Counterfactual thinking is a ubiquitous feature of daily life with links to causal reasoning. Therefore, we argue that cultures that vary in perceptions of what controls important life outcomes may also vary in counterfactual thought. Investigating White American and United Arab Emirates-based Arab participants' counterfactual potency and spontaneous counterfactual thinking, we found that Arab participants endorsed counterfactual thoughts less than White Americans, and were unaffected by the routine nature of action when negative outcomes were severe. Differences in counterfactual endorsement in response to severe negative outcomes were linked to greater beliefs in divine control and fate in Arab participants, and not to religiosity, reinforcing an important role of perceptions of control in counterfactual thought. However, although reporting less counterfactual endorsement overall, Arabs showed a similar pattern of counterfactual thought to White Americans when negative outcomes were mild, or when reporting spontaneous thought. Arabs likewise showed a similar pattern of regret as White Americans regardless of event severity, reporting more regret when outcomes resulted from unusual action. These patterns suggest a dissociation between affect and cognition, and between what kind of outcomes are subject to counterfactual scrutiny in Arab participants.