Cultural shock: Dubai – The land-only British cruise.

The English are obsessed with Dubai and I never understood why. I know why but I don’t understand. Well…I do but that doesn’t mean I approve.

None of my friends coming from the continent actually understand why either. Most of our students are going there every year with their families, colleagues go there, friends go there, everyone in England seems to be going there or is talking about going there, planning to go there or dreaming of going there.

It suddenly came back to me this insane craving they have for Dubai as yet another pair of British Youtubers went there and posted their holiday vlogs for everyone to enjoy. I actually love watching these. First, because I watch British Youtubers if they are fit and handsome (Hello the Chapman twins!) but also I take a lot of pleasure looking down at them for they never do anything different in Dubai. The vlogs from there are all the same: they all go to the same hotel, the same beach, do the same activities, take the same pictures, eat the same food, watch the same shows and actually say the same things along with their “passion” for One Direction.

Living on the continent, especially in France, where we do have sunny beaches, Dubai is nothing. We never hear about it, expect to mention another one of the “my penis is much bigger than yours” buildings architects are allowed to build in the desert. For us, it’s just madness.

A huge city in the middle of the desert built on speculation and, literally, sand. A fallacy with no sanitation which forces garbage trucks to queue for up to 15 hours in the sand dunes, just a couple of miles away from the city centre. The working conditions of these drivers are such hell that they usually can’t stand waiting and end up dumping their load somewhere in the sand for it to rot under blistering sun. A city that does not treat its used water, rather dumps it in the sea “far enough”, they used to think, from the tourists. However, the city has grown and diseases are multiplying as people are now swimming in a decade of waste. An emirate that is not a democracy but a despotic monarchy where sharia law is more or less implemented.

That’s Dubai for us, on the continent. We are aware of its qualities but we are also very aware of its flaws. You will have people going there of course but nothing like the scale of the Brit invasion the emirate is happy to deal with.

In England, Dubai is everywhere. Footballers were the first to the rush, generously paid by the builders and architects to promote the city. Steven Gerrard has a tower named after him there. They all “bought” villas and mansions on the Palm Tree Island and have been the biggest advertising dummies for years. Politicians even go on holidays there now that England’s former Cuba, Egypt, has decided to take the matter of its politics in its own hand. No more free holiday from our dictatory friends. Sharm El Sheikh has lost its appeal. So we go to Dubai, the Emir is such a lovely man.

There is indeed a tradition coming from the English aristocracy to go on holidays closed rich ghettos away from the “exotic” poverty, like in India, and later to go sunbathing in the colonised remains of the Ottoman Empire. A custom envied by the middle class and that Dubai knew how to turn into profits with mastery. They present themselves as THE destination for the British because they offer what most of the Brits want on holiday: sun, heat and a place where they can stay without having to put up with the locals. A cruise without the boat.

It’s difficult when you go to France, Spain, Italy, Portugal or Greece nowadays because you have to go to a place where people live already. It’s difficult to find what you want and entertain yourself without having to deal with another language, with another culture, with people who might act, think and be differently on a daily basis. It’s fine for a cruise where you make an effort for an hour or two hours but for a whole week?! Are you mad?

And you cannot do whatever you want, it’s like these people are holding you back. What a drag!

In Dubai, it’s fantastic. You go to a huge hotel build in the middle of nowhere so there were no locals to begin with, but everything was carefully planned and is right there. The beach is private so no chance of having to put up with unfathomable foreign behaviour, even the sea belongs to the hotel so no chance of weird things happening because they guaranteed it is filtered on the edges. Restaurants, shopping centres, aquariums, karaoke, ball room, casino, a marina and a special taxi service with chauffeurs hired by the hotel that will drive you straight to Burj Khalifa and back. A real tourists-only town. No need for awkward meddling. Even most of the staff is from English-speaking countries.

If only Spain were built like that – customised around the wishes of British tourists.

Dubai is the British dream. Until it is not because sometimes, you have people who want to wander about and see a bit more than the same thing as their friends. So they will go in the actual town, in the local shopping centres, restaurants, beaches and the local sea. Where they would maybe hold hands, have a drink of alcohol or share a kiss just to be arrested for public indecency and breaking of the religious rules because you do not drink alcohol just like that in sharia-abiding countries.

And the prisons in Dubai are not the prisons we have here. You are not presumed innocent and you will not be offered a drink or a lawyer. And in Albion, no one understands suddenly. “Aw but…why? It’s just alcohol! We do it all the time! How dare they?!”

There are tears and pleas from the family, outrage from the tabloids, a quick intervention from the Prime Minister, because that’s obviously all he has to do (isn’t it, Daily Mail?!) and the matter is closed. A week passes and another ad with Wayne Rooney advertising the city will pop in the press. And they are going back to the ideal sight of Dubai – and now Doha – that will always offer the Brits the perfect holidays: Britain in the sun.

Maybe it’s because we don’t live on an island and actually we learnt to deal with each other but it’s definitely not something that attracts us like it appeals to them. Especially the French! I mean it took us for 400 years of endless wars against our neighbours to ensure that we would not have to go abroad for any kind of holiday: we pushed our countries boundaries to include snowy mountains, rainy plains, dry hills, cold beaches and the French Riviera. No risk of having to adapt to something else…


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