Driving in Dubai

Jenny Hewett learns how to parallel park - again

Last word, The Knowledge

Last week, as I was attempting to park my car in what seemed to be the only cramped parking lot in the city, it dawned on me (after trying to squeeze into the space three times) that during my four years in Dubai I have all but forgotten one of life’s most important skills: how to parallel park. While there was no way of avoiding the task in my car-clogged home town, Dubai has an abundance of spacious lots that require no such manoeuvres. The situation is bittersweet (I definitely don’t miss the honking or verbal abuse from pushy drivers), but it did make me think about other skills I have both gained and lost during my time in this sunny emirate.

The first gain is not so much a skill: it’s more a new level of trust. You see, prior to moving to Dubai, my only understanding of valet parking came from watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as those hoodlums have their way with Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari. So, initially I was somewhat hesitant to leave my keys in the ignition while a complete stranger drove off in my slightly less souped-up wheels. Now, it’s second nature to do just this –
much like having the lovely folk at the service station fill my petrol tank (although, I will admit, one ‘skill’ I haven’t managed to scrap is fumbling around to find the button that opens the petrol cap). Yes, even I’m cringing at the Dubai stereotype I’ve become.

However, on a slightly less amusing note, I have most definitely lost my ‘green’ thumb while here. The speed at which I could once separate my waste into recyclable groups – mandatory in many countries – has all but flown out the window (the skill that is; not the rubbish). Now, the only place I get to practise recycling is at the office, where waste paper goes through a slot in a cupboard door next to the photocopier (where it goes after this is anyone’s guess).

But while Dubai may not yet have its grip on waste management, it’s certainly got its technologically based efforts down to a T. Or, rather, an ATM. To be able to deposit a cheque into an ATM machine without having to line up to see a bank attendant, going through paperwork and checking signatures is something that pleases me greatly. It’s most definitely a skill that I welcome. Mind you, if I had to do all this while, say, opening an umbrella (an otherwise menial task in most other countries on the planet), things could get a little tricky.

Luckily, I don’t think I’ll be needing that particular skill here for some time. Or ever. Result!

Jenny Hewett is our Shopping & Style editor. She’s now very good at depositing cheques.

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