There’s something I’ve learnt about work in Dubai – it’s quite different from being gainfully employed back in the UK or US.
You can ‘get away’ with things here – so you hear stories such as my friend’s tale about a meeting in which her boss got angry and swirled around to tell her colleague, “My, you look spotty!”
On the job section of a website called Dubizzle, you’ll quickly find adverts that specify what nationality they’re looking for, or not. For example, ‘Models & promoters needed (No Filipinos)’; and another stating, ‘Only expats or Russian girls may apply.’
After just five minutes of living in Dubai you realise that with so many people from South Asia terrified of losing their jobs, working conditions are not always what they should be – and nor is the pay.
But I didn’t mean to dwell on the negative stuff, because actually the chance to work with such a diverse mix of people from all over the world (not to mention the tax-free extra dirhams) has been wonderful. My intention was merely to point out some differences I’ve noticed.
So yesterday, when a publishing company I won’t name asked me to come into the office for “a couple of hours” to do some proof-reading, what they really meant was “would you give up 10 hours of your time to re-write swathes of copy put together by writers from Syria, Egypt, etc, whose first language is most definitely not English.”
I’m also finding out that there are certain things you won’t ‘get away with’ in the media industry here. I’ve been told that designers and journalists who have put together a layout with a camel above a sheikh have lost their jobs – and international publications have been known to have inappropriate images (like a rear view of a naked woman at the back of The Times Style magazine) blacked out with marker pen.
This is apparently done by those doing time in the UAE. And anything deemed offensive may also be ripped out. One publisher had government approval to write about wine for a food book. Once the book was published, the decision was apparently reversed and the book was sold with the wine chapter listed on the contents page, but no chapter actually in the book!
To date, I don’t think I’ve said anything on my humble blog to get me deported. And working down in Media City, where there are numerous good-quality magazines, from Time Out to Esquire, has been a really positive experience.
Perhaps my biggest challenge has been the projects I’ve taken on from home, because at the moment I’m finding working at home to be the equivalent of walking up the Burj Khalifa backwards in Jimmy Choos.
It’s just too tempting to think, “I’ll just squeeze in that mammoth grocery shop / go through that drawer of clutter / lie down for a quick nap.” And, the hardest one to resist, hearing the kids the other side of the wall being looked after by our nanny.
I keep finding myself at the computer at 11pm trying to catch up. Hence I was intrigued by a couple of jobs landed by friends of mine recently (as a quick aside, it never ceases to amaze me how expat women here who don’t want to work full-time, don’t want to have another baby but want to do something to stave off boredom, reinvent themselves – sometimes several times over).
So my friend who was a nurse, and discovered that the pay here for this particular profession is abysmal, is now a chocolate taster for the Mars factory! And another pal, who used to be an airline pilot in the US, became a mystery shopper (she actually got paid to shop!) and now reviews movies for Virgin Radio Dubai.
Perhaps the answer is to only accept jobs that take me into an office in Media City, where household distractions aren’t a problem – except all the girls down there are young and thin, with sashaying hips, trendy clothes and perfectly flicked frizz-free hair.
Anyway, enough – I’m procrastinating again and must get back to editing a delightfully bad feature (because there’s only so many times I can tell them my lack of productivity is due to our internet being down).