I’m a very sociable person, I really am. This is probably because I’m a great big show-off, but I like to think it also has something to with the fact I simply like people. My downfall, however (other than talking too loudly and belly-laughing at my own jokes), is that I want everyone to have a good time. I’m told this is an admirable quality, but I take it too far – so far, in fact, that I forget to have a good time myself.
The problem is that so much of our time in Dubai is spent meeting new people and socialising in groups where not everyone knows each other. While this is a fact of life in a transient place such as the UAE, I’m still worried that so-and-so and so-and-so, who are new in town and don’t really know anyone, will feel left out, so try to bring them into a conversation by asking loud, leading questions – a tactic that’s as obvious as it is cringe-worthy, and results in me acting like a nervous teenage girl desperately trying to ingratiate her disapproving parents with a good-for-nothing boyfriend.
‘So, I hear you like snorkelling?’ I’ll say loudly, with a nervous laugh. ‘Well, Chris likes snorkelling, don’t you Chris?’ I shout across at my friend Chris who isn’t sure how to respond. For the record, Chris doesn’t like snorkelling. He might have mentioned in passing that he knew someone with a brother who once said he’d like to try snorkelling, but that’s as far as his interest in snorkelling goes.
Of course, these minor details don’t bother me; as far as I’m concerned, Chris likes snorkelling, the new people like snorkelling, we all like snorkelling. And once we’ve established this, we’re all going to have a nice time. All of us.
I’ll never learn. Or will I? Back home, I was always worried about group dynamics – would my school friends get on with my university friends? No, because my school friends didn’t like people from outside the village. Would my friends from work get on with my friends from university? Again, no: my work friends never liked me enough to make an effort.
Fortunately, however, I’ve now realised that here in Dubai, everyone’s a lot more open to meeting new people because we all remember what it’s like to be fresh off the boat and appreciate a friendly welcome.
This isn’t to say I’ve quite got over my penchant for rubbish conversation starters and nervous laughter, but I’m getting there. After all, I just want to be sure everyone’s having a nice time, even if it does mean talking about snorkelling.