1. Goodbyes: in a transient community such as Dubai change due to job situations or family obligations are unavoidable. Sometimes, they occur in an abrupt manner in the form of a termination of contract, sometimes because of homesickness and sometimes due to the allure of another tempting offer in another country. Possibly one with a better climate, lush vegetation and cool rivers. Friends are made quickly in this fast paced city but then lost seemingly just as fast. Sadness and often anger follow the heart wrenching departure of a friend. After every forcedly jovial farewell lunch or dinner, long after the pretty cards have been signed and the going away gift presented with a brave smile, a bitter taste of despair remains. Is this how it’s going to be? Families, children and singles are equally affected. This uncertainty hovers above each expat like a dreaded cloud, the sure to come ending at some point or other. Maybe even discouraging some, making them more careful about emotional attachments in such a fickle world.I have experienced such separations more times than I would like and it never ceases to deplete me emotionally.
2. Disrespectful Residents: I have come across numerous unkind comments and racially motivated opinions directed at the local population and Dubai. It is baffling how many expats hurl verbal abuse at the religion and culture of the country they live in. UAE has made great progress in all aspects and has more tolerance than multiple countries I can think of. Yet, many, through local blogs and other social media brazenly post insensitive material and commentary about the way Emiratis conduct business, their religion, type of traditional clothing etc. Making fun of the way Muslims pray, complaining about the sound of the call to prayer, the month of fasting (Ramadan) the crudely behaved locals, their driving, and their parenting methods. The list goes on.
3. Sweltering heat and those dreaded sandstorms: excruciatingly uncomfortable is the only I can explain these phenomena.
4. Accountability: since many foreign residents do not anticipate staying for an extended period, there is a lack of respect and/or interest in making it a better place. On a regular basis we are confronted by incidents of indecency, crime and financial escapades which would be equally unacceptable in other parts of the world.
5. Superficiality: reinvention is fantastic and Dubai is the place to do it. There are numerous opportunities for evolvement in many fields. Countless initiatives are underway from expats and Emiratis alike in field of philanthropy, commitment to environmental issues, etc…
Most expats strive to understand and respect local customs, religion and its people. They attend cultural information events, visit mosques, experience the local cuisine, music, art and also make friends with the local population. Sadly, some choose to spend their time in idle activities like excessive shopping, clubbing, drunken cavorting on public beaches and an incessant quest for pleasure. Some waste this opportunity to understand and experience an original yet courageous way of life, a rich history and intelligent people by spending their energy on often ill-informed gossip and hearsay about the so called ‘locals’.
We always have the choice to leave if we don’t like it. We’ve chosen to be here so why not experience and embrace the differences and ignore or at least remain open minded about the things we don’t like?
Why not show compassion, understanding and teach our children broad-mindedness… peace. Why not teach them to accept everyone, regardless of their religion, color, their billowing slacks, their imperial looking turban or their dazzling white Gotra… the silky and glamorous Abaya/Sheila/ or the colorful and vibrant Shalwar kameez/tobe/sari they wear? Why not marvel at the mellifluous sound of the call to prayer, admire the dedication of worshippers who rise at dawn to perform prayers…
Maybe even convey to the newly arrived in the city those good things, the positive aspects. The kindness and the hospitality, the tenacious spirit and the hard work this country and its people have done in such a short time. Here in Dubai is the perfect setting, the perfect place to bridge misunderstandings due to the mass of diverse nationalities. We might not get another opportunity, so might as well learn as much as we can while we can.
Freedom of speech is fine but deplorable when it becomes racially or religiously motivated in a country (or anywhere else for that matter) that you have chosen to adopt as home for yourself and your children. Even if it is for only a few years.
Zvezdana Rashkovich was born in ex-Yugoslavia. At the age of seven she started her lifelong nomadic journey across Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Qatar, Dubai and the United States. A fluent Arabic speaker, she has worked as a medical and legal interpreter for refugees in the United States. Owing to her eclectic experiences she has developed an intense enthusiasm for multiculturalism. Zvezdana currently lives in Dubai with her Sudanese husband and four children. She is the author of Dubai Wives and is working on a memoir, Africa in the way I dance.
Zvezdana blogs at Sleepless in Dubai where she shares her experiences as an expat, mom and writer.