Monday, September 24, 2012

Out of the Sandbox

We were super blessed to be able to spend the last 4 weeks of our summer in Europe and 
i am pretty certain that in my wildest imagination i would not be able to dream up a more starkly opposite location from our Dubai Sandbox.


Besides belting out random Roger and Hammerstein songs during our stay,


...The Hills Are Alive...

we also experienced some jolting moments of culture shock.

The obvious differences of course; sand verses grass, extreme heat verses beautiful weather,
Snow capped alps
Orange tinted sand dunes

Swan sightings instead of


The obvious we expected, what surprised us were the things we had grown accustom to in Dubai and suddenly seemed so foreign in Switzerland.

SWISS PRECISION:  Swiss precision permeates everything the Swiss do.  Timeliness and efficiency seem to be built into their DNA.  Even their public transportation is so precise it has been said you can accurately set your watch according to the arrival and departure times of the trains.

  Seriously, even their fire wood is stacked and cut to perfection

Dubai however is NOT time oriented or precise.  Arriving 45minutes late in Dubai means you are still early.  (Need i refer you to my post on driving?)  Another case in point: At the movie theater one day, an Arab family walked in 45 minutes late to an 84 minute movie.  (Yes, i looked it up)  Heaping tubs of popcorn and all.  45 minutes!!!

SWISS TRAFFIC:  Not only are their speed limits signs adorned with pretty little flower boxes they are adamantly adhered to.

In Switzerland, my slightest pause at a crosswalk, brought cars from both direction to an immediate stop!  The first time it happened i thought it was a complete fluke.  Then i realized they do it all the time, stop for pedestrians that is.  i found myself needlessly crossing streets just because i suddenly had the power to stop traffic.
Crosswalks are practically non-existent in Dubai. NO pedestrian has the right of way. EVER.   i mean even if you are in the middle of a crossing the parking garage with 2 young children in tow and car is headed toward you.  Don't expect them to slow down much less stop.  Which is why i suddenly realized in Switzerland that when my children hear a car coming in the distance they scattered like cockroaches at the sight of first light.  "Run for cover!"

(OK, i must digress here, the 2 above points have completely baffled me ever since arriving in Dubai.  If Dubai culture is not time oriented and has NO concern over arriving late, why does everybody drive at lightening speed?  Where is everybody going in such a hurry?!)

QUENCH THE WANDERLUST  Some people say the Swiss keep to themselves and are not very welcoming to outsiders.  i would disagree, as i know of no other country that welcomes you to explore their country side more thoroughly.  Switzerland greets its visitors by rolling out a welcome mat of trails.  31,000 miles of precisely laid ribboned pathways adorn the green hillside.

Yellow diamond Wanderweg(walk/trail) signs EVERYWHERE beckon you to explore.

Even if that means taking you right through the middle of some one's backyard.

If you don't feel like walking the trail... take the gondola

One of my challenges in Dubai is not having a path to take to for a walk or a jog.   Even if i could bear the heat for a mid-day walk and if by chance i find some sort of walking path, Dubai Wanderwegs end abruptly. 

IT RAINS A LOT in Switzerland:  It is so lush and green and the air is amazing!  With no concern of dry conditions it is perfectly safe to set off large child sized fireworks in the middle of their forests.

(That would be a "Dubai" firework)

As for the weather conditions in Dubai... uh, no comment.

SOUNDS OF MORNING NOON & NIGHT....  In Switzerland there were church bells and the 
constant clang of cow bells always in the distance. 

Instead of the call of prayer resonating from the muezzin 5 times a day.

CHANGE IN DIET:  The staple in Switzerland is beer, brats and pretzels.  

In Dubai beer and any sort of pork product are considered haram or sinful which therefore make it difficult to find and certainly not common place.  Certain restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol will also be allowed to serve up bacon tainted meals as well.  This explains why my kids get super excited when we enter a restaurant in Dubai and they instantly spot people drinking beer or wine.  You can imagine the looks i get from other people when one of my Littles jumps up and down singing, "YIPPEE!  They serve beer here!!"  Which in their minds means they can order bacon.  Yes, it makes us look like AMAZING parents.  Already branded before we even sit ourselves down to dinner.  Nice! 
So now we are settled back into Dubai as our summer has come to end (vacation that is NOT the heat). 

It has been a bit more difficult adjusting back into life here but thankfully we are finally finding our groove. 

So while in our Sandbox the only chance for us to get a reminder of the starkly different Switzerland

is to head to our local Dubai "Alp" the indoor ski slope

otherwise known as