Meet the locals

I went to circuit training yesterday evening, which was mild torture after a week’s holiday in Malaysia (photos soon!).

I realised that the class I go to, which usually has two or three local chaps attending, is the only informal place where I get to meet Emiratis.

The various groups in Dubai tend to keep themselves to themselves. This sounds like something terrible to many ‘outsiders’, but I don’t think it’s much of an issue. We’re not citizens who ought to integrate fully, we’re here because we have a job and that means putting up with certain things we don’t like and thoroughly enjoying other aspects. Local people have their own distinct culture, are used to having lots of expats around, but it’s their country. Noone is obliged to mix with other cultures in the slightest. Things just rub along. Broadly speaking, you tend to socialise most closely with people of a similar background and nationality, but have lots of friends and colleagues from all over the world. Despite a degree of separation, I feel, there is far more ‘diversity’ here than there is in the forced sense of the word, currently a favourite in the UK when discussing multiculturalism.

Of all the nationalities here, it is Emiratis that I speak to and interact with the least, which is a shame. In my line of work many of the IT managers at government organisations are Emiratis. In the past, when Sun actually had customer events, there would be the odd chance to chat to someone in a vaguely social situation. Mrs Saul might see the odd Emirati as part of a school inspection team.

Aside from this, we, as with many other expats, often only see Emiratis in situations that can be rather negative. Being flashed out of the way by a Land Cruiser or Patrol with tinted windows is, sadly, one common interaction. Others tend to be when dealing with government entities – getting your power connected or visiting a customer service centre to get your phone sorted out. All of these situations are irritating in any part of the world – it’s just a shame that for so many people here, it is precisely during these annoying procedures that you will ‘meet’ local people. One exception is getting your e-gate card renewed, a process so efficient and generally pleasant, I almost look forward to it.

So, back to my circuits class. The whole thing is a rather British affair in terms of the instructor’s banter and the changing room chatter, although the people attending are from all over the place, including, usually, three or four locals. The local guys are full gym members, so usually use a different changing room to me, but at least we get to do something all together and share the common experience of running around and jumping about till we can hardly move any more.

I would welcome other opportunities to spend a bit of time with the Emiratis who are, let’s be frank, my hosts.

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