Building Bridges

Translation of the Interview from Dubai Magazin with Christine Stibi Issue April-June 2007

If an award for “innovative initiatives and projects to strengthen strategic partnerships between Germany and the UAE” would exist, chances are very high on Christine Stibi, founder & owner of Wiesbadens Office for German – UAE Relations, to receive this trophy.
These, at least, are the introducing words of Dr. Frank Höselbarth (a well-known author of personnel and marketing adviser and founder of the new developed FRANKFURT-DUBAI-GESELLSCHAFT), in his following interview with Ms. Stibi.

In this issue of Dubai Magazine we may introduce to you an extraordinary woman, already known as a ‘pendulum’ between the two worlds Germany and UAE. She had made both countries her home, because during 1997 to 2005 she and her family had lived in Abu Dhabi and also in Ajman, while at her time there she was a “creative head” and assist as a co-organizer of national and international horse riding tours in the Gulf region and international training camps for show jumper in Germany.

Like no other German Ms. Stibi seems very familiar with the most high ranking locals and Sheik-families, sharing their high affinity toward riding sports as well. Her excellent contacts and also friendship – like connections with the Arabian world had given her the knowledge of intercultural specialities of both countries.

After her return to Germany in 2005, Ms. Stibi immediately opened up her own ‘Connection office’ in Wiesbaden, the capital town of Hesse.
Two more meeting points are planned for 2007, one in Munich and also one in Rhenish Palatinate, her native country.

While preparing individual “Business Development Trips” for European entrepreneurs incl. personal meetings in the UAE – the so called One to One Talks –, in Germany this engaged woman leads one during special theme evenings at her “Marhaba Lounge” through every single emirate.

Nearly everyone of those project initiatives remains a novum, serving the intensity of strategic partnerships, the information, brand awareness or business development, but always focussed on building up new friendships and meetings between the two countries.

The occasion for this interview with the FDG holds a further novum: Because of Ms. Stibis initiative and creating concepts, for the first time an Arabian project developer from Dubai, the Iliyas and Mustafa Galadari Group got engaged as sponsor at the International Riding Tour in Germany. Needless to say, that the “Frankfurt Festhallenturnier” in December 2006 has been so very successful with it’s logos City of Arabia, that they now appear in “Dortmund Westfalenhalle” during April 2007 as well, decorating the advertising perimeters.

DUBAI Magazin: Ms. Stibi or, Christine, as you are called by your emirate friends, is there any job description for your activities?

CS: First of all I see myself as communicator and creative “bridges builder” between Germany and the United Arabian Emirates (UAE). In opposition to those often standardized delegation trips and fair visits, my projects will serve the building-up of strategic partnerships and also a targeted business development. As a result, real good friendships may often arise, especially because some times in the relation to the Arabian world – as I call it “from heart to heart”, – a vacuum seems to exist. Therefore I plan “One to One Talks” by individual meetings in the UAE or here in Germany. It is the wish of either my emirate friends and also an increasing number of German businessmen, who, while travelling through the Emirates with me, will take the chance for an interchange of ideas and get together with the decision makers. Numerous suspicious, intercultural specialities are present, and I offer uncommon marketing concepts incl. their realisation, coping with these differences. Advertisement and information are also parts of my activities.

Living and working in Abu Dhabi and Ajman in the past, I’m of no use for “mass tourism”. Since being privately close-knit to a great number of Arabian families, I often know hotels only through invitations to restaurants, or “Dailybeach-memberships” with the kids, or even visitors of German family members. Until today I resisted excessive shopping tours and “goldrush” in the souks and malls, but could not withstand horses and riding tours in the emirates. I love horses.

DM: Who gets in contact with you from Germany – and why? Actually there are official institutions as confederacy and countries on both sides, like IHK (Chamber of commerce) and AHK.

CS: Entrepreneurs, who are planning an entrance into the market, get in contact with me. Answering your second question: In no case do I see my work in competition to those institutions, but rather as an individual completion. Some IHK and AHK have already contacted me, because I am categorically breaking new grounds, based upon permanence and personally building-up of relation. Especially at the beginning of a relation with the Arabian countries, this personal contact is more important than the factual level, even though the product or service may have an distinctive unique selling proposition.

Don’t forget that economic delegations from all over the world arrive daily in the UAE, “handing over the door handle to each other”. Even fairs and exhibitions “burst at the seams”. Back in 1995 is was completely different; so you have to overlook the Emiratis, when a German businessman will be already forgotten after 20 minutes while still carrying the visiting card in his “kandorra”.

DM: Who’s contacting you from the Arabian Emirates and wherein lies the difference to Germany?

CS: Because my customers occur from the most different branches, my work is very multi various. At this time there are mostly project developers, looking for an extraordinary promotion or “brand-awareness”, often including the complete realisation in Germany. Since their directors of marketing are mostly no Europeans, they simply are “afraid” to enter the German market.
At the engagement of “City of Arabia” I fortunately happen to know the director very well; his identification toward riding tours is very high, and Frankfurt as the “City of Banks” extremely attractive. That is why he handed over the project representation to me, for this significant indoor riding tour in Frankfurt.

Becoming explainable to my customers because of my long term experiences, they know me for years as honest and reliable. That’s why a crossover took place, and since a while more and more duties are given to me from the UAE.
My references read like this: ministries, CEOs, bank directors, physicians, sole proprietors and investors.
Also families, who know me for years contact me. On one hand they wish to get in contact with German speaking countries, on the other hand looking for help and support in real estate, investments, investment controlling and also private matters.

DM: Is there an important difference to Germany, in visibility of personal matters?

CS: It doesn’t matter at private speeches if you talk about health, habits or lifestyle, kids or family affairs; kids and business in the Arabian countries go together, are centre themes and don’t need to be adjoined. Having children of my own, I’m the member of a huge family – who might build up a whole football team – almost alike Arabian families. It is obvious in the Emirates that the children are integrated in the (office) weekday or at weekends until late evenings. Often appointments are made around or with the kids; this behaviour seems more than strange to the German business world. No telephone call is made without asking in the first place of the well-being of the children and family. There might be the possibility of cancelling a business appointment in the UAE, because sudden problems with a child have emerged.
I am sure one serious German businessman, while reading those lines, may curl up the corner of his mouth. No problem for the Arabian (men)world.
They even never heard of our German problems called “superannuated society”, it does not exist. Children and grandchildren are the pride of every family, they are the future. THAT is the big difference.

DM: How did it come that in your German passport the UAE are registered as your residential home?

CS: The whole story started about ten years ago, at a time where Dubai and the UAE were almost unknown in Germany; a few German exhibitors offered during a fair German horses, riding training and tournament services to the Sheik families Al Nahyan, Al Maktoum, Al Qassimi and Al Nuaimi – they all share a great possession: a big amount of love toward horse sports. Suddenly a market niche has been found in stagnating Germany.
My centre of gravity became pretty soon the organisation of horse jump tours, first the national, later on international tournaments and also championships in the UAE. It meant pioneer work, together with my emirates friends. The results were shown in multiple contacts, up to friendships within the UAE and the neighbour states.
In short: Standing on my own two feet in an exciting market niche with two children, who became curious to see the other world; the positive atmosphere of departure being present all over the Gulf region by the middle of the Nineties, accelerating my energy and creative power – it wasn’t hard after all to pack the moving boxes for leaving.

DM: How did it come that responsibility had been given to a young, blonde German woman by Arabian male dominated world?

CS: Very often I had to answer this question. I can always repeat the same: If you don’t possess the verve, less joy, flexibility and initiative to serve the daily duties, problems and go after your obligations, one should probably check the tenor of his attitude.
My whole life I refuse stubbornly to become a pessimistic, cynical person, even though I had to face sad and disappointing times and moments. I am always ready to learn from my mistakes! Lots of years I spent as an “workaholic” with many creative and also innovative ideas. Except for my family and customers, there was no time what so ever left for any other activities.

And no matter if man or woman: In the UAE we Germans enjoy a highly prestige. Besides my understanding for horses and a strongly marked motivation in working, I put the real interest for the people in the UAE in the foreground. I like them very much, there visions, their plans. But first of all I respect the Arabian culture and their traditions.

DM: Please tell us about your new project “Marhaba-Lounge”.

CS: The Chamber of Commerce in Trier and the Economic Ministry of Rhenish Palatinate have been the first institutions asking me to present a recital mixture of personal experience reports and recommendations of intercommunications with Arabian business partners and their Arabian business mentality. Because of this positive echo and the real need for informations I initiated the “Marhaba-Lounge”, offering UAE theme evenings to entrepreneurs, clubs for investors and others, who are interested. By drawing a bow there is contemporary room for an informative and also relaxing evening, a pleasant atmosphere with of course Arabian food.
There is still a great information space: Who knows for example the small, rising emirate Ajman where I lived, or had heard of the unimaginable universities with the higher education possibilities in the UAE.
Countless new and interesting projects are present in Dubai – not only the everywhere thematized “palm tree”. I aspire through the Marhaba-Lounge always an educative evening.

DM: Coming back to the first question. I suppose I found the right job description for your distinctive activity. How about “Business Ambassador of the Heart”?

CS: That’s good, “heart” is a good expression, because the pure nose-heavy people will find complications in the UAE. You know, at the end of the day I at least would have tried to give positive energy to both sides, also some impulse for the sustainable business contact and last but not least the communication.