Thursday, September 28, 2006

Male Blockbuster Employee – Female UAE National Roommate?

I went to Blockbuster Video the other night. I happily purchased a couple of uncut DVD’s to add to my collection, with hopes that customs doesn’t take them on my way back home. Considering the fact that I was in a department store earlier and was talked into buying a collection of ‘Forever Sharp Kitchen Knives’ by some very adamant, convincing sales man, I’m pretty sure my bag is going to be one of the ones requested opened on my way back.

Anyway, I asked the guy behind the counter when some particular movie would be out, and he suggested I come back in February. When I explained I wouldn’t be here, and told him I lived in Dubai he exclaimed, “I’ve got a roommate and she’s from Dubai!”

Humm… I thought. A female, UAE national with a male roommate in Canada?

“It’s a she,” I continued, “There’s no way she’s a UAE national! A UAE national woman would never move in with a man who isn’t family.”

“Well that’s exactly why her family left! The rules are so strict over there!”

“Umm, no.” I was almost certain he meant someone who immigrated to the UAE had now moved to Canada after this talk, “I mean there’s no way she’s from the UAE because the Emirati culture simply doesn’t work like that.”

“Well,” her whole family moved here when she was just 17 years old.

“What’s her name?” I figured this would give a little more information.

“Janice,” he looked at me a little puzzled.

“Nope.” I confirmed, “There’s no way she’s from the UAE. That’s not a Muslim or even Arab name. She could have immigrated to the UAE, or her family might have. But she’s not from there”

By now, the guy is getting almost annoyed aggressive in his instance, “All I know is she was born and raised there. To me that means she’s from Dubai.”

“Fair enough,” I replied, “But UAE nationality isn’t given away as Canadian is here. Chances are, she originates from somewhere else.”

“Well,” He eased up a little, “All her friends are Pakistani. Maybe she originates from Pakistan?”

“Very possible.” I picked up my bag and continued, “All I know for sure is that you’ll almost never find a UAE national immigrating for life to the west. They’re treated too good, by their own government back home.

I smiled and left. But the conversation had me thinking a couple of things. In the UAE, race really is a huge issue. And it rubs off on you. Why was it so important to me, for him to understand that this girl wasn’t a UAE national? A girl like that, should be considered from the UAE, simply because she’s known nothing else.

I’d love to know what you all think of this conversation and what exactly it means. Feel free to call me a racist bitch if that’s how you read into this and of course, if it’ll make you feel better.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why but this story made me smile... Actually, I thought it was cute. Obviously, my brain is not getting enough oxygen and I shouldn't be up at this hour ;)
I'm glad to see you back :)

12:47 AM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger marwan said...

It shows the radical disconnect between the UAE's immigration policy and the rest of the world, in my eyes.
The clerk is quite correct, that girl should be 'from the UAE.' Ok, maybe she doesn't understand the language or customs. But few countries are completely monolinguist or monocultural, and what the UAE fails to see is that she contributes her own unique culture.

I sorta get it, and I sorta get your response as well. There's two things at work here: race, and greed. The government doesn't want to dilute its racial purity by allowing all the guest worker to freely mingle with Emiratis, who have been raised to think of themselves as exceptional. The other is equally obvious: individual wealth could not be maintained if it was distributed among even 10% of the expats who wish to become Emiratis.

On a personal note - I wish you could understand what it is like, Tainted, to be caught in this netherworld. To spend your entire life in a place, growing up in its smells and alleyways, and then being rudely told by anyone and everyone to 'go back where you came from.' How can I do that? That's here, the UAE.
Home, it seems, is a concept only the Emiratis are allowed to understand.

9:23 AM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger marwan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:24 AM, September 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its so funny, I had that experience more than once since I came to Canada, when people say "oh I know someone from Dubai" and then I see him or her and they are not really, I never commented to correct or anything because I just assumed what the blockbuster man told you.
but I must say I thought about it,"why would she say she is from Dubai when she wasn't given the citizenship, a part of me was bothered that she felt she was from Dubai when Dubai didn't recognize her, another part felt sorry for her,I guess thats why I never reponded.
Its sad. It also bring to my mind times when I meet people from India who lived in the Emirates and are now working in Canada, once they know I am from Dubai, they just get so excited and treat me and my friends super nice (if we were in a shop or restaurant),a part of me feels guilty for receiving such treatment cause I know some of them were not treated well when they were there....
when are you coming back Tainted?

2:00 PM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger inmotion said...


12:40 AM, September 30, 2006  
Blogger black feline said...

My x queen...why allow your feathers be ruffled by a simpleton? all of us in UAE (except the locals and camels) are in transit...come come my dear...have a cup of piping hot earl grey on me...scones too...:)

7:40 AM, September 30, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Kiddo, how're you feeling these days? No plans to come back to the Emirates. Weather's loosening up every day not as bone chilling as yours so come back soon, will ya?

8:41 AM, September 30, 2006  
Blogger bklyn_in_dubai said...

it's interesting you made that distinction, not even allowing that she could be "from dubai" if she wasn't a national. (do nationals make further social subdivions between locals who get legal/financial benefits and other nationals who don't?) it seems very much an institutional thing, as marwan pointed out above. a lot of the born/brought up expats i've talked to here internalize that, to the point that they will say i'm from (pick your non-UAE place), and i'll say but you grew up here, and they'll say, ok, but i'm not really from here because i don't have any rights.

because of this, they all have to make plans to go at sometime, because dubai really is not their home. i can't help but think, however, this can't be good for the health of the economy in the long run, if skilled workers like these who are happy to stay here their whole lives are leaving to be replaced by other, possibly less, skilled workers who are here with a short term mentality. i'm no economist, but it seems short sighted.

let's play the "what if" game: what if the gov't were to expand giving nationality (but not financial benefits) or some kind of permanent residence (like a US green card) to people who've been here a long time (say 20+ yrs). this would give them residential security. do you think this would be an overall plus or a bad idea for this place?

12:26 PM, September 30, 2006  
Blogger Khaled Zamer said...

Well, to be honest I respect the immigration policy and the measurements which UAE is taking.

This will ensure that the country will stay somehow balanced.

It is very well known that people living in the UAE are 75% expats and 25% Nationals. On the other hand, I think the Residency process should be easier, examples: why I do need a (No Objection Letter) if I leave my work and move to another one, Why Do I need to have a ton of paper to start a small business like a supermarket or book store. Why I can’t live without a sponsor! Why I cant open a bank account without having my original passport with me!! And so on.

In all cases, I think there should be a balance to keep this country as it is today.

Nice blog, and BTW you also made me smile while reading.

10:31 AM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger Jassim said...

The UAE is not that exclusive about people who want to stay. If you got money you can own your own property and automatically get residence status and live there till the end of your days.

This is 2006..not 1986.

11:26 AM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger Khaled Zamer said...

Thanks Jassim, I know how good this country to all of us (Nationals and Expats). The sad point is there are people who misuse the blessings they've been given and as a result things will be generalized. I'm living here and I know how easy it is to come and be a permanent resident here, which much easier than others around us. The point which is killing me the NOC, which keeps the control in hands of my employer! Which he in return can deport me if he wants to act badly? There is a new legislation coming from the government where these things will be "Not eliminated but regulated" in a better way for both the employer and employee.

11:48 AM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger Seabee said...

tainted, is it about rascism? I think it's semantics. You and he interpret the word 'from' differently.

I don't believe rascism rubs off on us. If anything the experience in Dubai makes those of us who are not rascist to begin with even more against it.

7:06 PM, October 02, 2006  
Blogger Tainted Female said...


So long as you’re happy forget the oxygen.


I agreed with your thoughts up until this point:

’ The government doesn't want to dilute its racial purity by allowing all the guest worker to freely mingle with Emiratis, who have been raised to think of themselves as exceptional.’

When I first arrived here, there were multiple advertisements on local television channels that showed expatriate neighbors sharing coffee, lunch & gifts with their local neighbors and vice-versa. These ads have long disappeared, but I remember them clearly. I believe that was the government attempt to bring us all together. At the same time, there’s no disconnected in private schools like the ones I went to, where you’ll find as many national children in proportion to the national population of the whole society.

Also, my ex husband will swear up and down that he lost the divorce because he’s a national and I’m a westerner. I know many who think of themselves as far less than exceptional when there’s a comparison with other races living in their country.

Moving on, you said:

’ On a personal note - I wish you could understand what it is like, Tainted, to be caught in this netherworld. To spend your entire life in a place, growing up in its smells and alleyways, and then being rudely told by anyone and everyone to 'go back where you came from.' How can I do that? That's here, the UAE.’

How you assume to know what I feel and know is beyond me. I’m a white girl, blonde hair and green eyes. I have spent the majority of my life in the UAE, and it’s my home now. Currently in Canada – my home by nationality, I can guarantee how much impact the UAE has on me. I wear hijab in the Emirates but have felt forced to remove it while traveling this time around. (Partially because I was scared of Heathrow airport – the only one to give me trouble because of my covered passport photo and partially because I know Muslim’s simply aren’t seen in the city I’m currently in). Do you think the average local accepts me? For the longest time, I was thought a Russian prostitute. I’ve been accused of attempting to steal local men. I’ve had women curse at my husband in public for taking me while we were out shopping. I’ve been considered confused & stupid by the western population, because of my religious choices. And every time I’ve traveled to the west, or even Europe while wearing Hijab, I’ve been racially accosted, whether it be in London when a couple sat talking about me as if I didn’t speak English, or Serbia where I was accused of being a Turk for speaking English & covering my hair. Spare the poor me story and understand that whether it’s the same or slightly different Marwan, we’ve all faced it. It’s not only you, and it’s not only Asians.

On a side note. I agree with the clerk. For some reason, I felt compelled to explain the nationality to him, because if you didn’t notice this foreigner made the UAE look bad – she and her family had to run from it because it was so strict. That pissed me off. A statement like that coming from a foreigner isn’t as strong as a national, is it?

HL&H, my tickets scheduled for the 7th, and I still don’t know how much time I lose on the way. Maybe the 8th or 9th, but I’ll call you and let you know I’m safe.

Baby, BF & Symphony, I’m freezing my ass off here. I will be home as soon as possible, Inshallah.

Balushi, How’s Ramadhan treating you?

bklyn_in_dubai, I hear you… But I disagree when you say it’s bad for the economy. I think that depends on what the government is aiming at. Look at Canada. We’ve got so many expats and so many of them who have taken nationality and have the same rights as those of us who didn’t immigrate (any time recent anyway) that the overall benefits are less for each family. Every corner store is owned by an Asian expatriate, you always hear Canadians bitching about immigrants taking our jobs, welfare & social service amounts have gone down rapidly in last couple years, taxes are atrocious and we all suffer it. If the Canada followed similar regulations like land allocation and such, perhaps Canadians would be better off.

I believe the head of any family should take care of it’s own before it does guests. Maybe not to the extreme that the UAE does, but to some extent. I guess in that sense I’m closer in agreement with Phoenix.

Except Phoenix, I believe the statistic is closer to UAE nationals taking up less than 17% of the population and not 25. *wink*

Q8i, I’m trying.


I didn’t even think of it that way. Perhaps you’re right. It’s just strange that for some reason it was that important to me to explain.

7:25 PM, October 03, 2006  

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