Friendship with the opposite gender okay, but has its limits

Friendship with the opposite gender okay, but has its limits

'Friendship between man and woman depends on culture'

By Jasmine Al Kuttab

Published: Tue 4 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 4 Aug 2015, 10:33 PM

Friendship between members of the opposite gender are often frowned upon in conservative societies. Social environment, religion, culture and family background play a huge role in choosing a friend from the opposite gender. Fruitful, platonic friendships could sometimes end up bitterly due to these social constraints.
A couple of days back the world celebrated Friendship Day, and Khaleej Times went on the streets to speak to people on how they view friendship between the opposite genders.
Many felt there was nothing wrong in having friends from the opposite sex, but there were also those who felt their culture plays a major part in choosing friends.
The same question was put up as a poll on, as well as on social media.
Of the over 1,500 participants who voted on the website, 56 per cent were of the opinion that men and women can be just friends. However, a debate ensued on social media and majority were of the opinion that such relationships only invite trouble.
Khalifa bin Ahmed, 29, an Emirati IT consultant, considers friendship as a key element in life. "I believe friendship is important in any healthy society. I think men and women can be friends, but just like anything else in life, there are certain limits that can't be exceeded."
Bin Ahmed highlights the importance of respect when he says that, "Friendship between men and women should be respectful, as we live in a conservative society."
However, friendships between opposite genders may often feel natural, depending on one's culture. Paul Williams, who moved to the UAE from London, said that women make up the majority of his friends. "I've actually got loads of female friends. I find it much easier being friends with girls than guys."
Other expats believe that friendships between different genders should start from an early age. Zainab Al Adhami, 28, accountant, states that it's all about one's upbringing. "It's not simple for men and women to become friends unless they are brought up in a way that allows them to have normal and healthy relationships."
Al Adhami explains that emotions may often lead to trouble. "It may be difficult to be friends if there are feelings or emotions involved."
She highlights the meaning of friendship. "It's all about accepting your friend for who they really are and respecting their opinions and beliefs, no matter what."
Ahmed Al Majayda, 27, who works for the Ministry of Labour, believes in normalising friendship between opposite genders. "It's important to mix genders from early on, so once they enter university and workforce they don't have a shock. Today, most universities and workplaces have mixed genders; therefore they will have to eventually mix."
However, Al Majayda points out that certain cultures and generations may find it unacceptable. "It depends on the culture. For example, I felt uncomfortable when my sister joined university and suddenly had many male friends, but then I learnt to accept it because I know it's normal for our generation. However, it may not be acceptable for the older generations, because they have different mindsets when it comes to certain things."
Al Majayda agrees that friendship is a key foundation in life. "Friendship helps run and develop your life. Each friend has a different effect on us and that's why it's so important to choose your friends wisely."

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