Sunday, 29 May 2011

Oh, grow up Dubai!

Dickens talks about how Mid Victorian society has a veneer (I'm going to suggest that this was in Dombey and Son, but please don't quote me on this because I have just spent the last 40 minutes flicking through the 927 pages and I can't find the quotation - just take my word for it!). He discusses how, if you lift off the rooftops of the middle class houses, and peer closely at those pious, respectable people, you would be shocked by what really goes on behind closed doors. Things in Victorian society were not all they seemed to be. Dubai is very similar. As a tourist what you see is the veneer of glitz and glamour; the architecture, 5 star hotels, exotic restaurants and designer shopping malls. As a resident the view is far more complex: the view that underneath that veneer of sophistication is a nation desperately struggling against western culture whilst trying to appear to be accepting of it.

For example, a multinational city needs rules and laws to live by and there are rules and regulations here, like there are in any city, the difference is, that only a few of them are enforced. There is a smoking ban, but you can smoke pretty much anywhere: you should strap your child into a car seat, but most don't; there is a ministry for everything (I collectively refer to them as 'the Ministry of Magic') but, tell me, what do they do again?  Take consumer rights of any kind. Buy something here at your peril because if anything goes wrong, you have no recourse whatsoever. I have experienced this first hand over the past three months.

We purchased a desktop computer. It doesn't work; it has never worked. The well-known-digital retailer has tried to repair it four times, and although they have admitted they can't fix it, they refuse to replace it. Why? Because they know we can do absolutely nothing about it.

And last week, I laughed out loud to hear the discussion on the radio of the Snoop Dog concert. He pitched up on stage wearing a Kandora and was swearing, apparently. An American rap star swearing, you don't say!? It does beg the question of whether Dubai can cope with Western culture doesn't it? You can't have it both ways. If you invite western culture in, then you have to accept it for what it brings. And this just might mean that Dubai has to lose the adolescent temper tantrums, and just grow up.

1 comment:

  1. I hear you Louise, but I also think that it works both ways. Some of the examples you quote are absolutely the more annoying elements of living here - and yes, the hypocrisy can wear thin - but whenever I get mad at something I think about all the things I got mad about when I lived in London and, on balance, I prefer living here. Sunshine and tax-free living? It's worth it.

    For me, it's a fascinating place and although I can't rely on the sort of rational thinking and the legal safety net I got used to in my home country, I accept that's the price I have to pay for not living in a tiny yet hugely expensive apartment in the middle of London, paying outrageous amounts of income tax (not to mention all those nasty little stealth taxes), walking the kids to school in the rain/wind/sleet and then fighting to get to work in an overpriced and overcrowded tube with my nose in someone's sweaty armpit!