My Zumba Instructor is Polish, my Threader — Pakistani, my Pedicurist— Filipina, my Dentist — Indian, my Trainer — British, my Body Pump Instructor — Russian, my Hairstylist — Lebanese, our movers — Pakistan and my former neighbors were from Zimbabwe. Diversity here in Dubai is an understatement. We’ve pretty much met people from all corners (big and small) of the world— except perhaps the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg…you know, that little landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany? Lost, huh? No worries, most people don’t even know it a country on its own. 😀 Neither have we met anyone from Bhutan, that’s the day I will have to mark on my calendar as sign that I must, in fact, visit there before my date of expiration comes up.
Dubai indeed is a pastiche of probably over 100 nationalities. Although the official religion is Islam, other religions are practiced in the Emirate. There are Hindu temples, a Sikh Gurdwara, a Greek Orthodox Church, a Catholic church and even the presence of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In one of my recent flights here, Emirates Airlines (pretty awesome airlines, by the way) joyfully boasted that their cabin crew has a demographic make-up of over 120 nationalities with a combined total of 58 languages. Wowzers! That’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo combined together! I suddenly felt daft for just being versed in only two languages. NOTE TO SELF: Make friends with polyglot expats, perhaps I can pick up another language or two.
Other than that, we’ve also met people from New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Venezuela, Colombia and, of course, The Good Ole’ US of A. AND, much to our dismay and sheer giddiness, we have met people from our sister Caribbean islands: Antigua, The Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago (LOTS!), Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Haiti and our closest sister island – St. Thomas. The most amazing part of all is that, despite the differences in our population here, it is very much a peaceful multicultural society where everyone seems to coexist just fine, with minimal conflict. Nothing better here than sitting in one of the city’s fancy cafés for coffee or tea and watching people from different walks of life strolling by — particularly the ones with their tired-looking maids.
I often wonder what it’s like to even have one. I don’t think I’d even know how to treat a servant. We’d very likely be best friends. I just find it odd having a total stranger reside in my household 24/7. I’m uncomfortable with ANYBODY coming in and cleaning my house as it is, not that I would not enjoy it on occasion. There is something that is just too close for comfort with someone going through my stuff. And I can’t imagine having a human serving me all the time.
The UAE, which is known for hosting hundreds of nationalities within its borders, is undoubtedly a distinctive mix of cultural identities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and religious beliefs. At any given moment, you could end up hearing several languages in a queue anywhere or just walking through the mall. And don’t talk about food! Oh my, oh my, when it comes to culinary choices, Dubai is a global mixed platter of authentic yumminess. Being a foodie in Dubai is fun-fun-fun! I was over the moon when I discovered over 23 ethic culinary choices in my Talibat mobile app. — and that’s just for take out! NOTE TO SELF: Must try Russian food just for the sake of it.
So what does this all mean for us, other than incessantly being bombarded by foreign sounds, smells, and events?
Let’s face it, it takes a lot of guts to move overseas and start a new life very far away from your homeland and everything you know…UNLESS your decision was made out of Dutch courage during the toast at someone’s wedding. After making that faux pas, you must pack your bags and leave so you won’t look like a sore loser. And let’s face it, ex-pats tend to be some pretty cool people. Many of us tend to be the high-spirited, entrepreneurial, adventurous, globally-minded types, and multi-lingual. Put us all together in a place like this and we are bound to blossom into some pretty inspiring global citizens.
The key thing is to NOT remain in that ex-pat bubble. Many of us tend to stay within the circle and boundaries of people from “back home” – wherever that may be. Our experience will be richer if we stray out of our collective comfort zones every once in a while. The problem is we outnumber the locals here 5 to 1, and, it’s difficult to actually meet locals, since they pretty much stick to their own circles. I ran into this site “The Sameness Project” last week and fell in love with their concept of promoting “moments of sameness”. Check them out at http://thesamenessproject.com/2013/03/20/action-stations/. Love the conversation chair idea! This is one way for sure we may be able to break out of the ex-pat bubble. How I’d love the meet someone from Bhutan! The ultimate experience indeed!