Monday 3 September 2012

Speaking a different language

Anyone who has travelled knows that different people in different places have their own ways of doing things. There's a shorthand, that if you're from out of town, you don't understand even if you're speaking the same language.

That has happened a lot here. Such as being told on Friday night that the real estate agent needed a large deposit urgently the next day, despite us not having a bank account and limited access to ATMs. It was just assumed that we of course knew this. Of course, we didn't.

Or being told that the kids' orientation day at school was on from 8am-12pm. I thought that meant they went to school from 8am-12pm, but no, we can turn up any time between those hours for a quick 20 minutes orientation. Thankfully I had called about something else and happened to ask.

There are so many rules and procedures and ways of doing things that are different from home, yet it's assumed that you know what's going on. I find that when I ask questions I get a big sigh, or an eye roll. It's amazing how you can hear an eye roll over the phone.

"Houses don't come with oven/stoves in Dubai?" sigh "Of course, not. Who wants a used oven?"

"I would like a pre-paid sim card, please." "Where's your passport?" "I don't have it, do I need it?" eye roll "Of course you need it."

Sigh. "You need to take your bread to the bakery counter to be ticketed"

Eye roll "I need the correct change"

Even trying to buy a lunch box has been a fruitless four day shopping extravaganza. Everything is matchbox-sized. And insulated or a cold pack? Forget about it.

It's that constant feeling of not-knowing-what-the-hell-is-going-on.

I'm learning fast.


  1. Oh my goodness Corinne, every post I read, I read with such enthusiasm... because there is just so much going on in your new world. I quite often get the eye rolls and exasperated tones here too... can't imagine how frustrating I would be to people in a foreign country, haha. All we need is just a little patience... if only everyone could adopt Axl's approach. You're doing well hun, keep going xoxo

  2. I hear you Rinno, loud and clear. You'll pick it up though it will probably still be frustrating Ex

    ps - just for the record, most places here don't have ovens either, unless they're geared towards expats. (no we had no idea when we arrived) Believe it or not, we went 2 years without one! It is do-able. Oh, and no hot water in the kitchens, that's just wired....

    1. It's just learning all the short cuts!

      I think I could live without an over, but here, there aren't any stoves/burners either. Apparently people don't like using old/used cookers, so you bring any cooking appliances just like you would a fridge. All the ovens/stoves are combined. So different to home where they're built into your kitchen.

  3. So well written, and brings back so many memories! As a permanent expat, there are so many everyday surprises.

    How do I...? Where do I...? Can we drink the water (hint, if you even think the question: don't, even in 1st world countries!;0))? It's been a while since the last international move, but I still carry a sheaf of id, legal status documents, home ownership or rental documents around on an almost permanent basis! Supermarkets and car ownership have always been my bugbears;-).

  4. Corinne,

    When they ask for correct change and roll their eyes when you hand over a 100 or 200 Dirham note, do not be intimidated. Once you learn the art of the look they will suddenly find the change for you.

    Anonymous above has reminded me something I didn't learn until hubby got sick. DO NOT drink the water. They will tell you it is fine but it is all desalinated and cools the aluminium plant prior to sanitising for drinking. This removes all the minerals you actually need to hydrate. We discovered this when hubby and a friend were competing in triathlons and were getting sick and unable to rehydrate effectively. Also all local brands of water despite what the label tells you are actually bottled desal water. :(


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