When you are thinking about moving to a new country you do a lot of reading. I cannot even IMAGINE how people contemplated moving to another place before the internet. Seriously… how would you have any idea of what was what if you couldn’t read the expat discussion groups? They were brave back in the day. Or maybe ignorance was bliss.
While you investigate this new place – long before you have made your final decision that you are prepared to give it a go – you have ‘moments’. Good ‘moments’. And not so good ‘moments. I’ll give you some examples of moments we experienced while researching life in Dubai (both having never even visited).
Slightly-not-so-good-moment: finding out that the same job has different rates of pay for employees depending on their nationality. For example, Phillipino maids are paid more that Sri Lankans maids even though they work the same hours and under the same conditions.
The reason this is not a strongly-not-so-good-moment is because;
a) as a Western-educated anglo-saxons we’re probably going to experience positive discrimination when it comes to salary in this regard, and
b) despite the fact that we don’t feel comfortable with that approach ourselves, we do try to operate under the assumption that the rest of the world does NOT need to hold the same values. (Stay tuned for the inevitable culture-shocked rant a few months down the track to see how long we can maintain this attitude.)
How-bad-is-it-really-gonna-be?-not-so-good-moment: Finding out that it is not uncommon for positions of employment to be advertised with a gender specification. Generally this applies to roles that are very traditionally male or female. For example, roles for Drivers (chauffers) are specified as male. Roles for maids are specified as female (and very often females without husbands. There is actually a pragmatic reason behind the no husbands rule which I can explain if anyone wants me to.) So too are nurses and receptionists specified as being female.
I haven’t seen an instance within the Information Technology sector (at least at the professional level) where gender has been specified. So I live in hope. However, this could just be because it is assumed that the candidates will generally be male. Although I do know of women holding these roles in Dubai.
Its not the prospect of not getting a job that really concerns me. What concerns me is the impact that my gender will have on me if I chose to continue as a consultant for a big-4. Is it an issue sending out a female consultant to clients? I don’t know.
If this IS an acceptable practise, how to I navigate my role as a woman amongst people that are not used to women being in authority? (Again… this might not even be the case and I admit I am working on a lot of untested assumptions here.)
Well, at least I have the benefit of having worked in a culture with different views than my home country when it comes to behavior towards women in the workplace. Australia is far more PC than Western Europe in these matters, and I see a lot of Australians quite shocked by behavior that is seen as normal by Western Europeans. It took some getting used to.
The kicker is… if I found the Netherlands confronting at times on this issue, how on earth am I going to deal with the Middle East? It will be interesting. I am hoping that the gulf between men and women is somewhat exaggerated by the Western media. A fact highlighted to me when a compatriot and friend of mine asked me how I was going to cope wearing a Burkha!
Really-good-moment: We were sitting on the couch surfing frantically one evening in Sydney when my husband turned to me and said, ‘They have Carrefour!’ We both looked at eachother for a minute with misty eyes for one and half seconds before I said, ‘I’m there!’
For anyone that hasn’t experienced the bliss that is known as a french supermarket, its probably for the best. They ruin you for all other supermarkets. (Okay, so English and Japanese supermarkets are pretty great too.) Aisle-upon-aisle of french cheeses, pates and charcuterie, Champagne and Cognac (at reasonable prices no less) and fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables. If I die and go to heaven there will be a perfect replica of the Carrefour supermarket in Lille, and I will never get fat eating my way through it.
I was amused to read that Carrefour in the UAE accepts the following methods of payment…UAE Dhs (that’s Dirhams), US Dollars, Saudi Riyals, Kuwaiti Dinars, Omani Ryals, Qatari Riyals, Bahraini Dinars and Euros.
All I can say is.. it will be nice to back in the ‘middle’ of the world again where there are strange and different places all around you, each with their own currency and history. I can’t wait!