Casual Culture Shock

Life here has been a whirlwind. There is so much that has happened that I don’t know where to start, so I think I’ll try the beginning.

Arrival

The flight was alright. They made 13 hours not so uncomfortable. The flight plan was always there for us to view with real time visuals of how far we were from our destination. You could also view the front of the plane (the captain’s view) even though there wasn’t much to see so high in the air at night. There was a flight prayer (recited aloud in arabic) before we took off and it was a very smooth flight. We arrived at the airport full of excitement, got our bags, and headed toward the bus taking us to the hotel. What we did not anticipate was how disrespectful that heat was once we stepped out of the lovely air conditioned airport. Weirdly enough, you get use to the heat very quickly.

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The hotel was 5 star and we had people at our every beck and call for anything we needed. They were more than accommodating at the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi. This country is all about service; you can get anything delivered to you and not just in the hotel. Literally, the grocery store delivers.

We were kept in the hotel for about a week. During that week we got our housing money, city placement, and school placement. Looking back, we handled a lot of business in the first week here.

Culture Shock

Thankfully I haven’t experienced homesickness, and that has helped me to help other people who were homesick so soon. We expat teachers are like one big family here; everyone is so friendly and helpful. I sometimes wonder why can’t we be like this in the states? Nevertheless, the energy here is wonderful. Before I came no one would definitively tell me anything about what to expect except, “expect the unexpected.” Best advice ever. This is a very laid back society and nothing is done in YOUR time frame. If you have control issues this country is not a place you should venture to live in. You have to go with the flow and realize you aren’t in your country. You will constantly compare things, but you have to remember just because something is different doesn’t make it wrong. YOU HAVE TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT HERE. Living in the past will make you sad, and looking toward the future will make you anxious. Living in the present every day has been my saving grace since being here. Seeing things for the first time and just being in awe of the beautiful structures in this country and the landscape, how could you not live in the present?

Things you don’t think about:

~ Tea is a big deal here. Kermit doesn’t drink as much tea as they do. High tea is something everyone should experience in this country. Coffee is a big deal too!

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~Dust is everywhere. The sand is inevitable. I live in a high rise and I wonder every day how in the hell that sand makes it up to my flat on the 21st floor. It angers me immensely and it makes me miss carpet.

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~The heat is intense. When it’s not that muggy type of hot, it’s a heat that makes you feel like your insides are starting to bake from the inside out. It’s actually starting to cool here, thankfully!

~The Grand Mosque is absolutely breathtaking. You have to take your shoes off before entering and you absolutely have to cover your hair as a female.

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~There are many beautiful beaches like 10-20 minutes from each other. The water here is very calming and a pretty blue. The water was a major reason as to why I chose this country to teach abroad in. Very relaxing and cathartic. There are many beach clubs with the most amazing views! I love that I can order non alcoholic drinks from the regular menu. Rose water is tasty.

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~The drinking water here is full of sodium and you have to find a brand that works best for you. I prefer ARWA. Low sodium and low fluoride levels.

~Every single Black American with higher levels of melanin in their skin is assumed to be African…and they WILL ask…frequently. They will also be confused when you can’t tell them what part of Africa your ancestors come from. Family is really big here. My students wanted to know all of my last names. Hilarious. They don’t understand the concept of only having your father’s last name and that’s it. Most students have 4-5 last names.

~Realizing why other countries see Americans the way they do. We are kind of rude and arrogant lol. This was a huge culture shock.

~ Everything business related here needs a stamp. Not a confirmation number, but a stamp.

~ American food here is ok. The local food and international cuisine is unmatched. Incredible,delicious food. You have to try the  Biryani rice. They have a rice aisle in the grocery stores like we have cereal aisles in America. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of rice.

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~Brunch is a big thing here. I wish I could have taken pictures to show how massive Friday brunch is. It’s costly but well worth the dirhams (the currency here). I was able to get a picture of what they greet you with upon entering the brunch area. If you drink then you’ll be more than happy with the unlimited amount you can have. There is a brunch in Dubai that is supposed to be the best. I will take pictures of that now that I know what to expect.

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~The malls are overwhelming. How can an American say that? You just have to be here. The Mall of America is like shopping center compared to the places over here. I’ve been here one month. I’ve been to 4 particular malls on a number of occasions and I still haven’t been able to see all the stores they have. We expats go to the malls before 5 on the weekdays and before 12 on the weekend. EVERY SINGLE MALL IS LIKE THE SATURDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Every. Last. One….. Every. Day. These people shop.

This television is about 5 feet tall and 105 inches, curved!

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~Having coworkers from Abu Dhabi, America, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, etc. I LOVE THESE LADIES!!!

~ Knowing the media in America tells lies, but coming over here and seeing things for myself and really understanding how much we’ve been lied to about this culture was shocking. People are friendly and love to tell you about their customs.

~Handshakes are very important.

~I thought wearing an abaya would feel oppressive…I freaking love it. They aren’t as hot as they appear to be, and there are many places here that make THE MOST FABULOUS abayas I’ve ever laid eyes on. If you are a female you don’t have to cover up, but the looks will make you want to. Most women who drive have a back up abaya in the car to just throw on before they get out of the car depending on the area you live in. Thankfully I’ve been placed in Abu Dhabi and I live on an island where there are more expats than locals.

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~ At the grocery stores they weigh your fruit for you before you get to the register. This is someone’s specific job. There are also people on every other aisle to help you. At first it feels like they are following you but they just want to help. There are also pork rooms in the grocery stores for non Muslims. I was surprised to see Jiffy in the pork room. Every single mall has a grocery store the size of Walmart in the bottom of it.

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There are so many events happening in this city that there is never a dull moment. This is why it took me so long to blog again. I hope that those coming here found this informative and that family and friends enjoy this experience through my eyes. Next I’ll be getting a car soon, going to Dubai for the Color Run, attending the best poetry night here, and kickball season conditioning amongst other things. More pics to come. Until then…

-Exquisite Expat

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7 thoughts on “Casual Culture Shock

  1. Seems as if you’re truly having a blast. I’m positive that these pages can’t fully contain all that you’ve done, experienced, or soaked up. I can see your glow from here and I’m positive that the kids are soaking up as much from you as you are soaking up from this new environment.

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