I will miss so much more of the UAE than these 10 things.
#10 – Round-A-Bouts
At first round-a-bouts were a little intimidating to understand. I have a feeling there are quite a few people here trying to figure them out still. Once you get it, they are actually pretty awesome, but not in consistently high traffic areas. Traffic continues to flow, and if you’re not sure which way to go, just go around again. Rules to remember with round-a-bouts or ‘squares’ as I’ve heard them referred to, is that “whoever is in front, wins”. If you’re in front of the guy beside you, and you need to turn but he isn’t, you have right of way (don’t forget to use your blinker). Also, squares aren’t much different than intersections. If you want to take the 3rd exit, you get in the right lane to merge into the centre ring, and basically turn right. If there are 3 lanes going into a square, left lane turns left (and straight if there are 3 lanes coming out of the square), centre lane goes straight, right lane goes straight or right. When their are only 2 lanes going into a square, left lane goes left and straight, right lane goes straight and right. See. Simple.
#9 – Having a ‘Guy’
So this did make it on my list after all. You want a shelf hung, you call a ‘guy’ to hang the shelf. You need a light change, call a ‘guy’ to do it. Water my grass, the ‘guy’ comes by everything other day to turn the water on for 15 min, then turn it off again. Need your car washed in your parking spot, you can have a ‘guy’ do it at home, or while you’re at the mall shopping. Back broke off your chair, no problem, call the ‘guy’ to come and fix it. We’ve even had half a dozen mice, ant infestation, and a bed bug scare. We just called a ‘guy’ and the problem was solved. Think my ‘guy’ will move to Canada with me?
#8 – Full service…everything
Who wants to get out of their car…for anything. Gas, all full service, at every station except after 12:00am at some stations. Remember drive-in’s? You drove into the parking lot and honked, and someone would come out and take your order? I have never done this but I’ve seen it done and not only at fast food restaurants. I’ve seen people do this at grocery stores, hardware stores and other smaller places of business.
#7 – Spontaneous Holidays
The holidays on the calendar are tentative at best. Every once in a while an announcement is made that certain sectors will not be working on certain days. I’m sure it’s a rare thing. But we saw this happen twice within a week. This could also fall on my things I won’t miss about the UAE, as it makes planning difficult. But hey, a bonus day off is nothing to complain about.
#6 – Inexpensive Services
Our favourite service has been dry-cleaning. I get everything dry-cleaned. Quilts, pillows, James work shirts and pants, the girls dresses, carpets, sleeping bags. First of all my washing machine barely handles daily laundry for 5 let alone one quilt. Second, I don’t have to iron shirts when someone else does a better job for $1/shirt.
#5 – Security
We live in a large, gated community. There is a fence that runs around the entire University City. Inside that each separate University or College is surround by it’s own fence. Emirate police are posted at each gate entrance, randomly screening people who enter into the ‘city’. Faculty/Staff are separated from students by a fence as well. Guards are setup at A/C booths, or on patrol all day and night all over campus. It sounds like we’re really locked down, but for the most part you don’t ever see these guys though you know they’re there.
The community is also small enough that we look out for each other. My neighbours are familiar with my kids, as I am with theirs. When my kids go to the store, they know and talk to the people that work there. We’ve been surrounded by many friendly, caring people who watch out for each other.
#4 – Rain days
Rain days are another rarity, but a welcome one. It is quite the novelty when it rains here as the drainage system is poor to non-existent. Rain waters quickly pool in cul-de-sacs and round-a-bouts making instant swimming pools for puddle jumping. What’s more fun than swimming in dirty street water fully clothed?
#3 – 98% chance of good weather, every day
Planning a camping trip? Want to go to the beach or waterpark? No need to check the weather network to plan in advance. Even if it rains it’s going to be a good day for anything. Pick a day, and pack your stuff.
#2 – Camping when and wherever you like
No need to book ahead with the local government (unless you plan on camping in Dubai). If there isn’t enough space in your desired location just drive a little further and drop your tent. Don’t want to go too far off the road, no problem. I’ve seen tents set up just off the highway many times (not that I would want to camp there).
#1 – All-Inclusive Campus life
We’ve certainly been spoiled here at the American University of Sharjah. From the on-call carpenters and fix-it guys, to the full free access to community events and amenities (gyms, indoor and outdoor pools, grocery store, pharmacy, hair saloons, soccer fields, baseball diamond, cricket pitch, tennis courts, basketball courts) all with in walking distance. You really can’t beat the package we got here. Friends were easily made as we’re all in the same boat of being expats away from our families. All this made our initial landing here easier to bear, and hard to leave. I hope we are able to come back some day.