A paltry six months into my life in Dubai, I had already become weary of hearing tall tales across every brunch table, at every bar and during every coffee break at work. It’s not that I think Dubai houses a disproportionate number of liars, but among the many, many expats who arrive in the country to make a new life, a great number of them seem hell bent on constructing an entirely new persona for themselves.
I can’t claim to be innocent of reinventing myself: as a teenager, I went from being a 14-year-old goth with lashings of eyeliner to 17-year-old humanitarian volunteering at weekends in a charity shop (which, I can now reveal, was a cynical attempt to raid through grannies’ rubbish to get my hands on vintage accessories before anyone else). But while it’s perfectly normal to overhaul yourself several hundred times in your teens, all this trial and error is supposed to leave you with a pretty strong sense of who you are as an adult – and not in a state of agitated social anxiety.
Now four-and-a-half years into my tenure in Dubai, I am still witness to an endless parade of these purveyors of fantasy. And though there will always be a continuous stream of new and ever-more-amusing examples, there are three particularly common incarnations of this unusual state of being that I’ve found so far.
The investor. At home she was an entry-level estate agent, but now she’s telling everyone how to flip property and how ‘you’ve just got to speculate to accumulate’. You feel so embarrassed for her you can’t bring yourself to inform her of the credit crunch and property crisis that we – and most of the rest of the world – still haven’t recovered from.
The model. A receptionist at home, but for some baffling reason she will never reveal this. Instead, she will introduce herself as ‘a model and dancer’. All good, but you’re more likely to bump into her when she tries to attack you with a free spritz of perfume in Mall of the Emirates.
The personal trainer. Formerly a full-time recruitment consultant, he spent his weekends in the gym necking protein shakes before he moved out here. His CV is a shirtless photograph of himself.
Not met one of these yet? Count yourself lucky. If you have identified yourself as one of these people, I implore you to snap out of it; if you happen to be sitting next to someone who fits this description, I urge you
to shake some sense into them for me. I’d do it myself, but I just don’t have time. I’ve got a multinational publishing empire to run.