As I am sure many of my fellow travelers and those who spend more time in a state of Wanderlust then reality will know. I do what I do and go where I go, for many reasons.
One of them being, the human species. Us human beings are an amazing species and we’re all so different.
We have different back rounds, different cultures, different, DNA structures, and most of all different ways of life.
It’s all about the fact that some of us, will eat rice with a spoon some with a knife and fork some with their hands and some with sugar on?
It’s a major part of what burns the fire that lights the passion, within my soul. How can you not want to know? I want to know, I want to learn, I want to share, and I want to taste the rice with sugar on. So when I got my first contract to work in Abu Dhabi, I was as “excited” as The Pointer Sisters.
I remember everyone else giving me advice on how to “interact” with the locals, and not to get caught up in the ways of the “tourists”. I also remember giggling to myself a lot. While it’s ALWAYS advisable to research the place you’re going before hand and respect etiquette, as far as I know we are not travelling to other planets just yet?
So I jumped on a plane, and after 9 or so hours later, I was in The United Arab Emirates. I had heard the horror stories, and they kept me well in line…for about four hours. Arriving in a country where the Expat ratio is 85% of the entire population, is something you simply can not prepare for by reading an online guide. Where every second person you look at is from another part of the globe. I was in TRAVEL HEAVEN! It was the best part of my time in THE UAE and it still is my fondest memory of my time there.
I was picked up from the airport, which in itself was an experience. Granted my first words to the driver were “Do you have air con”? And the rest of the ride, a conversation about Cricket. I was impressed, he knew more about South Africa’s Cricket Team, than I have ever known.
I was met with an HR official at my Villa and introduced to my Villa mates. Another South African woman, and a lady from Iran. I wont lie at first Tina (Iranian Lady) and I did NOT see eye, to eye.
After putting my bag down, and arranging my cupboards, Angel, the other South African Lady, walked into my room and declared “Oh Great One, You have been Ordered to Dress in Going Out Attire and be ready within the Hour“…..okay she may not have used those exact words, but Angel was possible of anything I tell you.
There I was, not quite knowing what the plans were or who exactly was requesting what, but I followed the instructions and within the hour was introduced to a group of expats who little did I know, were my Interns. We’d actually arrived within a week apart which told me how quickly one could become familiar with navigation and transportation within inner city.
This was going to be the start of an amazing relationship with a group of people, I would have never met, had I not been where I was at the time. I was taken to Aloft Hotel, in Abu Dhabi and we enjoyed cocktails, dancing and many laughs until the wee hours of orientation day the following morning, which by the way, we all had to attend as they had held the course off until my arrival.
Our group including myself, were made up of: South African, German, Korean, Greek, Spanish, French, Italian, Jordanian, Moroccan,Brazilian, Philippine, Sri Lankin, Zambian, and I know I am forgetting a few people (sorry, travel hug?).
The groups were only interning at the Hotel for 6 month periods. There were inside jokes, that couldn’t be shared with others, and faces that weren’t in my routine any more. I think as my first International travel experience, this group of people have a very special part in my life and heart.
Working where we were privileged enough to do so, in a Hotel (We’re going to use the Secret Batman location excuse here again ) on Yas Island put us slap bang in the middle of the most bustling part of Abu Dhabi.
I remember I could stand in the service entrance driveway of the Hotel, and if I looked one way, I had The Yas Marina Circuit and Yas Vicory all lit up. If I turned to my left I had Ferrari World if I turned to my right, I had our Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Rotana, and all the Clubs and Pubs in which they hosted in the evenings.
Fortunately for us our Hotel cleaned and kept our uniforms, and so often one could store an after work outfit in our lockers and head straight out. We did this often in large groups and we would spend HOURS, just sitting around interacting and learning about each other.
The entire experience of going out was more about, telling stories from home, and sharing ways of doing things, and of course they got a lot funnier with a couple PS I LOVE YOU’S from our favorite hang out #YBar at Rotana Hotel.
Below some of the amazing times we had at YBar, and Still Bar at Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi:
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Something else I really enjoyed was our “Villa 3” evenings. Colleagues of mine, would invite me over to their Villa for dinner, basically twice a week.
It was mainly occupied by people from India. And the men in this Villa were INTENT on cooking me Traditional Indian Cuisine, and teaching me how to master the art of eating with my hands. I was totally game for this. So every time we had one of these evenings, word would spread around the hotel all day.
This meant by the time I did get back from work, that the cooking was well under way, and so were “refreshments” ha ha ha. I loved getting home on these evenings, while my European Villa Mates, would go out, I’d venture over to Villa 3. I’d walk in like Aragorn in that scene where everyone thinks, he’s been taken over the cliff, and cheers would go around the room.
Immediately every man who’d been seated would stand and offer me their seat. At first it made me uncomfortable to be treated with such respect and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, but eventually I would take turns at accepting spaces. Apparently the chosen seat, would thereby allocate my drink pourer and food disher-upper for the rest of the evening. These guys were legends in their own right.
I did learn to eat with my hands. Its great fun and a great way to manage your portions. I realize a large aspect of eating this way, is that it creates an atmosphere for conversation. You’re so busy chatting away in between bites, cellphones and laptops and technology are long left answered and unchecked.
I now have an appreciation for the texture of food, not only a flavor in my mouth, but an actual texture within my hands. You won’t believe the way you start thinking about what you’re putting into your mouth if it doesn’t feel right in your hands.
These “at home” get together’s were just as fun as going out, and often the wiser and far cheaper choice. With everyone contributing a bit to the evening, and a laptop with a sound system, so great times were had. I must admit, I got to dance ALOT in Abu Dhabi, something I really enjoyed. See below for a look inside our cooking evenings:
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In fact our at home moments, were all round beautiful no matter where they happened:
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It’s sad to think that, I will most likely never again see these people. The world is a big place and we all had and have dreams of Travel and adventure. I hope that they have some good memories of our time together. My encouragement is to treat everyone you live and or work with, with respect.
For me these were the people I had my first International adventure with, they were there for the good days, the bad days the first steps I took. And of course the very very fun times we had.
They were even there at 23h00 on my Birthday when I got home from work to wish me Happy Birthday. Granted we got more than what we bargained for on my Birthday. Word had gone around the Hotel that it was indeed my Birthday, and so one of the Managers decided to send a gift via a colleague home to me.
Upon singing Happy Birthday we all were going to take a shot, of this drink which was the gift. We assumed it was some form of Vodka? It was pure alcohol. It was a movie directors dream scene as we all sipped, choked and then went red in the face. Im not saying we didn’t finish the bottle, just that we are brave people, with super human powers 🙂
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If you have friends or family in the UAE, go visit them. While we have all these amazing encounters and new friends and exposure, it’s always reassuring to have someone you know come and say hello. Also everyone else’s parents and siblings are constantly flying in and out, which can be quite hard, for solo, independent travelers. I was lucky in Abu Dhabi, I had two sets of friends visit 🙂
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You really do form a community with the people you’re always with, especially if you live and work together. Luckily for us, our company paid attention to this fact and took us out on outings. Who doesn’t want a chance to beat the boss on the Race Track?
We went Karting at AL Forsan, Abu Dhabi for our first Team Building experience. A great place to go, if the Yas Marina is too crowded for your liking. Watch out Alonso!
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I really do value The UAE in respect to the open expat charged life that one can lead there. No matter your interests, hobbies or work industry, there is always someone to have a conversation with and something to learn or teach someone else.
Not all contracts are the same, and not all accommodation are like what I experienced, I was very fortunate, as I have seen some accommodation that isn’t exactly so wonderful, and I myself have experienced a contract after this one that was just terrible.
No matter your situation I encourage you to, get out your front door and enjoy some aspect of your stay,I will venture back to the UAE and I hope to canvas a lot more the next time, than I was able to do last time.
There are some many hobbies and clubs and groups that you can join up with, so many forums to keep you in the know. Your experience, outside of work should never be anything but amazing.
I remember sometimes, when we were low on cash, and had “nothing” to do at home. My room mate and I would hire a car and drive down to the harbor in the evenings, we’d take some snacks and sit on the edge of the wall and just watch the night fish markets operate.
Luckily the guy she ended up marrying was a CBI and so, when we were invited on an impromptu ship tour the one time, we had the ability to say “Documents please” before we boarded. Still though, we got a tour of a huge ship, when we thought we had nothing to do?
So, when it comes to people, in the UAE, my advice is Go, YES! I learnt so much about people from all over the world, I learnt bits of new languages, I learnt new ways of doing things, I learnt new ways of interaction, I learnt to appreciate what I had and where I had come from.
As with anywhere else in the world, there are down sides, and horror stories and things do happen, they happen in my own country too. This though is no reason at all to be put off travelling. And so we say, happy “expatiating” in the UAE.
If you enjoyed my personal views on my UAE trips, please RT me on Twitter, I am @Ceecestravel. I LOVE questions, so feel welcome to comment on comment section below.
Don’t forget to read Part 1 of this series.
And As Always…