Monthly Archives: January 2013

124. Customer Service

In life there are certain expectations that we have. We expect things to work, like when we buy a car. Once the dealer has handed you over the keys to your shiny new Kia Sportage you expect it to start, drive and stop. You would want an explanation if you turned the key and it exploded instead. We also expect the waiter to get our order right. If you have ordered a pint of Carlsberg, how furious would you be if your attendant brought you a pint of disgusting Fosters by mistake?

Then of course we expect people to behave in certain ways. If we have a complaint, we want to be heard, if we are at the checkout paying for our weekly groceries then we expect the cashier to take our money with a smile and if we get into a taxi we expect not to be killed. But, time and time again in the UAE we are faced with situations when customer service is treated in the same regard as Jimmy Savilles’ legacy.

It was commented on this week by a man with an important face that poor customer service is “costing the UAE millions of dirhams each year.” An interesting statement, which is backed up by his following sentence “but we can’t put a figure on it.” How do you measure bad customer service and how on Earth could it ever be turned into a set of statistics? Customer service is important, that is unquestionable. But I don’t see how the economy can be affected to such a level. If you went to a hotel and the concierge spat on your wife and then stole your suitcase, you would pin it down as a bad customer service experience. You would then go to another hotel and spend similar money on another room. No one cares about the individual business.

When I get home from work late every night, it is not unusual for me to be hungry. If there is nothing in the freezer then I will dig out the phone and turn to the local takeaway place. It is dreadful. The food, more often than not, is still wriggling in the bread, the mayonnaise has a most suspicious texture and if you listen carefully you can hear the jumbo shrimps barking. Then, of course, is the charming man on the phone. Never have you spoken to such a rude, useless and unprofessional imbecile. I am not making this up, and if you live in the Al Muwaiji part of Al Ain you will know the place I am talking about. He starts by answering the phone with “What?” Then he proceeds to be silent until one of us dies and not once have I ever been able to finish my request without him slamming the phone down on me. Remarkably, time and time again I still use this Hell hole for late night sustenance.

A Deluxe King room please.

A Deluxe King room please.

I have stayed in many hotels and also met some grumpy-bums there, too. There is one hotel in Abu Dhabi where upon checking in I was told that my attire was unacceptable and that Star Trek tee shirts are not considered proper for such establishments. Was I put out by this? Yes, I like Star Trek and wanted to show it to the world. But was I thinking how bad the hotel was? No, it is a 5-star, spared no expense, wonder haven and obviously does very well for itself. All I had done was accidentally offend someone who didn’t like Captain Kirk very much. I just accepted that the poor man was in a bad mood and it didn’t change my impression of the hotel.

In many cases, the service industry employees are forced to smile and be amazing all the time and in theory that isn’t too hard. But look at the reality, if someone is working in a crowded bar six nights a week with a live band that play to such deafening levels that your eardrums have been turned into a fine dust, and you live with three other workmates in the same room, and on top of that you are thousands of miles from your family then I guess you are going to have the occasional mood swing. I get that so I am sure never to judge an establishment by just one or two staff members. They are people too, and if they have just been yelled at by their boss for no reason, or they have been told that Captain Picard was better than Captain Kirk, then I will grant them some space.

If, however, after 18 months and the man in the local takeaway is still answering the phone with all the enthusiasm of a bored Nun and treating you with about as much respect as a 70’s BBC presenter, then perhaps you should find somewhere else to eat late at night.

And if nowhere else is open, go hungry and prove the man with the important face right.

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123. Numbers

When I first started UAE Uncut (under its original Google friendly guise of Living in the UAE) I envisaged posting one missive a week. I like to pretend that I am a bona fide writer cum columnist and the notion that I could churn out a thousand or so words each week made me believe that I could one day make a living out of it. Of course, if I had stuck to my guns and kept to my initial target I would only be on 48 blog posts, and that is unacceptable. Instead, I sit here today typing out blog number 123, a number that many a self-involved poser would love oh so much to have as a car registration plate.

It's how you read it...

A Real Sense of Enlightenment…

So, in honour of this numerical anomaly I wish to talk today about numbers and their role in modern UAE pop-culture. Let’s begin with my first experience of such vanity exchange. One of the first things I ever had to do when I arrived on the sandy shores of the Emirates was to get a phone. Such a thing was easy for someone who cares so little about them. After selecting my handset I popped over to Etisalat and asked to buy a SIM card. The shop turned into a game show studio as a blonde-haired siren in a cocktail dress waltzed onto the stage brandishing ten sparkling envelopes. The host, a greasy haired spiv called Amir who was wearing a glittery blazer, asked me to take my pick of the available numbers printed on each of the envelopes. A drum roll ensued as the spot light followed my hand to the envelope of choice.

Clearly unhappy with my selection, the Family Fortune failure tone sounded and Amir sniggered at me. It would appear that of all the possible phone numbers I could have selected I had picked a bad one. Apparently 101 2847 is about as neat and as trendy as using words such as “neat” and “trendy” in genuine social surroundings. Amir, presumably a person with as much personality depth as Kim Kardashian, asked if I would like to pick another number. Why, I asked, would I want to do that? I don’t care what digits appear in my number. It doesn’t matter. No one actually dials or even sees a phone number these days; they are all saved in your iPhone so you don’t have to waste time pressing digits.

As it turns out, those who lack in the phallic-inches and self esteem department actually spend a lot of time fussing over such things. How empty and pointless must your life be that you will actually put yourself on a waiting list, and then pay, for a phone number like 111 9999?  What possible benefits can this have?

Perplexed by such things, I hit the mall and interrupted people’s days by asking them if they had ever gone gooey at the knees or had suffered a hot flush after being shown someone’s numerically consistent phone number. Out of the 234 imaginary people that I didn’t really ask in Al Ain Mall, not one of them said that they were even remotely impressed. They were all, I like to think, as unmoved as me. I would genuinely like to hear from people who have gone to the trouble of acquiring a “good” phone number and hear what they have to say in their defence.

It’s not just phone numbers, either. Car license plates are also a must-have fashion accessory that serves as much use as an appendix. In the UAE, a license plate typically has five numbers that are issued numerically to each car that comes off the freighter. Of course, between 10000 and 99999 there will be plenty of so-called “boring” numbers, like 27198 and 46139. These are given to us commoners and let’s the rest of the UAE know that we are meaningless drones who lead boring lives and sit as high up the social ladder as a cabbage. The special numbers, like 10000, 77777 and 12345 etc are put on the market and sold for a price of such magnitude that even the Sultan of Brunei would need time to mull it over before writing out a cheque.

But there’s more; you can, for an even higher cost, purchase a license plate that only has four numbers, or three, or two and if you’re mega rich, I’m talking about Roman Abramovich being a window cleaner by comparison, you can have just one solitary number. There are, however, only ten available, including “0”.

Be honest, what do you think when you see someone driving around with a “special” number plate? Do you get out at the traffic lights and ask for an autograph? Do you nod your head sagely and say “What a guy” or do you just think of the worst word in the English language and mutter it quietly under your breath so that you can’t be lip read by accident?

Being a contented member of the general public I can vouch that I have never, ever heard anyone of intelligence openly praise anyone else on their choice of phone number or license plate number. It is a façade of insecurity as far as I am concerned, a status symbol to disguise a dark truth. These are troubled times with seemingly every country in the world on the precipice of total financial ruin. When the dollar implodes and the USA eventually tumbles down the fiscal cliff the only important numbers that will be worth looking at will be the ones in your bank account, in red, behind the minus sign.

Of course, I don’t mind the number-lovers, in fact I owe them. If they were modest and normal, like you and I, then I wouldn’t have much to write about and this would only be blog post 49.

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122. Contradiction

As you may recall, back in November I went to the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina; an event that flows as smoothly as its full aforementioned name. Forget the fact that I am an oil-blooded petrol head who has not missed a single Formula 1 Grand Prix in 16 years, my blog focussed more on what the people watching on television would have seen.

If you can think back that far, I passed note that the way people dress and behave at the event leaves those watching at home scratching their heads and asking their wives “but I thought you weren’t allowed to do that over there.” It is understandable, then, that discussions about the UAE and its cultural practices invariably lead to much fist thumping and “I told you so” chatter at the typical British bar. What are the rules? Are you allowed to roam the streets naked or not?

Of course, any country which is centre stage for a world-wide televised event will make an effort to dress itself up and give the impression that it is something else. Take for example the London Olympics last year. My staff at work were watching the opening ceremony and soon bombarded me with questions about the grand old city. They were all in awe of the magnificent spectacle and for the first time had actually seen what London looked like.

Being the dream-smashing realist that I am, they were soon reduced to tears when I told them that London was nothing like what they saw on the box. No, fireworks don’t go off every night; it’s not all clean gutters and freshly painted road markings. There are places like Streatham, Crystal Palace and Hackney. London is as dirty and as grimey as any other city in the world. Stratford, I said, which is where the main Olympic complex was, was the seventh circle of Hell only eight years ago. Under-developed, laden with abandoned warehouses and full to overflowing with narcotics paraphernalia and dead gangsters.

Then there were the people. My men saw all the pretty girls wearing athletics costumes, all the strapping young men in shell-suits and the old athletic legends lighting torches and driving speedboats. When the camera’s zoomed in on the crowds in the grandstand, only the prettiest and most chisel-jawed would suffice. Where were all the obese people? Where were the toothless paupers? These people exist and are as much a part of Britain as the Queen. No, my staff were convinced that this is what London is all the time; beauty, glamour and fireworks.

"Yeah, like, I couldn't find Spot the dog. But like, when I turned it the other way he was, like totes there!"

“Yeah, like, I couldn’t find Spot the dog. But like, when I turned it the other way he was, like, totes there!”

So, those of you back home, I have a question: what do you think the UAE is like? Well, to answer the question I want you to type “The Only Way Is Essex Cast Members In Dubai” into Google and tell me what comes up. Done it? Right. The most recent case of false advertising was only last week. Some air-headed, inflatable Z-lister called Amy Childs was staying at a hotel in Dubai. The same one, it turns out, that I got engaged in. There she is poolside, drink in hand, with her fake-tanned, drawn-on-muscled Ken-doll non-husband of a man. As luck would have it, a professional photographer happened to be passing by so of course a quick photo-shoot was commissioned.

There was Miss. Childs, wearing two pieces of strategically placed string to cover her modesty whilst Ken kissed various parts of her on the sun-lounger. Then, in an effort to dupe us as to her intellect, Miss. Childs was snapped reading a book by the pool bar. The keen-eyed may have noticed that the book was actually upside down. But luckily she was still able to “Spot” the dog. So, in the national UK press we were provided with a full-page spread of an unmarried couple drinking, kissing and canoodling and demonstrating no respect for the local laws.

This happens a lot. Footballers, Reality TV people (I refuse to say “stars”), pop stars, Lewis Hamilton’s…it seems that Dubai is a place where the wealthy can come and strip off and do as they please. How nice it must be to be above the law.

Conversely, last month an Irish welder and a British recruitment officer were sentenced to three months in prison for allegedly having sex in the back of a Dubai taxi. The story has been “well” documented in the British media and indeed over here too. But there are serious flaws with the case. I’ve written about this before also, but a Police-approved medical expert confirmed that there was no sign of intercourse having taken place. Furthermore, the taxi driver was a charlatan and has changed his story thrice, and not once has it matched the details given by the arresting officer who attended the scene.

No, according to the defence, the taxi driver detoured in an effort to make more money. The Irish welder, smart to his antics, spoke up and told the driver that he wouldn’t be paying the extra money. Because the expats had however been consuming alcohol they were an easy target. His false testimony, together with the mismatched story from the officer has landed a potentially innocent couple in prison. They are charged with consuming alcohol, public indecency and sex outside of marriage. They are currently appealing and I hope, for their sake and the reputation of the UAE, that true justice is served.

This, then, a case of words against words with no video or photographic proof either way is in direct contrast to the tabloid-documented display of Miss. Amy Childs and her terracotta, pencil outlined Ken-doll. In The Daily Mail, the story of the arrested couple and the Childs “photo-shoot” appeared three pages apart, so really, what do you make of the UAE?

Some people won’t come here because they are afraid of having their collars felt for eating a Twix on the Metro, but others can’t wait to get on the next flight over because they think they’ll bump into Kim Kardashian getting frisky on the beach. That’s why people argue about what this place is really like, no one knows for sure, not even the people that live here.

So, in conclusion, the UAE is kind of what you make it. You can do whatever you like so long as you pretend to be wealthy, pretend to have no talent and hire a photographer to follow you around all week. You will, apart from a few brain-dead zealots looking for autographs because they’ve mistaken you for the guy who voices The Bachelor, be left alone. If, however, you want to be a normal person who earns a modest wage and can’t afford an entourage or 20 gallons of orange body paint then you should really watch your back and always be sure to carry extra money for the cheating taxi driver.

Surviving is purely a game of percentages…

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121. Waiters II

There are many, many things in this world that get on our nerves. Take a look at Not-So-Great Britain; VAT hit 20% a few years ago and fuel duty is so high that it would be more economical for each of us to go out and buy our own Concorde. Those of a smoking disposition are now forced out into the cold if they want to enjoy a smooth Marlboro, raising the question of whether the NHS is better prepared to deal with lung cancer or hyperthermia. People’s kitchens are full of different sized bins, each designed to deal with a different form of waste, God forbid should you drop a copy of the Guardian into the food scraps canister.

Of course, here in the UAE there are also many other things that get on our nerves. From the group of men who are working in my underground car park with their curious shouting habits to the fact that if I want to walk to a bar I need to allow a week. Land Cruisers, alcohol licenses, tourism fees, it’s these little nuisances that are indeed the backbone of life. It is easy to get wrapped up in all the big talking points that shape a country, but usually it’s the compilation of the small things that grate the most.

I am, by nature, a helpful person. I am conscientious to others and the job that they do. I insist on giving people as much information and help as I can in order to make their lives as easy as possible. If, for example, I have a leak in my kitchen, before calling the plumber and simply telling him I am knee-deep in dirty dish water I will investigate. Once I have all the details I will then call the plumber and tell him exactly what is needed. It suits both of us and the job can be done efficiently.

Should people not want my assistance in making their lives easier then that’s fine, but I must point out that I am smarter than they are and that they should think again. This brings me onto the point of today’s moaning; waiters. Again.

I have been accused by many people about ruining their lives by pointing out things that they hadn’t previously noticed, and as such now sends their OCD into overdrive. So, in keeping with tradition, here we go again. How annoying is it when waiters and waitresses insist on rearranging your table? I cannot stand it, it is one of my chief gripes and one that grates on me to such extremes that I worry that one day I will actually catch fire.

The routine normally goes thus: when you sit down at a table in a café, you are asked how many people are in your party. Normally there are two of us and we sit at a table which could accommodate four. The surplus crockery and cutlery are removed. Then, for no reason, the attendant will move the sugar bowl, napkins and condiments to one side of the table. Why? Now they’re just further away from me.

Naturally, coffees are ordered first and subsequently will arrive first. There are two cups, two saucers, two coffee pots, two jugs of cold milk, two plates of mini cakes and two teaspoons. It’s all too excessive, why can we simply not have a pot of coffee between us, and how much milk do you think we need? Anyway, the point is all this coffee paraphernalia takes up so much space that it means that when the food arrives there will be no space.

Being the helpful, conscientious person that I am, I strategically get the table in order. I know there are two plates coming, so all the coffee making equipment must be sidelined. I empty the coffee from one pot into another, as with the milk. The two plates that arrived with cakes on them are stacked atop each other. The empty coffee pot and empty milk vessel go on the two plates and space is again plentiful.

But no; my efforts, it always seems, are futile. The waiter turns up early with a basket of bread and a further two plates. They are put down and then aligned with the position of the moon. He leaves and returns instantly with some butter and jam and spends close to 30 minutes making sure that they are in the stupidest place possible. I want to reach over for the balsamic vinegar and oil but his arm is still in the way.

Hmm...eggs are a little off today.

Hmm…hollandaise sauce is a little off today.

After the personal space invasion is completed I attempt to eat the bread knowing that I surely have some time to make space for the main course. But I am usually thwarted as my eggs Benedict arrives within seconds. The surprise attack means that the table is not ready, with the small bread plate in my place occupying the landing strip for my hollandaise sauce.

The waiter then takes control of the situation as all I can do is sit there getting annoyed watching the faffing and incompetence unfold before my very eyes. Things are picked up and moved to the other side of the table for seemingly no reason. The bread plate remains in the middle and the poached eggs are put off to one side. “Sir, are you finished with this one?” says the man pointing to the empty coffee pot and milk vessel stacked on top of the two small plates. What do you think, honestly, mate?

Once he gets around to actually putting my breakfast in front of me, and then when he has finished rotating the plate so that the turkey bacon points north-north-west at bearing 72 mark IV degrees, my yolks have gone solid, my mushrooms have walked off and my hollandaise sauce has the viscosity of tar. The final straw is when I am instructed, seemingly against my will, to “Bon appetite” before I begin navigating my way around the perplexing smorgasbord.

Why do they all do this? Why does every waiter and waitress in all UAE café’s insist on rearranging everything for absolutely no reason at all? All it takes is a little thought. If two people want an Americano then they won’t mind sharing a pot. Put the tea cakes on the saucer and dispense with the surplus plate. One jug of milk will do, too. Bring the bread early so that it can be completely removed when the main event arrives. When you do deliver the main order just put it on the table. It really, really, doesn’t matter where the tomatoes are facing. Alternatively, ask your manager to buy bigger tables.

Generally the experience leaves me very annoyed, but I guess that if you want to avoid 20% VAT, high fuel duty, environmental Nazis and the Guardian, then it’s a small price to pay.

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120. Magazines

So, with Chairman Mao in at number 2, let's find out who tops our list of The 100 Greatest Tyrants...

So, with Chairman Mao in at number 2, let’s find out who tops our list of The 100 Greatest Tyrants…

Before I was old enough to legally get into pubs and nightclubs my weekend nights generally revolved around the television set. After The Simpsons, Father Ted, 999, Strange But True and of course, You’ve Been Framed, there would be the customary Channel 4 program presented by someone like Jimmy Carr with the not-so-mysterious prefix of The top 100… It could, and generally would, be an hour filler of non-stop, useless crap. The top 100 comedy shows, the top 100 comedy show stars, the top 100 comedy show moments, the top 100 comedy show bloopers, the top 100 comedy show credit reels, the top 100 comedy show kitchen sets and so on.

The question is; how valid was each list? Who decided that Only Fools and Horses could in some way be better than Dad’s Army? They’re both brilliant and I could never choose between the two, nor can I think of a situation where I would ever have to. If my future wife was kidnapped, I don’t think her captor would want to know who I thought was the better spiv; Del Boy or Private Walker. He’d make me do something else far more sinister.

The shows would have a collection of people who, according to the dictionary definition of the word, were “celebrities”, in the sense that they had appeared on TV by some means. They were people who only ever played minor support roles, game show panellists, ex-Big Brother contestants and so on. There was no one even remotely worthy of telling me who the best actor of all time could be.

Out of all the Middle Eastern countries, the UAE is the one that has caught Westernisation more so than anyone else. This inevitably means that the culture over here hasn’t just adopted McDonalds, Starbucks and high cholesterol; it too has adopted the pointless and meaningless methods of dictation of our interests and our insatiable need to list things by order of preference.

Now, you and I are smart people, we don’t concede to the likes of The Only Way Is Herpes, America’s Dumbest Criminals or any party political broadcast, we don’t need to be told. We already have a favourite film, a favourite car, a favourite eye-liner and a favourite dog, so why do certain mediums insist on providing us with meaningless lists on such a regular basis?

My fiancé is forever leaving trashy magazines lying around in an attempt, I think, to make me gay. However, since I do the bulk of my reading online I do like to take some reading material into the bathroom each morning…if you know what I mean. So, as I’m sitting there in the bathroom I spool through the latest copy of Ahlan! and – through all the images of scantily-clad women that I assumed were banned in UAE – there is always a list that, as far as I can tell, has absolutely no meaning or relevance whatsoever and has been as well thought out as the Euro.

Recently, in an unnamed publication, I read a list about the top 200 people in the world. Stop right there, “journalists”, how in the name of all that is holy can a list dictate the top 200 people in the world, and by what possible measure? Surely opinion would differ person to person and country to country. Osama Bin Laden was very popular in some quarters, but despised in others. Some people even voted for Tony Blair, so that proves straight away that we don’t all think alike.

Anyway, this list that I came across – complete with glossy pictures and witless captions – gave us some interesting results. Clearly, the writers wanted to make sure that they were covering every angle, so it kind of made no sense at all. Just scraping in at 200 was Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and moody bastard who invented Facebook and Oprah Winfrey came home 197th. Curiously, in 185th was Hans Solo. Nicholas Sarkozy was in 174th right behind Mr. UK himself; Alex Salmond. The Queen was 161st and my personal favourite, Ai-Jen Poo, was placed 157th.

The top 100 made for even more entertaining reading, Kim Jong-Un just making the cut. He won’t be pleased though because in at 97th place was Ayatollah Khameni (Barack Obama was 143rd). Somehow, Ellen DeGeneres was 48th with Hilary Clinton 34th, narrowly beating George Clooney. Usain Bolt came in 20th, no fancy dancing this time, mate, and staggeringly Alec Baldwin was 11th.

Then we came to the top 10, and in descending numerical order – and this is not made up – we had at 10th Vidya Balan, Bashar Assad, Aziz Ansari, Anonymous (yes, 7th actually says this), Jose Andres, Marc Andreessen, Ai Wei Wei, Sheldon Adelson, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and at number one: Adele, the singer.

I am not making any of this up and I want you to tell me honestly, how many of the names in the top 10 do you actually recognise? Furthermore, how inappropriate do you think it is to have the current Syrian ruler appear at number nine? And I’m certain that Ai Wei Wei is a made up name. I have no problems with Adele; the plucky singer is very talented. But by what possible measure can she top a list of the world’s greatest people?

UAE magazines are generally good, so long as they have experienced professionals running them and writing for them. Some of the car magazines for example over here are just franchises of US and UK publications and as such are super reads. But the trashy, glossy, Kardashian-happy guff that forever lists the most inane of things is truly mind-blowing. All the glossy tabloid nonsense will only dumb down a generation, just like reality TV has done. There is nothing real about it.

History will look back at this time and laugh at us. And sadly, I won’t be around to explain that we’re not all idiots. You can see it now in the year 2413, can’t you, The Top 100 stupid things about the 21st Century…

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119. Fines

Ten days ago I broke into your computer and pinned up some thoughts about the swiftness and no-nonsense attitude justice system here in the UAE. Presumably you, my loyal readers, dropped what you were doing, organised some friends in a circle and thrashed out some in-depth discussion pertaining to the matter. Well, I have some good news, there’s more debating material for you today.

In the UK, we’re forever seeing signs that say things like “no dog fouling, £50 fine”, “no smoking, £50 fine” and of course “emergency brake, penalty for improper use, £1,000,000.” These threats are everywhere and you just can’t help but feel a bit bullied at times. The first issue we have is that in most cases these things are totally unenforceable. Tony Blair and his Legion of Doom were notoriously naive and strongly believed that people would follow the rules all the time and that we would all turn ourselves in if we left so much as a light on by accident.

A common example of unenforceable fining is obviously the case of canine stool. You and I both know that you must bend down after poochies morning moment, pick it up and fling it at the door of the nearest hate preacher, or bin it. But what if you didn’t hurl it and instead just left it there for some kid to launch at Abu Qatada instead? To solve the crime, someone would need to go to the trouble of picking it up, taking it to the lab for DNA testing and then acquire samples from all dogs within a 12 mile radius just so the offender could be fined a paltry £50. It just wouldn’t happen, unless the government commissioned a special workforce.

Before I stray too far from the point, it’s worth pointing out that, regardless of what they’re for, the fines are ergonomic; they are tailored to be affordable for a normal person. If you see a sign that says “no loitering, fine £50” then you will be fined by the loitering police the sum of £50 if indeed you are caught loitering. If you wish to appeal you are within your rights to take the case to a tribunal, but this could cost £1000’s or, if you subscribe to a daytime-TV solicitors, nothing at all. But even if you just opted to pay the £50 to the government-commissioned loitering police, you have to admit that £50 is affordable.

Now, this is where the UAE comes a bit unstuck. The fines don’t make sense, what is AED 600 (£100)? Think about what AED 600 will buy you; you could have a night out, buy a decent suit, or get a nice hotel room for the night. Now, what do you think that Johnny Richboy and his Ferrari will think when they look at a pathetic AED 600 in readies? Toilet paper. It’s just pocket money used to wipe the caviar from ones lips. Then we come to the poorer classes, for a lot of them, AED 600 could be their entire monthly salary.

Failed government: £50 fine

Failed government: £50 fine

So it can be argued that fines in the UAE are unfair. If you are caught speeding then the typical fine for an offence that is not greater than 20kph over the limit is AED 600. I could swallow that, but it would sting a little and I’d be sure to be careful next time. Johnny Richboy wouldn’t give a damn if it was 10 times that amount or that his car were to be impounded for 30 days, because he would just go home and get one of his other cars. But what about our poor Patan friend? If he has to fork out 600 sods then his family back home in northern Pakistan will stave.

In Europe, we love a bit of communism “equality” and so things like fines have to be the same for everyone. Those of a Polly Toynbee persuasion will forever croak a cry of egalitarianism, even when they contradict themselves and curiously say that the rich must pay more. Europe has to be seen to be a fair democracy and that everyone must always be treated equally. But it is forgotten that some people are richer than others, and that fining a Lord of the Realm £50 for not picking up dog poo will not hurt him as much as it would a penniless student.

Here in the UAE the problem is similar but far more noticeable. Because there is such a gulf between social classes it is simply not fair for everyone to be charged the same fine for the same offences. I know that Polly Toynbee, despite all her parity-preaching, would agree with me that different bands of people should be categorised so that the fine bites accordingly. To avoid getting drawn into a racism battle, the UAE Uncut team had a quick brainstorming session in the boardroom and came up with a solution: a percentage based penalty system.

When you are called to the stand to pay AED 600 for allowing your dog to make stool in the park, you must bring with you a complete copy of your accounts: bank statements, wage slips, whatever. These are investigated by the board of officials and you are charged a pre-determined percentage in line with your offence.

If things stay the way they are, then those who would rather spend hundreds and thousands of Dirham’s on V8 sports cars instead of genital-enhancement surgery will never learn the cost of speeding or rogue dog fouling. Fining the working classes 80% of their monthly salary will very likely condemn their families to starvation. The penalty must fit the crime but be affordable to the accused. Otherwise the less fortunate who are unable to pay are sent to prison and therefore become state-funded, making the whole thing completely pointless.

The same approach should be taken in Europe, but I fear that the communists in Brussels won’t hear of it. It would be nice though, wouldn’t it, for the highly-paid bureaucrats in Espace Léopold to be fined a far, far greater amount for their fiscal crimes than the European taxpayers?

Maybe that would be the perfect deterrent to stop them robbing everyone?

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118. Justice

Across Europe there is a lot of brouhaha about the European Union and whether or not it is any good.  On one side you have those of Guardian disposition saying that the EU is a blessed old thing that has improved the continent tenfold and that we should be very grateful for all it has done.  Then, in the other corner we have the Eurosceptics, those who think that the massive omni-country that it wants to become is a flawed concept and that endless bureaucracy and red tape is destroying the very fabric of our own nations.

In Britain, many of us are Eurosceptical.  We want to cherry-pick what bits and pieces of legislation that suit us, and discard the rest.  This makes Angela Merkel very cross indeed, but ultimately, we don’t give a shit.  We want what’s best for us.  And who doesn’t?

We find the defendant, Martin Fullard, guilty of looking for justice.  You are hereby sentenced to life living in Europe...

We find the defendant, Martin Fullard, guilty of looking for justice. You are hereby sentenced to life living in Europe…

Of course the EU does have a few positives.  It makes hopping borders very easy indeed, why, you don’t even need a passport to enter neighbouring countries so that makes monitoring terrorists far easier.  Of course trade is much better these days too, and that means Britain can import Renaults and shoes for far less a cost than before.  The idea of a one-size-fits-all currency was a lovely one, until it all went horribly wrong when the small economies, like Greece, realised they had spent money they didn’t have.

But, as with everything in this day and age, it’s the negatives that cause the most chatter.  A while back, the EU thought it would be a good idea to invent something called the “European Court of Human Rights” and that it would ensure justice and fairness for all.  It was a nice idea, but like most things European, it was unrealistic.  It didn’t take into account that there would be some meanies who would abuse the system for their own benefit.  I want to make it plain that I accept and acknowledge that ECHR has done lots of good work, but sadly it lets itself get exploited too easily.

This is why there is a bearded man called Abu Qatada living in a £350,000 rented house, paid for by British taxpayer money.  Now, in case you don’t know, Mr. Qatada isn’t very fond of Britain, or France, or Venezuela, or America, or basically anywhere.  He is what the British press refer to as a “hate preacher.”  This means he walks around town shouting at things that he dislikes, whether it be bus stops, Toyota Camry’s, churches, JD Sports…he is not very easily pleased to say the least.

He has been very mean to those who live in the West also, calling us all horrible names and so on.  He really, really hates us all.  And that’s a shame since we have done so much for the poor git.  Anyway, for a while now, our Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been trying to get rid of him.  We started by knocking on his door and offering him some money to leave, but he slammed the door shut and said “no” quite abruptly.  He spent a bit of time in jail for his disdain of Toyota Camry’s and Adidas trainers, and then the government pursued a case to deport him back to his native Jordan.

But this is where the ECHR got involved.  Mr. Qatada launched an appeal against his deportation because he was worried that the Jordanian government would torture him for information pertaining to other hate preachers, it was, as far as he was concerned, a violation of his human rights.

The ECHR agreed with him and told Britain that it wouldn’t be fair to send the poor old man home.  Never mind that he swore death to us all, the ECHR said we were being mean.  So, the government appealed the appeal.  And it was voted through that, actually, we could get rid of him if the Jordanians promised that they wouldn’t torture him for information.  They obliged – with their fingers crossed – but Mr. Qatada refused.  So, he appealed the appeal of the original appeal which, bizarrely, he won.  So now he is being housed in a plush semi-detached property on the taxpayer’s account, whilst Theresa May appeals the appeal of the appeal of the original appeal.

If you are not from Europe, Britain, or anywhere remotely near, then you must be thinking that this is a load of nonsense, and that I have made it all up.  Check it out and see for yourselves.  I look at it as revenge by the EU against Britain because they don’t like the fact that we waltz into Brussels HQ, choose what legislation we like the best, leave the sprouts and gristle, and walk out again.  But what do I know?  I’m just an aspiring writer who still believes in the Easter Bunny.

This is what I like about the UAE.  Yeah sure, sometimes the legal system over here makes your jaw hit the flaw, but really, I am truly envious of their national security policies.  Not even that, if you don’t play by the rules over here, you’re out.  It’s that simple.  No appealing the appeal, no questions.

The other week, an Egyptian delegation visited the UAE and asked the government if they would release 12 or so members of the Muslim Brotherhood who admitted to conspiring to disrupt national security.  The UAE told them to get stuffed.   Get stupidly drunk and vomit in the back of a taxi here and it is prison for a short while then an economy seat on the next Etihad flight back to homesville.  No debate, you get on the plane.

The Emiratis are looked after so well, too.  Two weeks ago the president ordered the release of all Emiratis who were currently serving prison terms for cheque bouncing.  Just like that, 300 or so locals were out.  Ok, the expatriates stayed there inside, but at least there will be more space now.  Another Emirati got injured abroad last week, so the government sent a private plane to go and get him.  Can you imagine Angela Merkel doing that?

I love the fact that the bureaucracy here is saved for more trivial matters, if it wasn’t that way then UAE Uncut wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.  Instead we have rambled on for 118 topics moaning about this and that.  But when it comes to the big stuff, like national security and putting its own people first, then the UAE is world leading.

Only right now is there a letter floating around social media highlighting how illegal immigrants in Britain receive nearly four times as much money in benefits as the elderly do from their pensions.  The elderly have paid their tax and national insurance every month of their lives and in some cases fought for their country on the battlefield, and for what?  To fund the home and lifestyle of the very type of character they fought against.  Why did they bother and what must they think now?

No such qualms here in the Emirates, if anyone came out preaching hate against them, they’d be swooped on quicker than a 1970’s BBC presenter…

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117. Discrimination

Life isn’t fair.  This opening statement is a fact of life, not an attempt to instigate controversy.  In The West, and particularly in Used-to-be-Great Britain, we are no strangers to the equality brigade and the human rights brigade and just about every other brigade there is wagging their fingers and tutting.  Racism used to be ok, just like sexism and ageism, but as we hurtled towards the end of the 20th century with the invention of colour television and toothpaste, some people began to speak up and say “err…please don’t say that.”  And that is just super.

Despite some quarters of western media still blowing some things out of proportion, we have made massive efforts to reel in the racists and turn them into flower wearing ramblers who nurse bunny rabbits back to health.  Corporate big wigs with a fondness for capitalism and secretaries have come to accept that women in the workplace are not just there to make coffee and drop pencils, but that they can do any job a man can do too.  Ageism?  Pah!  These day’s you’re forced to work until you die anyway so no problems there.

So where does history fit into all of this?  Well, a few thousand years ago we were all given an equal start.  Homo-sapiens, Homo-simpsons…we all had access to rocks and water and it was up to us to come up with the best uses for them, a bit like Scrapheap Challenge.  Then, over the course of time the gulf between the various Homo classes became greater.  One band of brothers invented the wheel, another found some tablets with some commandments on them and things started to get a bit mad.

Anyway, when countries were invented some became better at invading than others, then we were able to harness electricity, then some other things happened and finally we arrived at today.  Because of hundreds of years worth of countless historical and economical factors, people from different countries expect a certain standard of living, and with that a certain wage.

So called “cheap labour” is as rife today as it was at the height of British imperialism, it’s just that these day’s the slaves are paid, so they become “employees” and when they cause mischief they are not flogged, but merely sent to Human Resources instead.  Things are at least going in the right direction.

Due to each nation’s own economic situation, different people of different nationalities are paid different wages, and in the UAE theses salaries are aimed to be just a teensy weensy bit higher than the basic level at home.  Obviously, Emirati’s get paid the most.  Next on the level is other GCC nationals like Saudi’s and Kuwaiti’s, then come us Westerners.  For most of us, our wages aren’t too different to what we would earn back home doing a similar job, it’s just that bottom end payments are cheaper so it appears to be more.  Next down we have people from Asian countries like some Pakistanis, maybe Moroccans, Syrians and certain Indians.  Then we have the folk from the former Eastern Bloc like The Ukraine, then other Indians, certain Africans and Filipinos.  Then we have the poor Patan’s from Pakistan and Afghans at the foot of this alarming pyramid.

The UAE finds itself in a tricky situation, being pretty much in the middle of the world it attracts people from all over.  Some are career driven Westerners who are here to broker deals between ADNOC and BP that are worth billions.  Some are just here because it’s an adventure.  The money is ok and they can enjoy the quality of life that the UAE offers…to some.  Then there are those who are here solely to provide for their families, and if they get fired, their families back home in Bangladesh starve.

I’m not going to start analysing the moral implications of the above, but rather turn my attention to an article published in the press today.  It highlighted the case of job adverts in the UAE and the prose that is usually adopted.  As you can imagine there are millions, well, three, people up in arms brandishing the “isms” and the “ists” bounders and cads with vehemence.

Hi-yo, Silver!  AWAY!

Hi-yo, Silver! AWAY!

The example given to us was “Wanted: qualified receptionist for a social media company. Only attractive women from the Philippines, Russia or Arab countries need apply.”  Whilst this is a bad example, I can kind of see one half of the point.  Let’s take Mr. Sulu as a case in point.  George Takei has come out – sorry – and said that he could never have played a Cowboy on the silver screen.  Most Asians agree, in the same way that Eddie Murphy could never have played a portrayal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  Takei accepted that there was no way you could have a Japanese Cowboy drawing against John Wayne at high noon.  If he saw an ad looking for someone to play Wyatt Earp, then he would move on.  Then there’s me, I have come to accept that I will never be a Ballerina.  So when the director of The Nutcracker is next casting, I will sadly have to go to the pub instead.

If you are posting a job advert over here, then you have to know your audience, and who will come and work on the money you have on offer.  I doubt very much that you will get many Swiss responding to your ad looking for a maid.  Likewise I doubt you will get many Patan’s applying to be Hedgefund Managers.  If you didn’t specify you would be inundated with unsuitable applications.

Ultimately, no one comes here to earn less money than they would at home.  Perhaps that just goes to show how bad some people have it in places like Bangladesh or parts of the Philippines.  But really, very few people will say “I could earn more at home”, and if they do say that, then they go back.

Many job adverts over here are usually posted without mentioning the salary, and that I fear is the problem.  It’s been a while since UAE Uncut has come up with a solution, but why not make legislation that every advert must specify a wage?  Then only those who are willing to work for that wage will apply.  This will save you the need for including racial slurs like “No Egyptians” or “No Fuzzy Wuzzies.”

But what about ads – like the example above – that specify only “attractive” ladies need bother to apply?  Well, to be quite frank, if you actually go ahead and apply for this job then really you’re an idiot.  What are the odds that you are going to work for a decent, respectable firm with a professional, understanding manager?  Anyone with a brain would just gloss over such a crass advertisement.

In Great Britain such discrimination against nationalities is illegal, whereas here in the UAE the process is merely trying to balance itself.  If everyone earned the same money, whether it was a lot or not, then sadly we would all be communists, and that’s far worse.  Of course there are plenty of Indians who are prominent businessmen, and there are plenty of Egyptian women who run their own companies with tremendous success over here.  There will always be a mix, and that’s the problem.  You just don’t know until you have employed someone whether you’re paying them too much or too little.  There’s no point jumping up and down denouncing poorly worded job ads, because the people who wrote them wouldn’t understand a politically correct one.

Sometimes the screening works and I stand by my belief that Clayton Moore made a far better Lone Ranger than George Takei would have…

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116. Welcoming

As many of you know, I am a grumpy old man with an overwhelming disdain for pretty much everything.  I seem to hate whatever is popular just to be different, whether it is whatever Kardashian happens to be pregnant/married/other fairly uninteresting drama, iPads, X Factor, the list is endless.  I have never been one for New Years Eve either, I just don’t get it.  I really don’t see the need for jumping up and down screaming and being sick on your friends head for what is only a change of date.  Add to that the expense of going anywhere with no one else in it or paying to go into a fireworks display that you could see for free when standing in a nearby road and we have a mystery.

In fact I cared so little about it this year that I booked a flight that landed back in Dubai at 23:45 on NYE so I spent midnight standing in a long, smelly line at customs.  I just spent the week in Dublin with my fiancé and her family and I am pleased to report that beneath this Times New Roman facade of whinging and scorn that I am actually a happy, optimistic guy.  In only 7 days I did more walking than I had done since I last visited Dubai Mall; I saw waterfalls, woodland, dogs and my fiancé slip down a hill.  I drank Guinness that tasted correct, not like the mud that comes out of the UAE taps.  I got to wear a jacket that hid my various bulges with a cunning semblance.  I sat by a fire, read, ate, watched Downton Abbey and generally made merry.  It was a fantastic week.

You see, the Irish aren’t too different from the English, we both self deprecate, we both like a drink, we can’t be bothered to go to war, we both have governments making mind-boggling policies and so on, and that’s why I felt at home.  Despite being of Irish heritage, I was still a foreigner and yet was made to feel extraordinarily welcome.  This was none so apparent than when I arrived at Dublin Airport.

My connection from Amsterdam was with Aer Lingus, whose reputation isn’t heralded as world leading, but they cannot be knocked for friendly staff.  From check in onwards I was smiled at, communicated with and offered lots of goodies at knock down prices.  The air stewardesses were also pleasant and the pilot refused to crash the plane.  At the airport I was asked if I needed a hand carrying my jacket or my bag.  There are only a dozen or so desks at passport control and they were all filled, the man who looked at my passport gave me a smile and said “Welcome to Ireland and have a Merry Christmas my young man!” with a genuine sense of meaning.  My suitcase was the first onto the carousel and I was out of there after 12 hours of travelling.  Never have I felt so welcome at an Airport.

Then the week came and went and before I knew it I was back at the airport ready for the return flight to the UAE.  Apart from the man 2 seats across from me who insisted on chewing gum at such a volume I thought would crack the windows, I arrived back in Dubai after a decent flight.  And what a different experience it was.

SHOW ME YOUR F****** PASSPORT!  SHOW ME YOUR F****** PASSPORT!

SHOW ME YOUR F****** PASSPORT! SHOW ME YOUR F****** PASSPORT!

After stepping off the plane I was greeted by an Indian man who thought the best way of being polite was to hock up a nice ball of phlegm at a level of noise that eclipsed the chewing gum man.  I was then walking when a mother, with a pram, stopped just before the flat escalator thing for no reason causing several of us to crash into her and her young infant.  She didn’t seem to care.  There were 6-7 wailing, and I mean wailing, children who were receiving no attention at all from their confused and useless parents and there was also a curious aroma of excrement.

Finally I entered the customs hall, passport control if you will, and noticed straight away that it would take some calculating…45 passport checking desks, 6 passport checkers and 4000 tired air passengers.  As luck would have it, a Filipino man signaled to me to head down one aisle that would see me to the front, I obliged and a queue promptly formed behind me.  By this time all the 6 customs desk men had full queues, and still there were 1000’s of people waiting.  There was, however, one flaw.  The desk at the front of my queue was vacant.  I had been sold a lemon; I was at the front of a queue that was queuing for nothing.

After 10 minutes my patience began to wear thin, so I decided it best to leave and go and join the back of another line.  I can’t tell you how bad it was because some people would be on the forums dragging my name through the mud quicker than a Guardian reader at a British National Party conference.  It was horrific, but at least it would move.

And move it did; at about the same speed as the American continent moves away from Africa each millennium.  Our passport checker was a man whose build suggested that he liked eating both lard and babies and whose last exercise was when he went to the toilet; in 1997.  How hard can it be to flick the visa page under the barcode scanner, stamp it, make sure the picture matches the face and say “welcome.” Really, every single person before me was treated like filth – they were from “lesser” countries according to the man – and then there was me.  I wasn’t even provided with eye contact, to say nothing about a simple one-word greeting.

Once it was confirmed that I wasn’t a Taliban commando my hand luggage was x-rayed for bombs.  I then went to collect my suitcase that still, even after having queued up at passport control for 45 minutes, hadn’t arrived; no ones had.  After another 15 minutes I was bagged up so made for the exit.  After walking through the “nothing to declare” gate I was again ordered to have my possessions x-rayed for bombs and firearms.  Thankfully in the 15 minutes since I last had it done no contraband had materialised.  I found a taxi driver who was reluctant to drive me home and that was it, 2013 had begun.

Ireland enjoyed a boom in the latter half of the 20th Century and its people were able to enjoy themselves.  But along with the rest of Europe it’s going through a rocky patch at the moment.  Everyone is leaving to work abroad, there aren’t many jobs and the cost of living gets higher each day.  Yet still through all this they smile, they welcome you, they are grateful for your visit.  They’ll buy you a drink or 10 and to hell with the hangover.  The UAE has much to learn.  If you treat people like everyone in the airport last night then don’t expect them to come back when you need them and their tourism money.

It all went to prove that I am not a grumpy old man consumed by hate, but that my grievances are indeed valid.  This year is the year of The Gathering in Ireland, a call for people to visit the emerald isle for a holiday and boost its income.  For your vacation this year may I suggest Dublin, not Dubai?  Take your holiday dollars to a country that would welcome them and I promise that you will have a superb time, meet some great people and be treated well.

The experience of returning to the emirates had, for the first time in 10 years, made me wish that I was at a New Years Eve party instead…and that is really saying something…

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