Monday, August 02, 2010

Going Native

It’s a lament summed up perfectly by one of my favourite Dubai bloggers…I’ve lived in the UAE for two years, and am very happy and proud to call it my home. But when it comes to really mingling with the locals…it just doesn’t happen. I’d like to think that I’ve embraced the cultural diversity of living here – I’ve visited the main mosques, gone to cultural breakfasts, and marched my parents round all sorts of guided tours (they love it!) and they were all fascinating.

At one point we had an Emirati intern who worked in our office. Just 21, she was a fashion and business student, whose make-up and accessories were as interesting to us as her background, her outlook on life, and her aspirations for the future. But that’s the exception rather than the rule. What do to? This is a step in the right direction.

Last week I was in a store when a local lady entered. She was completely covered but I could tell she was older than me as her abaya swooshed past me, with four clamouring children in tow. I offered her my spot in the queue – anyone with four demanding children needs even small breaks when shopping. She wouldn’t hear of it and we passed a few pleasantries about under-staffing in the store.

Silence fell as we waited for our turn. And then, I reached into my handbag to pay. My new purse just happens to be the latest Stephen Sprouse neon Louis Vuitton...(I was having a Tanya Turner moment: don't judge me!).  Her eyes locked onto the purse, then onto mine. “I LOVE that purse” she said. And so began another chat about fashion. Cultural differences broken down by handbags, anyone?

My colleagues think I’m hilarious (many have lived here for two or three times as long as I have, and have never done any of the tours etc that I have) but to me it seems like the obvious thing to do when you move to a new country or city. And especially one as enthralling and as misunderstood as Dubai, and the Middle East in general.

Until my next fabulous fashion purchase catches the eye of a local lady, we’ll also be here during Ramadan.  Small steps, but steps, nonetheless.

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