One of the things I enjoy about living as an expat in Abu Dhabi is being surrounded by people from so many different countries, each with their own languages, customs and cultures. I’ve been privileged to get to know people from here in UAE and from across the globe. The cultural differences are sometimes subtle, sometimes stark, but always fascinating.
Being English, one of our stereotypical attributes is to be reserved, polite and maybe even a little dithering….think Hugh Grant in full rom-com mode. I am one of those who does indeed fall into the category of apologizing to people who bump into me in the street, thanking people walking through the door when I held it open for them, and so on. I also try to be rather careful about what I say. Over the years, particularly in my professional life, I have worked hard to develop tact and diplomacy skills that could get me into the UN.
In the midst of this cultural melting pot, I’ve learned that unlike me, some people actually shoot from the hip, get straight to the point, no messing. No dressing it up, no hesitant English-style dancing around a subject.
This is generally refreshing and makes a welcome change.
However, when the straight talking gets personal, it can still be a tad surprising to me. This is where my ever-thickening skin comes in handy. I generally take such comments in good grace and eventually see the funny side. I have a multitude of tales I could tell from my time in Abu Dhabi so far, but here for your amusement are my top 5 sharp-intake-of-breath moments:
- ‘Your baby looks like a boy, you should get her ears pierced’ – from a random stranger in an elevator, when the baby was dressed in head-to-toe pink, I might add.
- ‘You have gained weight, you looked better before’ – I’m with you my friend, but I didn’t really need to be told.
- ‘Your face looks better with glasses on’- from a well meaning colleague. How does one respond to this?!
- ‘You look a lot better now you have lost some weight’ – not long after giving birth, from a waitress in a coffee shop I visit frequently.
- (Not mine but my husband’s, however it’s included as I love it) ‘You must thank your wife, you have lost weight’ – on the assumption I do all the cooking….
I’m pretty sure my thickening skin is significantly contributing to number 2 above…. but oh, how it comes in useful.
In fairness, some of these are probably true, but I maintain my baby girl does not look like a boy!
Anyway, I’m going to sign off here and head out to purchase several new pairs of glasses….
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