Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Boy in the Bubble

The UAE national football team has won the Gulf Cup, beating Oman 1-0 in last night's final in Abu Dhabi. Good stuff. I wonder if they'll move onto qualifying for the World Cup next. With Bruno Metsu in charge, they seem to going from strength to strength. Well, in this region they are.

Now I understand why that Beemer I saw the other day was covered in red, white, green and black heart stickers. No window flags for this lot - they go the whole hog. Today I saw even more bizarre decorations on cars, with spray paint in the national colours applied hap-hazardly to wheels, body and even windows. Streamers hung on every available appendage - door handles, aerials, window wipers. I think they're quite happy about it all. There are reports of cars careering up and down various roads last night with people perched on top waving flags and blowing horns. I can't imagine there were many drunken brawls.

Speaking of cars, today I've been observing more of the Bubble behaviour that I was talking about recently, where the people here just seem to seal themselves away from all external influence and show no consideration for anyone or anything, etc. Like I say, I don't think there's an ounce of malice in it at all. It's just the way it is. And to be honest, it isn't just the locals. Expats start to assimilate this culture quite quickly.

Imagine the average day of a person living here, whether he be Arab or Indian or whatever. He or she drives to work at 180km/h (or 60km/h in the fast lane in a Nissan Sunny), merrily sending SMS messages and pulling the headlight stick on the steering column as they go. When they get to their turn off, they cut across 3 or 4 lanes at the last possible minute, as if they weren't expecting it, causing a cacophony of angry horns and desperately squealing brakes.

He or she arrives at work, and proceeds to park their car diagonally across 2 or even 3 spaces. Then they get out of the car and enter the office bulding. They press the lift call button and wait impatiently, possibly talking to someone on their hands-free kit as they tap their foot on the floor. Then the lift arrives with a merry ping, the doors open, and the person barges straight into the lift without waiting for anyone who might want to exit. As the lift rises, they have a good, long, loving look at themselves in the mirror.

The lift gets to their floor, and he or she rushes headlong out into the corridor before deciding to visit the facilities / rest-rooms / bogs. If you're behind them, watch out. Don't assume that they will hold the door for the person directly behind. Some will, but most will just let it close into your face. Then (if you're a bloke) you watch them approach the row of 3 urinals on the wall. This bit really gets me. I just find it sums everything up. In the UK, we have this little game with urinals, where the first person to approach always takes one at either end - never in the middle. No-one, but no-one wants to be stood directly next to another man having a slash.

But not here.

Here, the first man to the urinal invariably takes the middle station, and stand there with legs wide apart, doing his business without a care in the world. If I come in behind him, I don't know what to do. I just can't bring myself to stand right next to them, so I end up going into the cubicles and feeling faintly ridiculous for doing so.

Then, when you come out, the person is at the sink, and they are either snorting water up their nose, hacking up massive lumps of phlegm with that charming "hkhkhkhkhkhkoooocccckkkk" noise, or they are washing their feet in the sink. From there, they spend the rest of the day smoking in the no-smoking areas of the building.

Of course, it's all an education, and demonstrates something. Possibly that us Brits are really anal and uptight. Cultures are all different and this place is the biggest melting pot of all, and somehow we muddle through. We shake our heads and swap anecdotes about what the locals and subcons and Philipinos do and laugh about it with our mates, but ultimately we just get on with it. I suppose because we have to.

I hope this doesn't come across as critical of the people I'm watching. It isn't. It's just the observations of a man who has been brought up in that stiff, British way, and I find these little behavioural quirks alien and fascinating. I think deep down we are all the same. We all breathe and eat and sleep and love and hate. We are all born and we all die. When you cut us, we bleed. But differences are there for a reason. We all live in different places with different infuences, and they affect us all in different ways. And anyway, if we were all exactly the same, life would be boring, and I wouldn't have anything to write about on here.

Nighty night.

No comments: