Illustration by Joaquin Kunkel/The Gazelle

Multicultural banking in DIFC

A sophomore's experience of interning in Dubai.

Sep 18, 2016

This summer, I did an internship at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ’s Dubai Branch as a Corporate Banking Summer Analyst. My experience in Dubai proved to be a tremendously beneficial and enjoyable one.
I discovered this opportunity through the NYUAD CareerNet. As someone interested in learning more about Middle Eastern economy and Japanese culture, I figured that interning at a major Japanese bank’s Middle Eastern headquarters would be a perfect fit for me.
I thought my chances of getting the job would be slim, as I was told during my phone interview that the bank had quite a number of competitive applicants. However, one sunny afternoon I was informed by the Career Development Center that I had been offered one of the only two internship spots. As you could imagine, I could not have been happier.
My internship started in the middle of June 2016 just after my summer course, and it lasted for the rest of the summer. I went back home during the Ramadan holidays in the beginning of July, though I was enjoying my internship so much that I almost did not want to leave. The initial weeks of my internship were a real eye-opener for me, as I learned a tremendous amount of new things about finance on a daily basis. During my rotation through various departments within BTMU’s Dubai office I spent a lot of my after-work hours studying from finance textbooks on my own, so that I could better understand the financial products or procedures that I was dealing with. This is also something that I would advise my peers to do during an internship. Keep learning on and off the job so that your supervisor would not hesitate to give you more responsibilities and exposure to new areas of work.
After the rotation I was assigned to the Research and Strategy Team where I supported my supervisor in data collection, chart creation and memo writing as he tried to push various credit strategies and business initiatives to higher management in Dubai and London. Toward the end of my internship I was also given an opportunity to independently take on projects profiling major corporations and creating themed research reports. Besides working on my own tasks, I also enjoyed talking to my coworkers about various economic and political issues and helping them in whatever small ways I could. Good rapport with the coworkers made even my longest and dullest work days much more enjoyable.
I felt that doing an internship in an international company in the Middle East helped me understand this region and its economy much more than I ever could have from simply reading books. Middle Eastern offices are incredibly diverse, and you get to work with people from almost all major geographic regions. As a Japanese bank operating in the Middle East, my workplace was also a very diverse cultural mix with three dominant cultures represented. There was a strong influence of Japanese culture due to the many Japanese expatriates working in the office. You could always see Japanese people talking to each other in rapid-fire Japanese in the office and bowing deeply when they met guests. Even the Japanese food culture was quite evident with many Japanese and non-Japanese workers eating food from bentos or udon noodles for lunch in the pantry. Some of the Japanese ladies kept up their tradition of bringing their own home-made lunch bento to work and sometimes sharing their packed dishes with one another or with other colleagues. Due to the large number of British expatriates working in the bank, I was also surrounded by a good amount of British culture. TVs played BBC news programs and British spelling was the norm. Whenever you would walk in the office, you were as likely to hear crisp British-accented English as you were to hear English with Japanese inflections. The third culture evident in the office, although less dominant than the Japanese or British one, is Arab culture. Expats from different Arab countries frequently brought back Arabic sweets from around the region, and the office respectfully banned all eating and drinking outside of the pantry during Ramadan.
Being the only Chinese person in the office also meant that I frequently became a cultural representative of China. During casual chit-chat, whenever people had questions to ask or impressions to check about China they would turn to me. I also automatically became the authority on the best Chinese restaurant in Dubai.
Overall, working in such a multicultural environment can be exciting and fun as long as one respects the sensitivities of people from different cultural backgrounds and keeps an open mind. I would definitely recommend doing an internship in Dubai to my peers, as mine has given me not only practical knowledge of the financial industry, but also fond memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Henry Jiang is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at
gazelle logo