Friday, January 19, 2007

Money, money, money

FINALLY. I got my car loan. I've been trying for about a month to get one, and yesterday the money was credited to my account. Now I can get the two cars I need. The relief! Nearly as good as coming out of Atrail Fibrillation. I have made myself ill over it all - and in hindsight I shouldn't have, but when you come up against the incompetence, intransigence and sheer bloody-minded beauracracy that I've encountered over the last month, I defy anyone to remain calm. Today, as something of a celebration, we went for brunch at Mina A'Salam, a hotel at the Madinat Jumeirah. It has had a lot of good write-ups, and it was fantastic, and I'm still stuffed 5 hours after eating. The kids were well catered for as well, and even though it was quite pricey, the free-flowing booze and really high-quality food made it all worthwhile. The ambience there is really special, and the Madinat is probably one of my favourite places in Dubai. I can't wait to take some of our guests there when they come to visit. My doctors probably won't be happy that I've had a few glasses of wine, but I've not had any for at least 3 weeks, and probably won't have any more for a good while now. A little of what you fancy, and all that.

Anyway, the bank episode is in the past now. Let's move on. Another week has zipped by in the blink of an eye. We are busy again, and it shows. The morale in the office is dipping badly again, so much so that the newest of the staff have noticed it. It doesn't help that the BOSS has been on the rampage this week. Before Christmas he delivered a fatwa on people not wearing ties, and this week he has been cracking down on early lunch leavers and anyone with the notion of having a life outside of work. A couple of his comments this week have left me bamboozled. He suggested (half-jokingly, I think) that my family were dispensable when there were important clients to be placated, and then when someone had to cancel some leave, he said he didn't have ANY sympathy, because holidays were more of a privelege than a right, especially as he has worked years with only 2 days of leave.

That's all fair and well, but for some of us, work is a means to an end. I work to live, not vice-versa. I will give my all and put my best in at the office, and have no qualms about doing a bit of work outside my allloted hours and travelling to places like Doha for a few days, but when the implication is that work comes first, second and third, with family life a poor fourth, I start to get worried. There are people in this world who like to come to work at 7am and leave at 8pm, and they make it out to be some kind of macho honour thing, but to me that's bullshit. You can only be effective for so long during a day, and 9 hours is about right. I will take a lunch break, and I will leave work at 6pm, unless there is a really urgent job that NEEDS to be done. If we feel obliged to stay long hours or are made to feel guilty for not doing so, I honestly think it makes for bad morale. But there we are, and there we go. It pays the bills, and the work is quite interesting. I've learned loads since I came here, and the CV will not suffer with the scale and type of project I'm working on now.

One thing I've started to notice at work and in general is the behaviour of some people here, in particular Western Expats. I've noticed the way some of these people talk to and behave towards people of other nationalities here, especially South-Asians or Eastern-Asians. So not to beat about the Dubya, they treat them like dirt. They shout at and berate them for the slightest lapse in standards of service, they show no gratitude or even basic manners towards them, and seem to think they are perfectly entitled to lord it over these people. They wouldn't get away with it at home, because they'd get told where to go forth and procreate, I have not a shred of doubt. The thing is, it's a double-edged sword, because the people on the receiving end just take it, say, "Yes, sir/madam," in their whiny American accent and scurry away sheepishly when they've been reprimanded by another highly-strung, self-important expat. Some of them look petrified when you talk to them, and then they look genuinely astonished when you say Please and Thank You to them, before breaking into a broad smile.

I often wonder how much these people resent us moneyed westerners, especially when we act like complete and utter twats towards them. I want to be there when one of them finally cracks, and tells some jumped-up, betroot-faced, flip-flop-wearing fool that they added their own special ingredient to their drink. I just hope it isn't me. Yes, I have witnessed poor service in the past here (the bank!), and yes, I've admitted that I get annoyed and wound up, but when I talk to people I'm doing business with I always try to remain calm and composed and respectful without raising my voice. I usually rant and rave about it to myself afterwards, because rude, arrogant behaviour and trying to humiliate some poor sod when it's probably not even his fault just breeds resentment and contempt and is unlikely to achieve any improvement in service.

It seems to be a pattern here. People change when they come here, and do stuff they wouldn't dream of doing back home. Of course, it's a different country, and a different lifestyle, and as the old saying goes - When in Rome - but people here don't do what Romans do, they act like frigging Cybermen. On acid. I've witnessed expats who don't secure their young children in car seats before driving on the third deadliest roads in the world. I've seen people who seem to think it's perfectly fine to drink drive on a regular basis, and when I say drink - I mean drink. This is despite the fact that the punishments here are more severe than back home. It's as if coming to this place makes them take leave of their senses. Is the almost-permanent sunshine melting their brain cells? Hard to say, really, but as with most things, it's probably a combination of things. As long as they can get away with it, they'll do it. And no amount of tutting and writing letters to 7 Days will change that.

But the funniest thing about it all is when I hear some expat say to me that they came here to get away from all the immigrants who don't respect the British Way Of Life, and the so-called PC brigade pandering to their every whim. So they came to a county which is 80% immigrant and bends over backwards to accomodate Westerners and their love of excess. On the other hand, they can come here and lord it over the non-white immigrants who don't earn as much money, because it makes them feel big and clever. I'd really love to see them talk to an Emirati like that.

And still - I'm happier than I've been for a long, long time. Life here is pretty good in the main. Nothing will ever be perfect, but you have to make the best of it, and I think that's what we are doing. I've spent too much time in my life sweating the small stuff.

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