Kindness in Dubai

So I had a crappy day. The kind of day when you woke up feeling sluggish, wished you could sleep longer but had to drag yourself up anyway because of responsibilities and as the day went on, one negative event ensued after another.

If there is one thing I really dislike about living Dubai, it will be the lack of courtesy and kindness among people here. During my recent business trip home to KL, I encountered kindness the moment I touched feet in the airport. The random acts of kindness were aplenty and more common in Malaysia, and that was the environment I was brought up in. Say if your car is parked in a tight spot in between two cars, what do you do when you get in or out of it? Do you swing your car door like in a musical, or do you open it slowly – carefully using your hand to cushion the impact your door may cause on the other car? I have always done the latter, simply because that’s someone else’s car, bought with that person’s hard-earned money. Just like ours too. But that’s not the case in Dubai. I drive a small Honda Jazz and always makes it a point to park my car properly, allowing other car drivers to get in and out easily. Yet my poor car has scratches, paint marks from another car and dents. So is the Husband’s car. I need not explain further for you to understand why…

In the friendship front, I’ve long given up hope on finding genuine and sincere friends here. Gullible and all excited when we first came, I thought that it would be easier to forge friendships with people from the region surrounding my country of origin, because after all, that’s already one thing we have in common and cultural clash can be minimised. But now – after over two years residing here – I’ve come to accept that my real friends are all back in Malaysia. I have stopped investing efforts in making new friends or being in a network of mums. I’m contented with just the Husband and kids, immersing myself in my part-time work, circuit training routine, cooking and lots of books.

That’s what happens when you live in a place where people moved over to for status and wealth. Blinded by material wealth, people begin to lose touch of their roots and forget to stay true to themselves. We see actions that are inconsiderate, egoistic and lack empathy. We realise that our supposedly friends are fake, intention-driven and full of themselves. It’s rather normal to smile and say “Hi” to another mum during school pick up, only to be ignored at point blank. Yes, our kids go to the same school, same class. It came a moment when I pondered – “Is this the environment I want my kids to grow up in?” I was worried they will be influenced and become people with these traits too. Then again, staying grounded begins from home – not depending on which country we reside in because let’s face it, there’s no one place in the world where everyone is nice and dandy. If the Husband and I continue to model the right behaviours, live simple and constantly be connected with the kids, they will take after us too. Gratitude starts young.

So, back to what happened today. A friend recently asked a favour that involved me driving to somewhere 20 minutes away. On a day when I was tired, had nothing on and would have preferred to snuggle up on my bed with a good book at home. Alas, I chose to help. It’s better to be useful than useless, eh? But I do get upset when my kindness is returned with a lack of manners. Having driven there in a groggy state of mind only to discover that she herself wasn’t present to oversee this (because she was in a yoga class) and left it to me and her helper to settle it. And when the favour didn’t come through, I was told a “Thanks. Bye”, and left dumbfounded to deal with my own stupidity and lack of judgement. Yes, the ignorance and deficiency in courtesy does get into your head after living in Dubai for a long while too.

Disappointed, I left feeling silly for even offering help. Trying to digest the whole situation and pacifying myself on how to move forward without creating friction with yet another person here, I texted the Husband and reversed my car. That was when my day transformed from lousy to fabulous.

Seeing my struggle to get out of the narrow carpark spot, a truck driver honked at me and guided me to follow his cues. You see, I was driving the Husband’s car that day, also known as the lorry to me. I am horrible with gauging the length of big cars, and that’s also the reason why I will choose small cars over big, expensive ones anyday! I reversed my lorry while the man watched out for me. He didn’t need to, but he did. It was really nice of him to do so, or else I would have been stuck there for a while reversing and going forward a few times. As I left, a taxi driver stopped to give way. Really, no kidding!

Since I was in that area, I dropped by a supermarket to get Xan’s favourite humous. A man was in front of me while we walked into the store. As the automated door opened, he stopped and let me in first. Really? How sweet! I was appalled in a good way. Asians rarely get noticed here, let alone treated equally. I quickened my pace to get the things needed and almost bumped into a lady with a trolley. Instead of looking annoyed, she smiled at me…with eye contact! So did the man over the counter who served me. The cashier too. As a result, I bought more than just humous there. The best part was, I received a call from my friend to apologise over the whole situation. That made me feel a whole lot better.

I decided to reciprocate these kindnesses by getting my part-time helper a lunch pack from the supermarket. Rushing home to catch him in time before he leaves, I heated up the food and gave it to him. With slightly watery eyes, he didn’t stop saying “Thank you” until he was out of my sight. No, thank YOU for making my day.

Today, Dubai proved me wrong. Amidst constant negativity, there is kindness here. We just need to look hard enough.

 

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