By Vidas Edge/Dubai
Isn’t it funny that people usually crave what others have without a clear knowledge of what owning that particular ‘pleasure’ entails? You know, sometimes, the grass isn’t really greener on the other side. I used to look with admiration at people who live and work outside their country. I felt like they had ‘arrived’.
Sometimes I still think myself lucky to be treated like an expatriate and gaining benefits a local staff will forfeit, but then I wonder if the costs are at par with the benefits.
Life held a trump card for me, and here I find myself in Dubai, the land of oriental and cosmopolitan splendour. Shopping, sight-seeing and partying. Those were the key things on my list. If, as a tourist, I’m able to do all these, then as a resident, I should be able to do much more, or so I thought. One year later, I have to admit to myself that the reality is far from story book perfect.
1. When you live in this splendid genie town, you become immune to all the items on display. Reason: You see them everyday and you know it will get cheaper in a few weeks. Lesson: Dubai teaches you delayed gratification.
2. No matter who you are, an Emirati will always be given first class treatment. If an Emirati runs a pedestrian over, there’s an option of blood money. Never seen an Emirati sentenced to death over that. For the foreigner, you’ve got to have a great lawyer to avoid death row and pay blood money. Don’t mess with an Emirati though. No lawyer can save your head from the gallows.
3. Don’t ever admit to having sex when you’re unmarried. You will cool your heels in jail and face deportation after that; irrespective of your sex. If you get pregnant as an unmarried lady, woe betide you. Double trouble. Best option, flee the country, because you’d be arrested from the hospital. No cohabiting in the UAE; that’s a ticket for jail and deportation, especially if you have nosy neighbours.
4. The liberal Western culture is anathema here; women don’t offer handshakes or hugs to men. No shorts, short dresses, sleeveless attire or any other seemingly indecent clothing. Doing any of this is paving way for some embarrassment from security officials. Even at the beach, your swimwear needs to be decent, no thongs, et al.
5. You can be arrested for using a four-letter word or showing your middle finger. Decorum is key here.
6. Woe betide that guy who makes a pass at a local. If you’re caught, you’d be cooling your heels in jail for a very long time.
7. For those guys who think getting married to an Emirati lady is a ticket to being an Emirati and enjoying all the fairy tale benefits, let me dash your hopes now. Emirati ladies who marry outside the approved lines are disowned, so you get nothing! She also takes up your nationality, not the other way. The UAE isn’t the USA.
8. Despite the UN convention resolution, 90% of employers in the UAE still seize their employees’ passports. So most employees are birds in golden cages.
9. You can’t live and work in the UAE without being sponsored into the country by a credible person or organisation. Sometimes, resident hopefuls fall prey to fraudulent agents who charge more than double the original fee. If you ever have any issues with your sponsor or do anything illegal, your visa will be cancelled.
10. For people who intend to be residents in the UAE, be sure to screen yourself for HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and possibly hepatitis B. This will save you the embarrassment and trouble, as if any of this is discovered during your medicals, to obtain your permit, you will surely be quarantined and deported.
11. Did I mention that most organisations allow their employees to travel only once a year to visit their homes? If you can afford it, I’d suggest you relocate to the UAE with your family, else you’d be very lonely and prone to various temptations. #wink
12. Gold and diamonds don’t flow on the streets of Dubai, neither do they in the six other emirates; Abu Dhabi inclusive. So make adequate provisions and plan to curtail your spending habits, because the cost of living is pretty high here. And if you hope to cut corners, expect bribes, stay in debt or take loans from banks (without paying back), please put your house in order, because there’s plenty of room for you in jail.
I still love the expatriate treatment and the opportunity to share my heritage with others, while learning about theirs. I’ve overtime made friends, both Emiratis and other foreigners. The warmth and hospitality of a majority of the Emiratis is still delightful. The bottom line though is that there’s no place like home. So be thankful for every bit of home; your family, friends, the food, the people and even the government, because you can always hold your head high anywhere you are, in any of our 36 states and say ‘I had malaria, but I’m better now’, without facing deportation.