Dubai habits I can't shake

Jenny Hewett finds she's picking up more than a tan in Dubai

Last word, The Knowledge

The other day, as I was driving past the local mosque on my way home, it occurred to me that during my three years in Dubai I’ve subconsciously picked up some habits. Case in point: it’s common knowledge among my friends that I can’t function without music (‘can you please turn it up?’ or ‘can you change the station?’ are phrases I throw about in taxis like a Dhs1 tip), especially when freewheeling among the backstreets of Barsha. But on this occasion I did something different. On passing the mosque, I reached for the volume dial and turned it right down.

I’m in no way a culture-phobe (quite the opposite), but even I was surprised (and impressed!) at my own reflexive act of sensitivity. Having noticed a number of taxi drivers do the same in a spate of back-seat journeys recently (all too often interrupting a great track), it appears I have inherited this habit without even realising it.

Now, it’s not unusual that this should happen. Having grown up in Asia, I’ve become accustomed to adjusting to new cultures and hanging onto the endearing bits and pieces of each. Some habits I first picked up years ago are still with me today. And now there are a couple of new habits I’ve acquired since living in Dubai that are firmly set in my routine.

Let’s start with the fact that it’s winter, yet, for some reason, I think it’s a good idea to sleep with the A/C (ahem, before living in Dubai I would have called it ‘air-con’) turned down to 18°C in my bedroom, purely so I can snuggle under a feather duvet at bedtime (before which I roam around in Ugg boots and a hoodie). And when the weather heats up again, you’ll rarely see me without a cardigan, even if I’m sweating like
a dog. The truth is, I feel naked on the streets without some sort of cover-up.

Speaking of streets, when I’m not at work my feet very rarely make contact with the sidewalk – or lack of. Not only do I drive to most places (I’m living in a sandpit devoid of footpaths), I also get everything possible delivered.

Yet these habits really pale in comparison to the liking I’ve developed for the horn – the one on the car, that is. I know it’s not very becoming, but when visiting the local mini-mart I’ve been known to park outside, sound my horn and wait for a member of shop staff to come over and ask what I’d like. Shocking? To some, maybe. Convenient? You bet. If you ask me, it’s all in the name of being at one with your environment.

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