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An Expat's Diary

There are a number of things that are subtly learnt and myriad experiences encountered by the expatriate, courtesy of a year or two of living in the Middle East. Several of them being trivial ones. Such as wearing a wide-brimmed hat or a ballcap when out in the simmering summer sun, even though it means partially hiding one's crowning glory from prospective admirers.

Careful Usage of Water
Or, paying utmost attention to the usage of water by not leaving the basin tap gushing like a burst mains, when brushing the teeth, and only filling the bath tub to the brim once a month, and that too, to allow junior to float his rubber duck and make throbbing motor boat sounds as he skims the toy over the water's surface. The only time in a calendar month that he is allowed to do so. The summer months being what they are, one soon wises up to the fact that the water in a water heater that has been left unused for some time is usually a couple of degrees cooler than that of the building's overhead storage tank, making for some cool relief. This little nugget of information is eagerly passed on to a visiting relation from abroad, given the first opportunity, and experience teaches that it never fails to suitably awe the outsider. Rain, when it falls, is a memorable experience, and the chance to get wet in it is simply irresistible and is not missed, even if it implies arriving sodden at office.

Money Matters
For a period of time after first arriving in the Middle East, local prices are automatically matched to those of the home country's currency, to deduce, for instance, whether an item of clothing costs more or less as compared to a similar one at home. Then, one day, all this changes without any ado and no equivalent match is made in currencies and the mind calculates it all solely in the local currency. This is now especially good for those who have never had a head for arithmetic.

Being such a cosmopolitan region, language skills are necessarily enhanced, allowing one to carry out a rudimentary conversation in a foreign tongue, and lending credence to the world being a giant village.

With the good living and the general lack of exercise, it becomes second nature to try to keep on the right side of good health, and the slightest indication of ill-health is enough to send one scurrying for the doctor, and before him, the Internet, for information about the likely cause and relief of the medical condition.

The 'Sale' Mania
Sales, sales and more sales. As merchants strive to outdo each other in terms of turnover with much-awaited annual sales, one learns to live without that designer pair of jeans for about 11 months, only picking it up in the twelfth month, when it's on sale, for a real cool price, so that people on the street seeing you in it, think to themselves, "now that's a guy with deep pockets." Which must surely give you a smug feeling.

Home News
Thousands of kilometres from home also mean that as soon as the day's newspaper lands on the doorstep, more than usual attention is paid to the home country's pages to garner news about who's doing what, when and where, and how the stock markets are performing -- either inflating or deflating your investments. How to keep in touch with the legions of relatives abroad is no longer a problem, as it once was, before the relocation to the Middle East. Now, the Internet is webbed in to keep uncle Harry in sunny San Diego abreast of all the family happenings, as also cousin Dominic in tepid Tasmania.

Should-have-the- latest Syndrome
Given the rapid pace at which mobile phones get packed with mind-boggling features and models keep rolling off the factory line faster than you can say Jack Robinson, like many an expatriate in the region, you too are most likely an unwitting victim of the got-to-have-the-latest-mobile syndrome and look to the day when you can strut around town with the latest one plastered to the ear, even as you wonder what to do with its dozen-odd predecessors already crammed into the bedroom wardrobe's drawers.

In conclusion, the subtle learning curve continues, as do the quirks of life as an expatriate in the Middle East, give or take a year or two.

Courtesy: Gulf Today


Life in the Emirates





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