When I first came to Dubai, I thought I’m a word connoisseur (is there such a term?)
Since I love to read, I got exposed to different words and though I don’t use them often, I have fair grasp of their meaning and know how to spell them (like the word connoisseur).
And then I came to Dubai.
This is how skinny I am when I first came to Dubai. Global Village 2006.
First few weeks were struggle. I think I know how to speak English but why the hell I can’t understand my colleagues?
British, Indian, Arabs- they all talk gibberish.
This is what my ears were hearing:
Indian: Wer ken I get ye-four and delephone?
British: Can you shed-jool sem-ee prive-et yat?
Arabs: Akhaamed wants bizza and bebsi.
My first job in Dubai was a receptionist so you can imagine the number of people I encounter everyday.
I am so embarrassed whenever I ask them to repeat what they said since they already repeated it twice.
They might think I can’t understand english or I’m just plain stupid.
I clearly recall an Indian colleague repeatedly yelling ye-for,Ye-For, YE-FOR since I don’t get it.
He was so frustrated. I’m so dumb.
As it turned out. He was asking for A4 paper. In the Philippines, we call them ‘typewriting’
Even if he had a heart attack screaming YE-FOR, I wouldn’t be able to give it to him.
Because I DON’T FREAKING KNOW!
Over time, I told myself it’s not me, it’s them. If I can’t understand an English man, it’s not because I don’t freaking know English, but his accent is at fault.
There are some people who speaks english in neutral accent and I don’t have a problem in conversing with them.
Also, there are so many words added on my vocabulary in 12 years I’ve been living here.
Toilet – does it sound very vulgar? We’re used calling it CR, comfort room, washroom but toilet?! No.
I recall going to a mall and asked the cleaner
Me: Excuse me, where’s the CR?
Me: Bubble thoughts ‘for sure there’s CR in the mall’. Oh, I mean comfort room.
Cleaner: No. No.
Me: Bubble thoughts ‘WTF’
I then started using sign language as if I’m washing my hands.
Cleaner: Ohhh! Toilet, go straight then left.
Me: Almost peed on the floor…
Pantry – If I tell my mom to grab coffee from pantry, I will end up just taking it myself because what the hell is a pantry. We call it cabinet on our side of the world.
To Let – my first thought when I read this in 2005 – “Have they stupidly forgot the I in the banner? But why are they promoting toilet?”
Tiffin box – when my son asked if he can have a tiffin box, I googled it right away.
And you know how we are taught of US English in school? It’s quite an adjustment to write centre, colour, organisation.
And the most difficult adjustment is using day-month-year when writing.
So 5-6-2017 is not May 6, 2017. It is June 5, 2017.
When we got married in 2016, Gibson and I discussed how we should write the date on our wedding ring.
He said that we are Filipinos and we should write August 6, 2006 as 8-6-06.
After 11 years of marriage, I am now confused on what’s our anniversary date since I always rely on my ring to help me remember. Don’t tell my husband. I’m really bad with dates.
Overall, I’m grateful being exposed to different nationalities and learning different accents and new words.
Now, me and my family can survive going to any parts of the world and be able to communicate as long as English is the medium of conversation.
Have a good day!