First impressions of Dubai

Experiences expat Hfu Reisenhofer's verdict on Dubai

Last word, The Knowledge

Having lived in various places around the world, from the Far East to western Europe, I like to think I have the whole moving and settling process pretty much mastered. You know, trying to pack away all my worldly possessions into a few cardboard boxes, organising and keeping tabs on movers, and saying goodbye to friends, pets and family (not necessarily in that order).

That doesn’t mean I don’t find it a stressful experience – it’s hardly a thing of pleasure – but I do think past experience is a bit of a bonus. My move to the UAE a few weeks ago is just the latest in a long list of migrations and periods of welcome upheaval.

What surprised (and continues to surprise) me about Dubai is just how easy it’s been so far – but something tells me I’m inviting trouble with that statement. No queuing for hours on end to get paperwork sorted, no language difficulties and – the most infuriating – no being taken for a ride by taxi drivers who insist on ferrying you the long way round. Admittedly I’ve yet to go through the apparent hassle of renting long-term accommodation and dealing with the local banks, and I still haven’t had the pleasure of summer in Dubai, but as first impressions go, it’s all been rather positive. Disconcertingly so, perhaps.

I do have one bone to pick, however, and it concerns the small matter of walking. Could there be a less pedestrian-friendly city? I suppose somewhere in the States, maybe. But if I were to rate Dubai on how easy it is to walk from A to B, I’d have to disappoint those genius urban planners who decided to place a six-lane road between my apartment building and the nearest grocery store. Where’s a flyover or underpass when you need one? Nevertheless, each day I step off the pavement undeterred and face the oncoming traffic with foolish resolve. Call me stubborn, but I refuse to hail a cab to buy a pint of milk.

On the other hand, perhaps I ought by now to have learned my lessons from previous experience. After all, there’s no use in railing against cultural differences or what you might at first perceive to be nonsense when you’re a foreigner in a foreign land. You just have to accept the differences and move on, lest you drive yourself mad (and miserable) with fruitless ranting and raving.

Yet what are the chances I’ll actually listen to my own words of wisdom? Slim, I should think. So if you’re one day driving along in your shiny 4x4 and come across a hot-headed chap strolling the length of Sheikh Zayed Road in the middle of summer, or – dare I suggest it – attempting to cross it, it’s probably me. A friendly wave would be nice.

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