Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fun games you can only play in the UAE

How many times can I cheat death while driving about my business during the day
-I often think about the astonishing number of accidents I avoid daily. I am usually almost sideswiped at least once on the way to work (it is about an eight-minute drive) and once on the way home. A day off involving several errands could bring the tally to five or six. Should I head down Sheikh Zayed Road to Dubai, the stakes grow ever larger. Particular close calls include finding yourself in the middle of several racing cars, someone passing you while you are in the fast lane, and they are in the inside lane, which almost everyone knows is not a lane. The only thing that soothes my soul at these times is remembering all the taxi mentality I used to endure. At least I'm the one with my feet on the gas and the brake.

Will the delivery match the order
-You may remember my milk/lock story (it happened twice by the way, that I ordered milk from the corner store and got a padlock). Particularly relevant with lunch and corner shop orders. With all the different languages spoken here, you just never know what you are going to get. It's much easier to just go with it, borrowing the reaction a fellow Canadian once used to sum up the experience: "Why yes I would like some chips!"

Spot the other Westerner
-Living among hundreds of nationalities is one of my favourite things about Abu Dhabi, and it never gets old. I always forget about this game until I go outside my apartment building (in Hamdan Street) on a Friday. It's basically where South Asia meets, everyone hanging out in their Sunday best. I've heard Global Village is another good place to play. It's always a bit funny, and a bit of a comfort, when you spot the other Westerner in this situation. A look will pass between you, and I like to think it's a combination of emotions: like suddenly you realise you are having an adventure, and how strange and different and wonderful it is, and you are (for a few seconds) sort of in it together.

Should we risk ordering lunch from the new place?
-A flyer marked "free delivery" may look enticing, until you get everyone's order organised and call it in only to be told "no delivery". Or you can tell from first phone contact that they are just impossibly organised. Or that they won't find your office. Or they will phone-stalk your mobile trying to find your office while you are in a meeting. Or the order takes two hours and the department mood dips dangerously low due to hangryness.

Guess what gave me food poisoning
-In a place where it's not uncommon to pick up breakfast, order in lunch and eat dinner in a restaurant, it's always hot and sunny and food standards are still a work-in-progress, residents find themselves asking this a lot more than you'd think. I had to play this the other day after a beautiful Friday hotel brunch in Abu Dhabi. The odd feeling set in about 5.30pm, the vomiting about 7. Was it the scallops? The oysters? The sushi? Ugh. Never. Brunching. Again.

Honking: it's all about perspective
-One of the first things I notice when I go to Europe or North America is how quiet it is. (Not you New York). Cars are driving everywhere, but no one is honking. For a person living in the Middle East, it is ear nirvana. Really. It's a constant mind game here, having the person behind you honk the second the traffic light turns green. Anger instantly flares up, and it's very easy to spend the next 10 minutes hating your life if things are not exactly going that well at the moment. At the very least, you are going to think   "how rude" and get very judgy of the other driver. When this happens I remind myself, and it usually works, that the person behind me doesn't think honking is rude. They don't think anything of it. They are probably in their car, thinking about the next thing they have to do, not trying to be a jerk, not trying to noise-pollute an already noise-polluted city, rather just providing what they see as a normal reminder that the light is green, so go already. 


Brn said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one to play "Spot the other Westerner".

Having just today finally gotten over my second case of food poisoning this month, I'm pretty much afraid to eat anything I haven't made myself. It if funny, I lived in Al Ain for three years without once getting sick, now two times in my first 3 months in Abu Dhabi.

leah said...

i think your reaction to honking -- that it's not personal and it isn't someone being an a-h on purpose -- is admirable. i'm not there yet.

Rich said...

I love calling the grocery and ordering cheese. "what cheese sir?" "Just bring a variety" and they come with about a dozen types of cheese. I try not to do this when the temp is over 25 though - I am a considerate bloke to the next person buying the cheese Isend back.

Kelly Taylor said...

your awesome!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ann Marie...I found your blog today and I am really glad I did...I laughed at most of your comments because , after living in the UAE for 14 years I can SO relate! I am a decorative painter and I can out 14 years ago to start work on one of the hotels..supposedly a 9 month project...all these years later I am still here and I STILL get annoyed when the drivers honk at the traffic lights...I don't know if I will ever evolve as much as you have! Great blog..thanks for sharing

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