Saturday, November 08, 2008

Election, Transportation, Gender balance

A president I support... At last! So happy about the election results. I woke up at 5:30 am local time to track the results, see the winner announcement, and hear the concession and victory speeches. Twas awesome! I totally missed being part of the celebrations in the States, but people here were happy too. They respect the U.S. a lot more (most Europeans I talk to were incredulous that someone like Palin could even get on our ballot).

I think my posts to date have been very positive about Dubai, so it's time I share my biggest complaint about the city: transportation!!! Getting a cab can be a huge nightmare, especially in the evenings, when everyone is leaving work. And traffic is horrible, which exacerbates the cab shortage. My office is in the Burjuman area of Dubai, which is probably the worst place to try to get a cab. I have experiment with private car drivers, but they are often booked up, unreliable, and/or unwilling to drive short distances. My worst experience was probably last week, when it took me 2 hours to get home on Thursday (start of the weekend here). My private car driver did not show up because he was stuck in traffic, but I managed to find a cab. The cab then got into a car accident! Just a minor fender bender, but the other guy wanted to call the police, which would take 2 hours, so I was forced to get out of the taxi and find a new one, now further away from where I started. By the time I found another taxi and got home, it was 9 pm!!! Not fun... I was complaining to the taxi driver and his theory was that there are enough cabs, but they are all just stuck in traffic, because there are too many cars on the road. It's pretty easy/ cheap to get a car in Dubai, which clogs the streets, which are poorly designed to begin with. Anyway, this is definitely my biggest issue with Dubai so far...

I wanted to make a quick comment on the gender [im]balance in Dubai. There are WAY more guys than girls in the city. The workers are all male, but even if you discount them, professional are skewed male, too. The BCG Dubai office only has 3 permanent females among the consulting stuff of over 40, and they are all at junior levels. The temporary transfers, including myself, are a little more female-skewing, but there is still a shortage of women. I miss having more girl friends. My roommates have been great, but I do wish there were more women at work and other places...

That's it for now... Until next time, Ciao!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

3.5 weeks in Dubai and loving it so far!!!

I've been in Dubai for less than a month and I really do love it so far. This may have something to do with the fact that I am still not staffed and thus have absolutely no work to do :), but I think a larger part of it is just the people. I like everyone I have met so far. A very large percentage of the population here is young professionals-- they're all between the ages of 22-30 and all seem to be well educated with cool jobs. And it seems that the type of people that end up moving here and just above average in terms of coolness ;-). In any case, I feel like it's super easy to meet people here, as no one really has established lives here, and the people I do meet are generally quite cool. My only fear is that I won't feel this way in 5 months...

More observations on life in Dubai:
  • I am spending more time with Europeans than I ever have before. There are surprisingly few Americans around. Europe pretty much dominates the Expat market. Germans and Brits are the most populous in my network at the moment, but I have also met Italians, Swedes, Austalians, etc. It's been fun seeing how the cultures are different. Notable differences between Europeans and Americans thus far: Halloween in Europe implies scary costumes, whereas we Americans go for any type of costume. Also Europeans call costume parties "fancy dress" parties :). Also, the concept of dating seems to be different among some Europeans. Some guys I have talked to say it's totally okay to go on dates with other girls even if you are committed to a girlfriend. It's not cheating unless it's physical-- that's a different mentality than the one I/most Americans? have...
  • I also spend more time in hotels than I ever have before. The Dubai social scene takes place almost exclusively in hotels because hotels are the only places that alcohol can be served legally. This means that clubs and bars are all connected to/ inside hotels... the Dubai parallels to Vegas are becoming more clear.
  • Some other interesting laws: No public displays of affection or cohabitation between girls and guys who aren't married
  • I am not a fan of greeting people in the European way, which is a kiss on each cheek. My [American] default is hugging (which, for the record, I was never a huge fan of to begin with), but all the Europeans do the kissing thing here. I lean in for the hug and then they kiss me on the cheek and I get confused and then I don't turn my head fast enough for the kiss on the other cheek. It's very awkward and embarrassing. Basically, I think I am probably Dubai's worst greeter. I am also just not a huge fan of random people kissing me on the cheek ;-)
  • Local anything-- there isn't any of it. Other than local hotel brands, I have yet to see Emirati brands or types of food, clothing, etc. Pretty much everything is imported...
Another update: I am moving next week into my home for the next 8 months! It's going to be a villa in the Jumeirah area of Dubai-- very close to the beach! I am sharing the villa with two other girls, which should be fun. And get this-- there is a live-in maid!!! She will be able to do my laundry, clean, help cook, etc-- it's amazing! I do feel a little guilty about this, but I figure, when else in my life will I get to have a maid? So I'm going with the flow and living it up for the next 8 months-- more reason for you all to come visit me! I'll post pics of the villa as soon as I move next Tuesday. I am having a going away party for my sweet hotel room this Thursday, which I am very excited about. I'll get to see if I actually have some friends in this city ;-)

That's all for now... Miss you all!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thoughts on Dubai

I realized I spent my last post talking about what I've done here so far, but not really what I think of the place. So here are my initial thoughts:
  • So much diversity! I am stunned by how many different types of people are walking around together: outwardly, you have people in burkas, Indian clothes, Pakistani hats, and then you have Western clothes on the South Asian workers, Europeans, Australians, Americans, etc. We call the US diverse, but everyone looks pretty similar in the U.S. in terms of clothing. Here people really do look different and they seem quite tolerant of one another
  • The diversity is in name only. I rarely see Arabs interacting with non-Arabs. No one really talks to the workers and Westerners generally keep to themselves. I am surprised by the number of Westerners/ expats. I'm sorta afraid I'm only going to hang out with them my entire time here.
  • My slight identity crisis... Most Muslims here dress in the Arab garb. Most Indians here are lower class workers. Most Americans are white. As you may guess, I don't fit into any of these categories so I'm very interested to know how people perceive me when they see me...
  • Everyone is very friendly and helpful. People are genuinely nice. Makes the transition a lot easier!
  • People have a lot of money to spend, especially the expats. Restaurants here are a lot more expensive than I would have guessed, or at least the ones that I/expats eat in. Lunch in a sandwich type place can easily run you $10-$20. Shopping is way more expensive than it is in the U.S.. And there are no sales to be seen. There is even a more expat-friendly grocery store, which charges more for groceries than the U.S. does too!
Those are my quick thoughts... I'll add more later!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Arrival in Dubai!

I finally arrived in Dubai on Sunday night and I'm now getting around to writing about it!

"So far, so good" is the short version. People are asking if it's what I expected and I honestly do know what my expectations were, but I like what I've seen/ done so far. My hotel room is awesome-- has a living room and mini kitchen and a very nice balcony. This will be my home for a month while I find a place to live.

I went into the office on Monday morning and that was good. People seem very nice and friendly and eager to meet people. And it's always nice to be in the office with no work to do :). I'm hoping to spend a couple weeks "on the beach" without work.

I also went to religious services on Monday night and the Ismaili Centre in Dubai is AMAZING-- the nicest one I've ever seen. I didn't really meet people, but it was cool just to see the beautiful place.

Also, on Monday night the UAE government declared Eid (end of Ramadan) to be on Tuesday, one day earlier than expected, so the rest of the week was holiday. No work Tues-Thurs! Pretty cool for me, but slightly weird that the whole city can shut down based on a 8:30 pm decision by the government the night before.

Tuesday I hung out with some British lawyers courtesy my American coworker. There's apparently a group of like 80 British lawyers who are all working in Dubai for 6 mos. They were very cool and it was nice to get plugged into an expat network.

Wednesday I checked out the Mall of the Emirates, which is the big mall in Dubai with the indoor ski slopes. The malls here are really just bigger versions of U.S. malls with more stores. This mall has a huge Walmart-type grocery store, plus the ski slope of course, which looks awesome. Pretty much all the stores and restaurants are imports of US and European stores. I really wonder if the UAE has any brands of its own. This mall food court had: KFC, Papa Johns, Hardees, Chilis, McDonalds, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Seattle's Best Coffee, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, etc-- more All-American brands than you'd find in any American mall! We also went to DragonMart on Wed, which is an enormous Chinese swapmeet. It was crazy! You could buy clothes, electronics (fake iPhones, etc), furniture, electrics, etc. Quite the scene.

Anyway, as you can see, I have managed to keep busy and I'm having fun meeting a lot of friends of friends that you all have put me in touch with, so please keep the contacts coming! I have been bad about taking pics so far, but I'll try to change that and post em soon! Miss you all!!!