We are almost half way through the Holy Month of Ramadan and there is so much that I have seen and learned about Ramadan in the last 2 years that I have moved to the Middle East. Across the world, Ramadan resonates with people regardless of creed or nationality. It inspires people to reflect, give to charity, and bond with friends and family.
From the very first day of Ramadan, the pace of life changes. Across the GCC, tents spring up where families welcome visitors for ‘Iftar’ and ‘Suhoor’1 . People tend to finish work earlier, and spend more time with their loved ones. The nights get later, as those fasting wait in the company of their family and friends for their ‘Suhoor’ meal – just before sunrise. Even for those not fasting, ‘Iftar’ and ‘Suhoor’ gatherings strengthen social bonds.
This spiritual time of year is an amazing thing to experience. It is a month where acts of kindness are the norm. Just a few days ago, the UAE Minister of Youth personally distributed Iftar meals to motorists on the road who couldn’t reach home in time to break their fast with their families2.
There are always special charitable initiatives launched during Ramadan, with the aim of making a genuine difference to the lives of people who have little. For instance, this year saw a caring individual launch a Ramadan sharing-fridges campaign in Dubai3. The idea was simple – to ask people to fill fridges with food and drinks for blue-collar workers in the community. The idea spread like wildfire, with hundreds of people getting involved.
At Xpress Money, we’ve known for a while that Ramadan changes behaviours, attitudes and even money transfer habits. With the objective to better understand these changes, we commissioned a comprehensive survey of expatriate behaviour and spending habits during Ramadan. The survey sampled hundreds of expats across the GCC, with a special focus on UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman.
For me, the results were concrete evidence of changing attitudes during this special occasion. Our survey showed that Ramadan inspires expatriates across the GCC – whether they observe the month or not. For instance, 68% of our respondents said they spend more on charitable acts during Ramadan.
Families are very important to expatriates across the GCC, and the desire to be with them becomes even more pronounced during the month of Ramadan. 74% of GCC expatriates felt the need to spend more time with their families, and were more inclined to travel back home to be with them.
Remittances to friends and family back home also rise during Ramadan, with 47% of our expatriate respondents sending more money home during the holy month.
And finally, Ramadan brings people together, especially over Iftar and Suhoor occasions. 40% of our respondents said that they were likely to spend more during the month in socialising with friends and family.
I’m deeply appreciative of the values Ramadan inspires, and we now have first-hand knowledge of how the occasion changes behavioural patterns of our customers and expats in the GCC.
Written by – Ashwin Gedam, Vice President – Global Marketing, Xpress Money