Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I love the UAE

My friend D, a very wise and perceptive young lady, BBMd me the other day (have you noticed how people no longer call each other...they BBM?), saying that she was reading my blog, and that she was surprised that the last few posts have had a rather negative tone to them, and she asked me to write something more positive next time.

My friend D is right...I do use this blog as a venting platform whenever I'm unhappy about something...It's almost like an automatic reflex. But I did want to say this, loud and clear: I LOVE THE UAE. This place is definitely home to me, and right now, I do not see myself living anywhere else in the world. I mean yes, we all go through our "OMG I wish I lived in Europe/The States/Australia/South America" moments, but then you quickly realize that you can not live the way we live here anywhere else in the world.

So here's an incomplete list of the things I love about living here. Some are personal, some are more relevant to everyone out there. I urge you to add your own comments if you'd like to:

- I love living close to my parents. I get to see them every couple of weeks, and it beats seeing them 3 weeks out of 52, hands down! Home is where your family is.
- I love my friends. They're the best part of living here. I look forward to my weekends because of them...and this goes for both my groups of friends in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
- I love that I've known some of these friends for almost 2 decades now. OK now I feel old!!
- I love living with my sister (she'll kill me if I don't mention her here)
- I love the weather. I did the whole snow, ice, hail, wind, 4-seasons thing for 10 years. I'd rather 50-degree heat. Trust me.
- I love the beach. Some of the best beaches in the world are here.
- I love my pool. I think I have the awesomest pool in Dubai. Others will vouch for that.
- I love how easy life is. Admit can't get a life this easy anywhere else in the world!
- I love my job and the people I work with.
- I love the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. The best free beach EVER!
- I love the fact that I live in the city that has the tallest building in the world...I know it's stupid...but it's kinda cool.
- I love that as a female, I usually get priority service at most governmental offices.
- I love the concerts in Abu Dhabi...Justin Timberlake, George Michael, Bon Jovi, The Killers, Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, name a few!
- I love the restaurants in Dubai...Teatro, Zuma, Okku, Bice...again to name a few...yumm!
- I love that we get great weather almost 7 months a year
- I love the sound of the athan (prayer) when I sometimes wake up at 4AM for no reason whatsoever...It's so soothing.
- I love action-packed weekends...pool/beach, restaurants, clubs and bars (and then trying to catch up on sleep during weekdays)
- I love the shopping...not that I shop a lot but I like it when I do shop...
- I love how familiar Abu Dhabi feels. It's nice and cosy.
- I love camping on the beach.
- I love weekend getaways to Fujairah, Hatta and Musandam
- I love Yas Island and what it's becoming.
- I love what they're doing with Abu Dhabi.
- I love Christmastime in the UAE. I'll always associate that with vacation time and family gatherings.
- I love JBR Walk. Don't take advantage of it nearly enough though.
- I love boat trips.
- I love the sight of Burj al Arab.
- I love our coffee sessions at The ONE in Abu Dhabi. It's our local hangout.
- I love our chilled nights at a friend's place, playing charades.
- I love sunsets at the end of a beautiful weekend.
- I love the look of awe on my tourist friend's faces when they come visit.
- I love Sho Cho's (both Abu Dhabi and Dubai!). Rock shrimp salad? I could live on that stuff! Oh, and salmon sashimi too!
- I love how close we are to Europe, Asia, South Africa, and the rest of the Middle-East of course. Now if only North & South America and Australia would come closer to us...would be great.
- I love that I get 21 days off in a year (plus all the Eids and national holidays!)
- I love the feeling of "coming back home" when I'm away from the UAE for a little while.

There's more...there's definitely more...but let me know what you love about the UAE...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Customer service is about serving customers

Customer service in the UAE can either be hit or miss...I'd say 90% of the time, it's a miss...but, looking at the bright side, this means that the 10% of the time when it's a hit, one can only be blown away, because the bar is set so low to begin with.

I've been to a few restaurants lately where the service was simply abysmal. Orders were messed up, the food took ages to get there, dishes got served at different times, dishes were cold...(all of the above happened to me recently in one restaurant by the way. Never again, trust me!). Now, I understand that some restaurants can have an "off day" once in a while, but you'd expect that the staff are empowered enough to provide SOME sort of compensation to the customer...But no, usually, all you get is a "I'm sorry Mam, I'm sorry Sir" and that's it. Nothing to actually show us customers that they're even remotely bothered by the fact that we're basically paying money to get treated like crap.

Language barrier is one issue, but training is the bigger issue I believe. When you hire staff for your restaurant, you make sure they've studied the dishes, tried them, been informed about what can be replaced/added to the dishes, been trained when it comes to keeping an eye out on the tables they are serving to make sure their customers do not require anything, take the customer's order in a timely manner, and bring the bill no later than 5 minutes after you've asked for it. I mean, the basics really. I'm not expecting Michelin-star service here!

And it doesn't stop at restaurants. Shopping outlets also need to step up their game. Greet customers when they walk in. Keep an eye out and help them out with sizes if you think they're looking for something specific. Place the clothes in the changing rooms while the customer is browsing. Again, I'm not saying stalk the customer every step of the way (that's a turnoff too!) there for the customer. I can't even begin to remember the number of times I've simply walked out of an outlet because I can't find anyone to help me...

In beauty salons for example, nothing is more annoying than sitting there, patiently, while the technicians are chit chatting amongst themselves. Chit chatting while getting the service done is borderline acceptable (although in all honesty, I would much prefer some peace and quiet), but chit chatting away while the customer is waiting for all 10 fingernails to be painted is just frustrating.

But then, once in a while, you catch that silver lining. The waiter who's on the ball, has answers to all your questions, and even manages to crack a joke or two (without being cheesy)...Or that customer sales rep at Dewa who actually knows what documents you need when you want to move to a new place. Or the shop assistant who suggests to call other branches to find that must-have pair of shoes in a size 38...Once in a while, your expectations are surpassed...Once in a while, service in the UAE is a hit.

Once in a while.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Stung by Sting

So we decided to go to the Sting concert the other day...despite me vowing never to go to another concert ever again after the Shakira fiasco. But I figured, what the hell...Shakira was 3 years ago, Mirage promotions is nowhere close to being involved in this concert, so why not...Plus, I mean, this was Sting!

The venue was Meydan, the new racecourse in Dubai which replaced Nad al Sheba. It was my first time there and it looked like we were driving to the middle of nowhere. We got stuck in a bit of traffic at the Meydan entrance but luckily traffic was moving fast so we got there pretty quickly (the cab driver, on the other hand, was psycho...but that's another story for another time).

Meydan is simply HUMONGOUS for lack of a better word! I mean really...HUGE! Once there, we tried to find our way to the area where we could collect our wristbands. We waited in line to get through security (took 12 minutes), then tried to find out way. We walked for a while trying to find the wristband place...we walked and walked and walked....until we FINALLY found it. Did I mention that the racecourse is HUGE?

OK so now we have the wristbands. We wanted to secure some good spots, so we walk some more, grab some drinks along the way...all the time trying to figure out where the stage was. We eventually get to the area behind the stage and we wait. And wait some more. We ask a security guard what the deal was, he says "well, can't you see that the gate is still closed??" didn't even know there WAS a gate!

The concert was supposed to start at 11:30 and at 11:40 they finally open the gate, which was the definition of a bottleneck. Thousands of people trickling into a tiny space to make it towards the front of the stage. Finally, we make it through! And luckily the concert started around 15 minutes later.

The screen behind the stage was kickass! Really huge and it really made the whole concert. The sound, on the other hand, was times, we could barely hear him.

Sting sang all the classics (or most of them anyway) which is great because I don't know any of his recent stuff. The venue was quite impressive but maybe too impressive...a little more intimacy would have been ideal.

We walked out as he was doing his encore, in an effort to beat the masses. I was worried about finding a cab (again, refer to the Shakira fiasco) but luckily this time, there were plenty available. I'm guessing half of Dubai's taxis were there! There was a long queue but again, it moved pretty quickly and 20 minutes later, we were on our way home.

Overall, an OK experience as far as concerts go. Not as bad as I expected it to be. I guess we are spoiled by Abu Dhabi concerts which are always amazingly well organized. And despite the stunning setting that was provided by Meydan, I still prefer the Emirates Palace as a venue. It's close to the city, it's big enough yet not too big, and it has the gorgeous Palace as a backdrop.

But an OK effort for Dubai as far as big concerts go...Dubai seems to be getting back on the concert map and an Elton John and Santana concert was announced for the end of the month. Let's see how that one goes :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hello again

Still here. My blog's been on my mind a lot lately, and I cringe every time I think about how I've neglected it! Poor little blog that I've invested so much time in!

But the reason I haven't shut it down is because I always knew that I'd have a need for a space where I can vent my frustrations, share my thoughts, and get people's opinions. So, this blog's staying, no matter how infrequently I'm going to be updating it.

What's been happening lately? Well, the tail end of 2009 saw quite a bit of traveling, which I tremendously enjoyed...And I got to visit 3 new countries, which is always a plus in my books.

Work-wise, things are pretty stable. 2009 was a pretty stable, almost boring year for me. Not much of a challenge professionally but then again, I didn't really push myself too hard. Need to shake things up a bit this year.

The new year has been much busier, with some interesting challenges coming up. I've also been dealing with some non-serious but definitely painful health the beginning of 2010 has not been a great one so far. We'll see what the rest of it has to offer.

I've been semi-active on Twitter (much more than on this blog!), but I think I'm the kind of person who needs much more than 140 characters to really get my thoughts across... But still, the Twitter phenomenon is fun, and I think I'll be sticking around for a while at least.

Those who do follow me on Twitter will know my frustration at the fact that the Greens bridge is still not opened. What on EARTH are they waiting for really? Traffic has reached nightmarish proportions, even on weekends and during non-rush hours! Ridiculous really.

That was a quick roundup of the past few months. Will be back soon though. Promise.