When I visited London for the first time, in 2007, I visited Shepherds Bush and Earls Court. The area was still being referred to as ‘Kangaroo Court’ or ‘Kangaroo Valley’ due to the number of Australasian ex-pats in the area, although they had by that stage started to move out North or West to cheaper suburbs.
There was a pub in Shepherds Bush called the Walkabout. It was part of a chain.. there was nothing special about it, one of a number of crappy Australian themed bars around the UK. But the one in Shepherds Bush was notorious for being a grungy place where you could get cheap Fosters and snakebites, watch sports and rub shoulders with fellow antipodeans. I remembered thinking at the time – why would you move across the world, just to hang out with Australians and New Zealanders? Surely, you had travelled far enough that you would want to experience the local culture?
It’s hard dealing with other cultures. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but I think the issue is magnified in a country like Dubai. If you move to London, you are probably going to deal with British people, plus maybe around 10 other cultures on a regular basis. Of course, you’ll come into contact with many, many more cultures, but on an everyday basis, its not going to be quite that extreme.
In Dubai, every time you go out, you must deal with at least 10 different cultures. It is hard work. You may speak the same language, but in theory only. In reality, its a lot more difficult.
I don’t think it really matters where you go in the world – there are challenges everywhere. But I think I understand what those Kiwis and Aussies were up to, congregating in their elite little grouping. It’s sometimes easier to be around people that are most likely to understand you, or be like you. They have probably lived in a similar manner to you back home, and they understand your sarcasm and humor. You don’t feel like you are going to offend them every time you talk, and they can appreciate the foods you like (even your slightly tanned home made hot cross buns!). We’ve found an ANZAC day ceremony here in Dubai, and providing we can roll out of bed early enough, will be heading along to participate.
I wandered past the Walkabout when I was in London last month. It was boarded up, losing its license in 2013 when the borough authorities decided they’d scraped enough vomit off the sidewalk. It’s now framed by a fancy hotel and the 02 Shepherds Bush Empire. It’s going to be turned into a block of apartments.