This morning I made the most basic of Dubai rookies mistakes. No, I didn't pash my husband in the main street or swig from vodka bottle in the school carpark. Nor did I wear a midriff top with a pair of cut off shorts (that's a rookie mistake ANYWHERE in the world).
I left my sunglasses at home when I did the school run. Which meant I spent the morning squinting and grimacing and generally looking and feeling uncomfortable. You see in Dubai, sunglasses aren't just a fashion statement (although they certainly can be) and they're not something you need on a warm, sunny day. Well, actually I take that back, because they are needed on a warm, sunny day, but every day is a warm sunny day in Dubai, which means sunglasses are a necessity.
So what else is a necessity here?
Firstly, and most obviously, is water. I tend to carry it everywhere I go. Though I must admit I do forget a lot, which means pulling up to buy a bottle or 5 from the servo, but that's OK but water costs about 25c a bottle here. When I was back in Sydney and was charged $8 for two bottles of water I almost died and then became much better at remembering to pack the water bottles when we out.
Then there's the Entertainer book. This is a book that has vouchers for discounted or 2-for-1 deals. In Australia, I think they're often sold for school fundraisers, here you buy them at the supermarket or bookshop and there are a few different versions (Family, Fine Dining, Travel). Everyone in Dubai has the Entertainer book and there is not the 'stingy' stigma here that it has in Sydney. It would not be uncommon to see someone whip out a voucher at a nice restaurant and if someone recommends a restaurant or an activity the standard reply is "Is it in the Entertainer?" I have even heard of a mum who's set up a Facebook page to swap Entertainer vouchers.
The mani/pedi. The hot climate means hands and feet are on constant display. The heat and sand does absolutely nothing good for your feet either. Which means that manis and pedis are a must. I have to confess I'm not particularly good at keeping up with it but I do try.
The scarf/pashmina. When I was in Sydney, a good friend gave me a lovely cotton scarf for my birthday saying "It's probably a silly gift when you live in a hot climate!" In fact, quite the opposite. Scarfs and pashminas are incredibly hand for a quick cover up when modesty is required, or when the sun gets particularly fierce (which both happen often). They're also for a quick picnic seat.
An easygoing attitude (but not too easygoing there are strict laws here). Things in Dubai aren't always easy, there is often a long process when dealing with government offices or banks or other institutions. There are a multitude of accents to understand and there's the being understood yourself. Roads change quickly here, one week a major thoroughfare with be there, the next there is an enormous flyover and you're headed in the opposite direction. I always have the mindset that things will probably go wrong somewhere and more often than not I'm pleasantly surprised when all goes to plan. I leave early for everything. I try not to sweat the small stuff. I expect that things won't turn up on time or a booking to be lost. It saves me a lot of grief. When things do wrong I sigh and move on.
A smile. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in Dubai who forget themselves. They get to live a life they couldn't dream of in their home country and it goes to their head. I have seen people like this treat security guards, shop assistants, cleaners, etc in the most appalling ways. I always try to smile and say a sincere thank you to everyone who assists me as I go about my day (and there are a lot of them). It doesn't get me special treatment, but it makes me feel a whole lot better about my lucky position. Also, my children are watching and absorbing everything, so it's important to be a good role model. Plus it's nice to greeted and share a 'happy moment' with a stranger, it makes for a happier day all round who wants to spend your time scowling and being angry?
What's an essential item for where you live?