Thursday, April 2, 2009
10 random facts about life in the UAE, in celebration of my one-year Abu-versary. I never thought I would make it; I did.
1. Just about everyone has a mobile phone, really, there are very few land lines, and most of them walk around clutching it. For a reporter who battles all sorts of daily barriers to information, this is a sweet consolation prize.
2. They pickle everything here, from potatoes to carrots. I think I have even seen turnip. They come in tasty, salty little bundles with your lunch. At first it's weird, then eventually you just eat it.
3. If you live here, your employer will be involved in your life to an extent you did not think possible, and you will either drive yourself mental, or accept it, or mostly accept it and sometimes let it drive you mental. As it did this week and I'm sure will again.
4. Emirati women who marry men who are not from the UAE cannot pass on citizenship to their children, although the Minister of Foreign Affairs has just signalled this can't go on.
5. If a couple of people do something that is against the law, they are quickly dubbed "a gang"; criminal cases are also often given great names. My favourite was "the case of the non-existent wallet".
6. Expats require a "letter of no objection" (meaning your company, which is involved in your life to an extent you did not think possible, does not object to you doing something) to: get electricity hooked up, a driver's license, an alcohol license and, oddly, as a friend found out, to get back a wallet that has been lost and turned in to a local police station.
7. There are no self-serve gas stations (they tried last summer; it has not really caught on)
8. Filipinos tend to sing a lot, out loud, wherever they are; taxi drivers from Pakistan like surprisingly sappy music, Emiratis often leave the plastic covering on their fancy car seats, people from Lebanon say "yanni" (a version of 'um') more than I thought possible and those who speak English as a second, third or whatever language generally say "too much" when they mean "a lot". In other gross generalisations I never before would have felt comfortable making, normal British people really do call each other "darling" (and also, in my opinion, WAY overuse the word "literally") and many Canadians, myself included, can not stop saying 'eh' at the end of everything no matter how much they try or how long they are sequestered from each other.
9. The male cleaner at work will enter the woman's bathroom at any time he feels like it, to clean, and there is nothing me or anyone else can do to stop it.
10. Even after a year, apparently, some of us here at The National cannot get enough of the foliage, band or people at Safari, the jungle-like Filipino bar at the top of the Howard Johnson Hotel.