but it has a very different culture to the western world. The result is we have a lot of misconceptions about doing business in the Middle East.

Corina Goetz is doing her best to smash those stereotypes.

Corina grew up in Communist East Germany. She moved to London when she could. As a German (especially as an East German) she felt misunderstood and stereotyped.

She saw the same misunderstandings in Westerners dealing with Middle Eastern Clients.

Now she works to bridge these gaps. As a non-Arabic speaker. A German woman, she nonetheless works with Gulf Clients from Royalty to VIP.

And now she helps others to avoid the mistakes that cost contracts.

Her agency Star-Cat teaches people who want to do business in the Gulf region what they need to know. From finding opportunities to cultivating relationships. To making sure Clients are satisfied.


Corina’s Linkedin Profile

Star-Cat Website


Rob: You’re not someone that I typically thought of talking to in terms of a team. But the Gulf region is growing so much. I’m talking with people who are doing work there about how much possibilities and how well developed they are like infrastructure in terms of education and how ready they are to take on so many different things.

Rob: And then I thought it would be really interesting to look at all these opportunities, being a context for teams that are going to expand and grow out there. We’ve been connected for a while and I’ve been following what you do. And I think the one post that really had most impact for me is once when you talked about why you did it. So I’m really interested to to dig into that. But first of all, in your own words, what exactly do you do?

Corina: Okay, so my, I titled myself as a Middle East Specialist. My experience is very much in hospitality. So in five star hotels and I’ve worked with a lot of [00:01:00] people for the past sort of 20 years from the Gulf region, and whether that be Royal family, delegations, business people, families on holiday.

Corina: So I have a pretty good understanding of a very different set of people. And I’ve also not just worked with one country. I’ve worked with Saudi Arabia, with UAE with Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman. So I’ve worked with lots of different people from these sort of regions. And what really always really struck me in hotels was that a lot of people just didn’t want to deal with this kind of clientele because they didn’t understand it. 

Corina: They found them really difficult and they just didn’t want to make enough effort or they didn’t have the right tools to understand where they came from, why there were certain expectations and for me that came very naturally because I was very curious, I love to ask questions and that’s why people from that region really warmed to me which you If you look at me on paper, [00:02:00] I’m everything that shouldn’t work because I’m a German and I’m a very typical German.

Corina: I like to be, on time. Actually, I like to be early. I like to plan ahead. I like to organize and in the Middle East you need a little bit more room. You can’t just do everything so rigidly. And then on top of that, I’m not an Arabic speaker and I’m a woman, and I never grew up there.

Corina: I had no prior exposure to the culture. So I’m everything that you would think, Oh my God, like this is not going to work, but I loved it. 

Corina: And I think people could see my genuine love for it. 

Corina: I wonder if you were referring to that post with the. With the stereotyping because basically one of my biggest things is I grew up in East Germany.

Corina: I was 12 when the wall came down and after that, people were stereotyping left and center. They still do after 30 odd years. It’s so wild. And people would say, ‘Oh, you’re from the East. All the people from the East have no [00:03:00] clue about nothing’. 

Corina: And the people from the East would say, ‘Oh, but this person’s from the West. They’re all just really arrogant and awful’. 

Corina: I hated being that stereotype. It was just awful. Because I’m like, I’m not like that. Look at me as a person. Maybe I’m not what you think I am. And I saw that same stereotyping with the Middle East. It was very much because people just didn’t know, 

Corina: ‘Oh, you’re from Saudi. Oh my God. As a woman, you have no rights in Saudi’. 

Corina: And the woman would be like, ‘ okay, that’s not quite true. And maybe we just have a different culture. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And what you have is right’. 

Corina: That really bothered me because I couldn’t also see how they were looked at in the West and in the States and in Europe and what people thought of them, even in my own, environment from friends and family, what kind of perceptions they had.

Corina: And I thought, Oh my God, this is exactly the same, what I experienced. 

Corina: So now what I do is I still work with a couple of people from that region. When they come to London, we meet up, I help them with some [00:04:00] recommendations and things.

Corina: But what I do now, and this is where my real big passion is I help westerners that either have clients from the gulf or that have projects there or where their companies have projects there and they don’t know much about it to help them understand the culture so they don’t walk in there blindly and they don’t know what to expect and they feel really apprehensive because it’s a culture that is so different to theirs and they don’t know what to make of it and how to deal with it.

Corina: If I can be that sort of bridge between the West and the Middle East and considering I’m not from the Middle East, then, that’s my mission. 

Rob: So the way I read that is like a cultural interpreter, like a guide, like if you were going up a mountain, you’d have a sherpa who would guide you up the way.

Rob: And that’s basically what you do for Westerners who don’t understand the Middle East. 

Corina: Pretty much, but I think also to show people where are the opportunities in Saudi, where could they even start looking? 

Corina: How could [00:05:00] they start reaching out for these projects or for these things? 

Corina: How could they put themselves into the mix?

Corina: And then if they’ve made some connection, how can they work on these relationships? 

Corina: And how can they make sure that this actually translates into business? And they don’t do any kind of faux pas. 

Rob: Okay. The post if I remember it you talked about being at a hotel and it was stereotyping and it was about the stereotyping of you as a German and all the ways that you felt misunderstood and, I think misunderstood and nobody had taken the time they’d made assumptions about you and stereotyped you rather than actually listening to you.

Rob: So it. It seems that it’s like your life theme. It’s come through this stereotyping. So tell me about growing up. So you were growing up in East Germany, whereabouts? 

Corina: My family is from not far from Dresden, that sort of southeast and where they live now is not far from the Polish and the Czech border.

Corina: So it’s like in that kind of corner. Very rural, [00:06:00] I guess we just didn’t know any different at that time, but there were like things that people just find mind boggling, which I do now, but obviously I didn’t see it back then. 

Corina: So for example, when there were like bananas, or oranges in the shop, people would queue for hours and you were lucky you could get one and you know they have these like little tins of pineapples this is what stuck in my mind so much these little tins that you can buy for like I don’t know what a pound maybe 60p or whatever it may be. At the time and this goes back 30 years ago they were like the equivalent of 20 pounds one of these little tins.

Corina: It was so unaffordable for the majority of people. And the same with travel, because the only places you could go was potentially like the Eastern Bloc. 

Corina: So you could go to Czech Republic, Hungary, You could go to Russia, although I never knew anyone who went to Russia, but even places to like Hungary or Czech Republic, they were so unaffordable for the average family that people never went.

Corina: And [00:07:00] and then another fun fact is that basically they had these sort of, cars that were nothing special that were very Eastern European. And you were on a waiting list for 15 years to get a used car. It’s not even a new one. It was just wild. 

Rob: Yeah. So I remember growing up and I remember hearing about, because it was the Soviet block and it was communist and, the news we got was people would have to queue for hours to get bread and everything.

Rob: It was like so hard to get. I don’t know how much was propaganda and how much was true. Did 

Corina: you feel? the basics you would get totally, but anything that you would be exotic like oranges and things like that, they were just not a thing. Anything I think that you could produce in the country, you could probably get like bread or milk or something, but you couldn’t get anything extraordinary, like no decent chocolate or what things like that.

Rob: Growing up as an East German, My understanding is like the Soviet bloc, it was Russia that controlled everything. How did that feel? [00:08:00] Because it must have felt You didn’t have your country’s independence. I don’t know how that felt to you. 

Corina: I think, because I was a kid I don’t think I saw it like that.

Corina: What I could see is I would and there’s a scene that my dad keeps telling me, we used to go to Berlin. On the Eastern side has this sort of like big tower with a revolving restaurant and you could go up there and it was quite a thing. We went up there once.

Corina: I don’t remember this, but he tells me the story. And I was a kid, I don’t know, maybe seven or eight, and he would explain, ‘oh, this is Western Germany and we can’t really go there’. 

Corina: And then I would say as a kid, ‘but they can come to East Germany’. And then he would say, yeah, they can. And I would say, ‘but that’s not fair’. How come they can come and we can’t go?’ 

Corina: You just didn’t comprehend it, but you could see some of the Russian influences, it wasn’t like that they were everywhere, but they were in your life, but you just didn’t know any difference. So for example, in school, you learned Russian as a foreign language, even before English.

Corina: So that was your first foreign language and people hated it because [00:09:00] like, why would you want to learn Russian, but that was just a thing and you just had to do it. We just didn’t know any different. 

Corina: I guess the shift for me was, where I started to see that there was other stuff is my dad was one of the very few people that actually went to Western Germany.

Corina: And I don’t think I’ve told that story anywhere before, because basically he was a truck driver and they used to, drive goods around Europe. And he was one of the few chosen ones that could go to Western Germany. When he went to Western Germany, they got like an allowance in Western money.

Corina: And he never used to spend that. He would take all the food on his trip from home so he could save that money because there were little shops in eastern Germany that you could go with only with that western money and you could buy stuff that you couldn’t buy in normal shops.

Corina: The majority of people could not afford it because even like the exchange rate it just wouldn’t work. And then the only thing he would buy would be things like oranges, chocolate and things. And then he would bring this home after [00:10:00] his trips. And then he would say to me and my sister, ‘ we can have all of this, but you can’t talk about this in school. And you can never take any of this to school’ 

Corina: I think one of the other things at the time was because he could go to the West I think they were very much aware that, our family was being watched and they were seeing what’s going on. Did he want to defect at some point or whatever?

Corina: So you were always surveilled, like by the neighbors, by anyone. So you couldn’t really give anything away. 

Rob: That must be really hard, particularly for a child who wants to go into school and say, 

Corina: I don’t know what I had. I just never really understood. And it just it didn’t make sense, but that was just what it was.

Corina: So I guess I accepted it for what it was, but what is really interesting, I see this behavior now still in my family now. So for example, like when I go home now and I see my parents and we sit in the kitchen and we talk about something and we have the window like half open, my dad would say, Oh, close the window because the neighbors don’t need to hear.

Corina: And I’m like, we’re [00:11:00] not talking about anything special, but that’s almost like what it was like back then. And I think that really stayed with them. 

Rob: Yeah. Yeah. That’s the kind of thing that just becomes subconscious in the end. Okay when you were a young girl what did you see as yourself doing?

Rob: Like people have a childhood dream. I 

Corina: never really did. I loved, like when I was a kid, I loved reading. And my grandfather had these comic books hidden away in, in his house. And they were like comic books and stuff. And this is really interesting, like looking back at this now, because I never really put that together.

Corina: These comic books always talked about the Middle East and had lots of palm trees. And I loved reading them. Every single time I used to go to my grandparents, that’s what I would do. I would go, into the roof and look for these. And, but I never really had any kind of I want to be this, I want to be that.

Corina: I think what was interesting, what, obviously once the wall came down, and then once things started to open up, I was like, I just don’t want to, like a lot of my School [00:12:00] friends then started getting jobs in banks. And I was like, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to sit in an office nine to five.

Corina: I need something that is interesting. And I think that’s how the whole kind of hotel thing came about. And I was quite decent at languages. Not that I can speak Russian now at all. But English was always something I loved and I actually learned English from MTV because when The Wall came down and afterwards, you had a lot more West TV and obviously MTV was based in London and I think that’s why the appeal with London came to And and then I went on two school trips to London and I loved it.

Corina: And I was like, I just got to get there somehow. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I initially had that thought. I wanted to go as an au pair to London. And my dad was not having any of this. He was like, I didn’t send you to school to become a babysitter. You need to learn something properly. So I did a degree in hotel management, which was actually [00:13:00] in western Germany, close to Frankfurt. And it involved me moving away from my family because you couldn’t find any sort of like places or placements to do that in Eastern Germany. It was just impossible. And then I thought now I’ve lived away I said to my dad, once I’m done with this, I’m going to London.

Corina: And he said, okay once you’re done with it, then that’s fine. You have a degree and do whatever you want. And that’s what I did. And. Yeah that was a whole different world. 

Rob: So what was it like coming to London? 

Corina: Oh, I loved it. I was like, oh my God this is the place. I just loved it.

Corina: Like I loved everything about it. Like it was everything that I saw on MTV. I know sound really ridiculous. But I loved but I loved working at so I got a job at one of the big hotels in London and I loved it. That’s where I then started to meet all these people. 

Corina: Some of the people I met now, I was so young. I had no concept of how important they were, not just from the Middle East, but I then also started looking after like [00:14:00] delegations and things. And I met people like Nelson Mandela and things like that. And I was like okay, I’m doing quite well, I’ve met a couple of famous people, but like with the Middle East as well.

Corina: And this is so interesting because looking back at it now, people say to me, Oh my God, I can’t believe, this and this prince. And I was like, yeah, because years ago, like I had no clue who the person was. And I met them and I just treated them like everybody else. And they just never forgot.

Corina: And this is the interesting thing, I think, with the Middle East, that people are very hospitable and they never forget if you’ve been kind to them, if you looked after them. I’ve had people that I’ve known for 15, 20 years and even if you lost contact for a little bit, like you, once they came back into my life, we picked up where we left off.

Corina: It was just amazing. And I just loved it. And the whole thing was so different. And I was so intrigued, and because obviously we couldn’t travel, I couldn’t travel much as a child, then I was like, I’m going to all these places, I need to go and see them, and I [00:15:00] need to see what this is about. So it was awesome.

Rob: So your first trip to the Middle East was that, that was a work trip, wasn’t it? I think I remember you, was it a work trip or was it just out of curiosity? 

Corina: It was a mix. I think it was a little bit work. And then it was, I had some extra time. I think my first trip was to, I think it must’ve been to Dubai.

Corina: And then shortly after I went to Qatar and this was like 2005. And it was just like, it blew my mind. Obviously Dubai was different to what it is now, but it was already so different to London, very glitzy. And I was like, I loved it. And the people were just so nice. 

Corina: People would meet you and the funny thing, people would then say, Oh, come to my house and have dinner. And for me coming from Germany, you wouldn’t necessarily ask a business associate to come to your house and have dinner with your family. That was Bizarre and people were just so nice and they open up like the heart and the homes And it was just beautiful and I loved it.

Corina: I was like, oh my god, that’s amazing. Yeah, i’m coming, you know [00:16:00] So yeah, it was awesome 

Rob: Your experience reminds me of my first trip to Turkey. So I’ve been to Turkey twice. And the first time we went, we had like a villa in this remote, way off the beaten track. We weren’t in a tourist resort.

Rob: So I remember it was about seven of us, I think. And we’d hired this van and we was driving around and, I remember my my dad and I went in and it looked like it was a takeaway. It had a facade of a takeaway. And it was like, we’d been driving. So we just wanted to get something quick.

Rob: So we go in and order and as we were ordering, I’m realizing that there’s got a facade of a shop basically, that’s all there is a facade and then there’s like goats out the back and a table and someone and so we’re ordering and say yeah. And then someone’s going off on a scooter and obviously they didn’t have enough stuff in, to cook for us all. So they were obviously going wherever they have to go. I can remember we got stuck somewhere going up a mountain and the people came out and they told us and when we were lost, people would help [00:17:00] us and, like you try and give them money and they’re like no. It’s just purely pure kindness. 

Rob: The second time we went to Another part that was very touristy. We had a place where all the expats are and they used to bring around these sheep and they were like, watch them cause they, it looks like they’re herding sheep, but actually what they’re doing is scouting out who they can rob. 

Rob: You go to the market and it was clear that you were just a wallet. But the difference between the tourist area and the natural area. My mum said that she was like, that’s how Ireland used to be. My parents are Irish. That’s how Ireland used to be is like, everyone was kind. Everyone was, really helpful.

Rob: And then when money comes in. It changes people and it becomes you’re not a person, but you’re a tourist, like a source of income. 

Rob: So I’m wondering over the, now obviously Middle East is different because it’s, I think it’s probably unique in history in the position that it’s in, but has it changed as it’s become more built up, as it’s become more of a tourist destination?

Corina: I mean, [00:18:00] yes, of course, Dubai, is very different to what it was like 20 odd years ago, but I think the fundamentals are still there. It’s still very safe. It’s a good place to go. Has it gotten more expensive? Yeah, of course it does. But I think that’s, I think that’s supply and demand.

Corina: If more people go there, I think of course they’re going to take advantage of that. But what I think, what is really interesting is that obviously Dubai seems to be all people know about the Middle East. They don’t really know there’s a lot more other countries. And this, I think, then also leads me on nicely to Saudi, and this is where it’s so exciting for Saudi, because Saudi was closed for tourism for so long, like you couldn’t get a tourist visa up until, I think, 2018, 2019?

Corina: Like, when I went in 2011, which was my first trip to Saudi this was on a work visa. But the process you had to go through, you had to get somebody to sponsor you there. Then it had to go to the to one of the ministries in [00:19:00] Saudi. Then you got it back, you had to go to the Saudi embassy. And it was a process that was like three weeks, four weeks.

Corina: And it was anyone’s guess if you would get a visa or not, especially when you were a woman. Because I had a colleague at the time who wanted to come and she wasn’t married. I was. So they refused the visa. So she couldn’t go on this trip. And then once you got to Saudi back then, as a Western woman, you were very much aware of what your limitations were because you had, first of all, you had to get changed on a plane.

Corina: You had to put on an abaya, you had to cover your hair. And then it was really tricky, wanting to do business because even if you were going to meet a local in the restaurant technically you were a woman and you were not with your husband or with your father so you that was actually not really allowed to meet a man that was not related to you.

Corina: And then also the restaurants were very segregated and there was just so much to take in and you, thank God I never had any issues with the religious police, but you were very much [00:20:00] aware of that this could happen at any time and you just wouldn’t know. And there were so many things that I just had no idea.

Corina: I’ve told the story many times, Starbucks had two entrances and one said single and the other one said family. So I thought obviously I’m not family, I’m single. So I go to the single entrance and the poor barista nearly had a heart attack. He’s no, you’re a woman, you’re supposed to go to the family entrance.

Corina: I’m like, okay, nobody told me this. And it was just like, I was like, Oh my God, I wish I had known all of this kind of stuff. 

Corina: Fast forward to now, what they opening up, they have so many interesting places. There’s so much history there. There’s so many diverse nature that you can go and see. I think one of the most exciting things is that like that Red Sea project that they have, because on the Red Sea site in Saudi, that was never developed for tourism.

Corina: So basically all the coral reefs, all the marine life, everything is still intact. And what they’re doing now is they’re only developing a very small part. So for the [00:21:00] people that obviously want to go diving. Really die hard diving fans and they want to see all this marine life in the coral reefs like this is all untouched and it’s still all intact.

Corina: So it’s so exciting. I think to have something like this that hasn’t been developed. What I love about this project as well. is that they’re very much saying, we’re developing this with nature in mind. We very closely need to monitor nature and the minute we see something is wrong or we see something is out of alignment, we need to stop and go back to the drawing board and see how we can preserve all of this because we don’t want to go down a route where all the coral reefs are going to die off. We need to preserve this for future generations. So I think it’s really exciting and it’s not so far from Europe. It’s only five hours by plane. So much quicker to get there. And there’s just so much more to see.

Rob: It seems like it basically has everything. On something in talking about Saudi Arabia. So my understanding, and I don’t know a lot but my understanding is there’s a [00:22:00] kind of a tension between the religious leader and the country’s leader. And it’s a balance where They’re changing, opening up and becoming. 

Rob: The way I see it is, it’s a unique period, like a unique place in history is that I don’t think, I think normally countries like England, France, Spain, Germany have basically conquered other countries and they’ve taken all their resources.

Rob: The Gulf is seems to me to be unique in that it’s got these resources of oil and whatever. And they’re able to use that to transform their country to become and I see them becoming. Or trying to become a superpower. And so they’re changing the country drastically and they’re engaging more on the world stage.

Rob: But that’s been balanced with I think they’ve been strictly religious ideas. And there seems to be a tension between opening up and becoming a player on the [00:23:00] world stage, but also maintaining their religious So I don’t know if that makes sense, or it’s probably one of the stereotypes so maybe you can shed some light on it. 

Corina: I think, yes, of course, I think if you undergo change in any way, it’s never easy and not everybody is gonna be on board because people feel unsettled by change. I think in the case of Saudi Arabia, I think there is a couple of different angles there.

Corina: One is that Saudi is such an important country for the religion overall. For the Islamic religion, because it has all the holy sites in Mecca. And so yes, there is a religious component, but what is really interesting that, Saudi also has a huge young population. So 63 percent of the Saudi population is under 35.

Corina: And they have very different ideas of what they want to do with their life to somebody who is let’s say 70 or 80. Hence why now the crown prince who’s in [00:24:00] his late 30s is a really very much behind all of the change of the country, because he understands what it’s like to be young.

Corina: But interestingly, he’s one of the very few people in the royal family that hasn’t actually studied abroad. So he studied in Saudi. His father, who is the king, King Salman, he used to be the governor of of Riyadh. And when the crown prince was much younger, he very much worked very closely with his father on, because let’s not forget that the Middle East is a combination of lots of different tribes.

Corina: And you also have to have all the tribes on board and all the different religious leaders on board. And that’s very much what your role is if you are like a governor of of a particular city. So when he was young, he very much from what I understand, shadowed his father and sat in on all these like tribal meetings to try and understand and he could see firsthand how he managed the friction between different ones and I think [00:25:00] these are some of the things that he is putting in place now in order to move the country forward and progress it but at the same time keep people on board.

Corina: Of course you can never have everyone on board but I think if you have a good majority of people that see where you’re going and it’s not there and what they’re doing is not for their personal enrichment. It’s for the good of the country and for the good of the population because if you look at all of these kind of different pillars that they have under Vision 2030 it’s all about, how to develop the country more, how to make it more attractive and let’s also not forget that for years and years I think Saudi lived off its oil and quite a few people didn’t work.

Corina: And it’s also to try and give these younger people, I think a purpose in life and a vision that they’re proud of their country that was never there before. Because before, a lot of the Saudis used to go to Dubai because they had a lot more entertainment, they had all the restaurants, and in Saudi you just, you couldn’t because it was [00:26:00] restricted, and all of these things and all that money actually went out of the country.

Corina: Whilst now, they have all the restaurants, they’re bringing in all the entertainment, like the boxing, the Formula One, all of these big events. So people are actually really happy. to stay within the country. And then of course to open it up more to tourism, which, for years and years, obviously Saudi had tourism, but that was very much the religious tourism or for the pilgrimage that, that people went on for religious reasons.

Corina: But it wasn’t like that people would come to Saudi Arabia, like as a tourist per se, to Go to the Red Sea or go to places like Al Ula or go to the mountains and things like that. And so there’s huge untapped potential, I think, in terms of jobs, in terms of quality of life, what you can do with the country.

Corina: I think they’ve been very smart about it and they saw, how things worked in Dubai, because I think we all know, first of all, I think at some point the oil is going to run out. But then I think secondly, as well, is there’s a massive [00:27:00] drive away from from all of the oil and towards sustainability.

Corina: So if they can try and capitalize on that and play a bigger role in this and make it for the good of the people and make it for the good of the country, I think then that’s a really good aim to have, I think. 

Rob: It makes me curious. I can see a bit of a parallel in that the United States was basically a country of immigrants.

Rob: And when you look at constitutions they had a great far reaching constitution and it made them a superpower. When you look now at Donald Trump and people like that It feels to me like it’s lasted because of the foundations that were put in place rather than what’s done now.

Rob: And there does seem a deep wisdom and far reaching vision that comes from the Gulf region states. Where has that come from? What is the vision? I know there’s a vision 30, 20, 30 or whatever, but what’s the vision [00:28:00] underneath that vision? Do you know? 

Corina: I think the vision underneath is that I think, very different to the West.

Corina: And I think maybe that’s also some of the things that are very appealing to me. Is that care for others? And that also goes back to a lot of the religion. So for example, if you look at the UAE and what they call the founding father called Sheikh Zayed, who brought all the different Emirates together and who brought all the different tribes together for the betterment of the country and for the betterment of the people.

Corina: I think there’s a deep desire to make sure that, people have a good life and that works within society. I feel like we have lost this a little bit here in the West because it’s almost a bit like everyone for their own. And there’s not too much for the common good or it feels at the minute, certainly it feels very polarizing.

Corina: And in there, it feels almost you have one goal and you bring the whole nation behind that goal. And of course, not every single person, but let’s say the majority of [00:29:00] people, because they can see that this is not just the goal of an individual, that it’s a goal for everybody because it reaches into every facets of your life. 

Corina: Because if you have better medical care, then maybe your kids are taken care of better, if you have better education and you can just look at like different countries as well. For example, if you look at Qatar, They have put a massive focus in on education.

Corina: They brought out a lot of the universities because they wanted to get their kids all educated. And then Sheikha Moza, who is the mother of the ruler this has been her overarching goal, not just for Qatar, but for the whole world. And she said, ‘ every single child should have an education.

Corina: And if we can do something good with the money that we have, with the wealth that we have, Then this is what my aim is’. 

Corina: I think that’s just very, that’s a very good way of looking at money. And I just feel sometimes here with all these different fractions and this party has arguments with this party and whatever they are doing.

Corina: It’s the other people then [00:30:00] will have to try and make better, but it’s just not cohesive enough. And I think the whole country also doesn’t really seem very united. I think it’s very split here, same in the US, I think. And and I think over there, and I’m not saying one is better than the other, but sometimes certain structures seem to be working better if they work for the population, I think.

Rob: It does feel to me that we’re coming to the end of a an economic model, where I don’t think politics works where I think the division and the competitiveness and it stop us working together. So I’m wondering if the fact that there were so many disparate or competing tribes, that the fact that they had to bring them together, that brings an awareness of That we have to bring everyone along if that’s maybe the mindset.

Rob: So what are the main stereotypes that you, that us Westerners have and why are they wrong? 

Corina: I think, oh my God, there’s so many. And some of them really boggle my mind. People say to [00:31:00] me, do people out there even speak English? And, it’s amazing because the majority of the Gulf, whether it be Qatar or Saudi or the Emiratis or the Kuwaitis, they speak at least two languages because they speak Arabic and English.

Corina: Most of them even speak a third language, which is French most predominantly. But I’ve met people like a minister from Qatar who actually spoke German. And I was like, wow, because, German to me is not a language that I think is universally needed because it’s only spoken in so many little places.

Corina: So I get the French appeal, but yeah. So that’s one thing. Language education is another. I think maybe sometimes people think, yes, of course, there used to be tribes and everything, but moving now in 2024, people have studied in the US, they have studied in France, they’ve studied in the UK, they’re very well in tune with what’s going on in the West.

Corina: They have a very good understanding. So it’s those kind of things. Also and I would say this was [00:32:00] probably more dominant like 20, 25 years ago is that people or companies saw them very much as, Oh my God, there’s unlimited supply. We can charge them whatever we want, because they just have so much money and they don’t know any better.

Corina: That’s also not true anymore. People have budgets, people know exactly what is going on. Social media is so advanced out there. Again, when I sometimes encounter people that say to me, we have to tell the Saudis, which is, it’s the newest, hottest restaurant.

Corina: And then I always go and say, they probably know before you, because they’ve been on social media all along and they probably know way more. People say to me, Oh, we heard about this coffee shop. I’m like, No, and I even live here. So I think social media and the whole kind of internet and everything has opened up so much more.

Corina: And I think people are way more educated and they have they have way more things in common with us than we think. Down to, and I give you one last Because that was something that I [00:33:00] loved when I was at a conference last week and they were discussing, it was a conference about women in sports in the Middle East.

Corina: So very precise. And they were saying that basically the Saudi female national football players get paid exactly the same as the male football player players in the national team. And I was like, wow, the West could learn a thing or two from that. And apparently I didn’t notice either is that the whole kind of equal pay is a massive topic in Saudi, and it’s a massive topic across the board to make sure that women are paid exactly the same as men. And I think that’s amazing. 

Rob: That obviously goes right against the beliefs that most people have. Okay, so obviously you help people with the opportunities that are there and there are so many. Where do you see, or typically what might someone like me not be aware of and people who are maybe looking to [00:34:00] attract business what opportunities are there that maybe aren’t as obvious?

Corina: I think there’s a whole range of opportunities, in a variety of industries, whether you’re in construction, you’re in interior design, whether you’re in tourism, whether you’re in hotels, whether you’re in education, I think there’s so many different things that are needed.

Corina: And just today, I was talking with with a Saudi friend of mine, and he’s actually a protocol expert. And he was telling me that, there is a huge gap for knowledge for people in Saudi that just don’t know enough about protocol. How to look after certain VIPs and certain people when they come and visit, how should they look after a client from start to finish.

Corina: So I think there is a massive opportunity for so many different areas like, or being a coach, for leadership. We have a very young population that are coming into these new leadership roles and they need help [00:35:00] because they may not have had the tools and where else are they going to look for these tools than to, the UK or the US where this has been established a lot more.

Corina: There’s so much, and that’s to me is where it’s really exciting because there’s so much that can be done. Also like in terms of healthy eating, this is such a massive market that yes, quite a few of the brands, that we know much more now here that are, healthier or, they have, I don’t know, they have like juices or these sort of like protein bars or things like that.

Corina: That’s just not there. Like last time, and I know they’re changing the airport, but last time I was at Riyadh, at the airport. They had a Dunkin Donuts, a Paul’s and a coffee place. And I was like, where’s the salads? Where’s give me something. I don’t want to eat a Dunkin Donut. I’m sorry, no offense. But so there’s this whole area of education, like sports, physical activity.

Corina: There’s so much that can be developed [00:36:00] where there’s opportunities for events that people would have never thought about. Who would have thought about that all these big boxing matches were suddenly happening in Saudi? And that brings a whole bunch of different things.

Corina: Then they need people for hotels. They need people to look after the VIPs. They need people to do the promotion. They need to attract these people to start with, to do these boxing match or do these entertainment. And for that needs another education because they probably haven’t heard about Saudi or they just felt a bit like, Oh, I don’t know why I should go there.

Corina: But every single person that I’ve spoken, that has been to Saudi. I’d say, In the last two years, they were always so surprised and like positively surprised. They’re like, Oh my God, everybody’s really nice. They all try and help you. Even if they don’t speak English, now we have Google translate. It’s very easy.

Corina: We can communicate these days. It’s much better than before where we were there with a translation book. Now we have everything at the tip of our fingers.

Rob: Okay. So just to [00:37:00] finish up, who would be the perfect type of person that you could help? What might they be struggling with and how might they reach out? 

Corina: Okay. So I think there’s different types of people. So firstly I would say there’s a person who thinks, okay, maybe I should go into Saudi. And it sounds like there’s a lot of opportunities, but I don’t even know where to start or how would I even do this?

Corina: And that would be the perfect person that I could help and show you where can you start with? How can you start connecting? How can you work on these relationships? 

Corina: Obviously, my website, which is

Corina: otherwise you can find me on LinkedIn. 

Corina: Or you could also be a person that, for example, has Middle Eastern clients, but you want to have more, and you don’t really know how can you tap into this market, and how can you make them really loyal to you. That’s also something I can help with, to where you can manage the client even if you don’t go out there all the time, but you can still stay top of mind, [00:38:00] hence meaning You will be the first person they’re going to think about if they want to come to London or to Paris or wherever it may be.

Corina: And that’s exactly what you want and then they will refer you on to their sister, their cousin, their friend, and you have a whole new audience that you never had before. So it’s all of these things where you can shortcut a lot of these a lot of this knowledge that otherwise you’d spend like hours googling or trying to find and see how to do this.

Corina: That’s exactly where I can help because that’s also what I do and implement day by day. after day with my Middle Eastern clients. And that’s what I now teach my Western clients, what I do myself. 

Rob: Okay. One last question is where are you going? So this is what you’ve been doing. And I suppose I’m getting to what’s your why and what’s the end goal for you?

Rob: What’s, is there, do you see yourself doing the same or is there some new level for you? 

Corina: I think there’s always new nuances and there’s a couple of different projects [00:39:00] that that I’m working on, like with my protocol friend, because I just think, if we can help some more of the younger Saudi people understand, what is a good flow of service, that’s something I would like to do.

Corina: But I also would like to do some more travel in Saudi. I’ve done quite a bit, but there’s way more to do. And because there’s so many more places that I’ve never even seen and that and that became very apparent to me when I actually went to Taif this year and Taif is is a city very close to Jeddah, not far from the Red Sea, but it’s in the mountains.

Corina: And it was amazing. Oh my god. I think I had the best three days there because they have an annual rose festival They had the longest cable car in the world I never even knew any of this so and I had the most amazing guide and he was saudi and he was Awesome. Like I literally tell everybody about him.

Corina: Even I had a Saudi client in Saudi and he was like, who did you go with in Taif? And I was like, no, I found this [00:40:00] amazing guy. And guess where I found him on LinkedIn. And he was amazing. He was just so so good. He had lived in the West, but he had such a passion for the country. I said to my husband afterwards, he took us to places we would have never found them as tourists. 

Corina: Like no way would we have gone for a local Saudi breakfast. Cause that’s what he wanted to show us. And it was just amazing. And that’s the kind of stuff that I want to do more of. And I guess coming back to your question about the why, I want to stay and be that bridge.

Corina: So people will look at me and say, okay, she’s not from there, but she’s obviously been there quite a lot. We can identify with her as being a Westerner and maybe we can learn a thing or two. And if I can bring our cultures a little bit closer together to bridge these, polarizing views and just, I don’t know, come together a little bit more as a community and develop an open mind and an understanding, then I think, I’ve done a good job.

Rob: Yeah, I that makes [00:41:00] so much sense to me in that my work is conflict relationships and it is about bringing people together. When we can do that’s how we have peace and we can grow rather than keep fighting wars. So I think it’s fantastic work you do.

Rob: I’ve got so many more questions, but it’s been fascinating, but I know that you’ve got you need to go.

Rob: So thank you so much for your time. I’ll let you get on with your day. Thank you, Corina. 

Corina: Thank you. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. It’s been a real pleasure. I’m okay actually for for a few more minutes. But thank you so much for having me. This was really nice. And I hope your audience will find it interesting.

Rob: I’m sure they will. It’s such a growth market and I find it really interesting in, the kind of geopolitical because it seems a different mentality, because I think, like I said, I think the United States that started with such great foundations, it was accepting, it was a place where anyone could go, anyone could find their dreams and it dumbed down the more. 

Rob: I think some of what I’m hearing like you’ve said, and I’ve heard before of how educated, how literate [00:42:00] and how, understanding they are in working and getting higher performance makes me really interested in finding out more.

Corina: Thank you so much. No, thank you for having me. I think that was really fun. 

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