This is the second in a series of repeated posts (e.g. published elsewhere before) from outside of China, detailing the start of my expatriate life. There will always be a post a day about China so if you’re not interested in other material – you can stop reading now.
Working in Dubai was fantastic and a great introduction to the local mind set and the pitfalls of expatriate life. I was headhunted from the UK in a strange series of piss poor interviews the first of which went something like; “What about Dubai?”, “What about Dubai?”, “Well what do you know?”, “Ummm… it’s very hot, it’s Muslim, it’s tax free and you can drink there. That’s about it.”, “Nice one, I’ll pass your details over and they’ll call to arrange an interview!” <Dial tone>
I was looking for overseas work, but I’d really expected to go to Germany or the Netherlands or France, not the Middle East. But after running through the numbers, which were very generous, and seeing the rather lovely apartment in Dubai Marina they would give me to live in, it seemed churlish to refuse.
Two more interviews followed, it was clear they had no idea what the job was or what skills were required, but that they liked me. The job was offered and I was told it was very important I started immediately, but I would need to complete a UAE background check before I could go, which they would get out to me that day.
And then I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited some more. No such paperwork was forthcoming; I chased it every day and then gave up and went to Germany for a weekend festival. The plane landed in Germany and my phone started to ring; “We’ve just sent you the paperwork can you get it back today?”, “Well no, I’m in Germany with no IT equipment and I will be sat in a muddy field getting drunk for the next 3 days, will next week be OK?”, “I don’t know” <Dial tone>
I assumed it would be and filled in the paperwork on the Monday when I got back. Thursday night at around midnight I received an e-mail, my flight was booked for the next morning for an 8 a.m. flight from Manchester, and I had a hotel booked in Dubai Media City for 3 days following my arrival.
Nice, not. I ran round the house in a mad panic, lobbed stuff in a suitcase. Kissed my girlfriend goodbye and ran for the airport. To encounter the total chaos caused by the “liquid bombers” at Heathrow that week. They stripped me of everything I owned except my wallet, which went in a plastic bag, and off I went.
Like an idiot.
There were no contact details for the office in the e-mail, no address, no phone number, nothing and they had always phoned me. So I assumed that these would be waiting for me in Dubai, wrong.
I spent the next two days in a panic trying to reach my recruitment consultant to find out where on earth I was supposed to go on the Sunday; of course she was on holiday just to prolong my agony. Thankfully she came back late Saturday, told me the office was literally behind the hotel (correct) and that working hours were 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (utter nonsense as it turns out).
So I tear my jet lagged posterior out of bed at 6 a.m. (2 a.m. GMT) and head off to the office, which is empty. I sit and wait, and wait, and wait some more (this is the essence of life in Arabia; you wait a lot, often and for no purpose).
Finally at 9 a.m. some of my future colleagues turn up, who join me in my waiting. Finally at lunchtime our new boss arrived, said hello and told us he would be back soon. He didn’t come back all day.
No food, no water, it’s hot even inside (the A/C reduces the temperature to a bearable 28/30 ish, which is still pretty hot for those of us from the UK) and we sit doing nothing all day. I am beginning to understand the local interpretation of “urgency”.