Monday, 19 May 2008

Emirates News


We have a channel here - Dubai One - which is a very popular mainstream channel, rather than an obscure satellite channel.  Perhaps it could be the region's BBC1.  Every night, we sit down to watch Emirates News - a half hour round up of the day's headlines.

I have to include this as a separate entry on my blog, as Emirates News consistently provides and equal amount of  entertainment and frustration for Tim and I. 

I am providing you with tonight's stories - the programme is 30 mins long and these are the stories that were reported on - I have left nothing out.  These are in order of being reported:

  1. The President of the UAE is heading to Saudi Arabia tomorrow to participate in a meeting of government officials of GCC
  2. Vice president of the UAE (and Ruler of Dubai) is off to France tomorrow to meet President Sarkozy
  3. Vice president of the UAE today received US Secretary of Education
  4. Dubai customs today announced recommendations “to reinforce war against counterfeiting and piracy”
  5. Dubai construction companies are warned to follow midday break rules – 2 hour break at heat of the day for all employees
  6. Bakery fined 1000 Dirhams (£140) for an insect in the bread (incidentally it didn't say whether it was a mosquito or a beetle)
  7. A study has been published on human trafficking in the UAE – the ultimate result being that there is no evidence of trafficking in the UAE. However, there is a Human Rights office in Dubai to support and repatriate any possible human trafficking victims . . (but they must be really quiet because officially it doesn’t exist, right?)
  8. Ajman (a northern Emirate) is cracking down on tobacco products – there is now a ban on import and sale of all kinds of chewing tobacco and tobacco products – penalties are 10,000 (£1400) if violated
  9. Bird-strikes. How is the UAE going to cope with the anticipated threat of bird-strikes and the increasing air-traffic within the UAE
  10. Watersports in the Dubai – watch out for strong winds and waves
  11. Today’s market and currency prices (yes, the dollar is still weak)
  12. Weather outlook for tomorrow: go on, I dare you, have a guess . . !

So, the crisis in China, or Burma . . .  not a bean . . . absolutely nothing worldwide at all - just happy, jolly, Emirates News!

What is it really like here . . . Cost of Living?

I look at Sky News each day and most days I see that costs appear to be rising out of control in the UK (or is it that the tabloid newspapers are out of control?).  Fuel costs are rising, food costs are rising and petrol is simply crazy.  It makes me honestly wonder how long we could have kept going in the UK with costs as they appear to be.

So, is it any different here?  Well, if you have followed our journey you will know that the major cost here is that of housing, which is extortionate.  However, as someone pointed out to me the other day, if we were renting this house in the middle of London, it would probably be more expensive.  Yes, I agree.

Cars are relatively cheap over here - most are US imports and you lease them on 5 year plans so they are much cheaper than in the UK.  I think I am paying about the same amount per month here for my massive wagon than I was at home for my Ford Focus.  Petrol - and I am cringing as I am writing this, because I know it has to be such a sore subject with all of you guys - costs a ridiculous 19 pence a litre.  People here though are rather cross about the price of petrol - it has doubled in the last few years.  Still laughably cheap though.  If it makes you feel any better, my car insurance is about triple my UK premium, but if you see the way people drive here, I guess it makes sense!

I did the supermarket shop yesterday and managed to buy all of my weekly groceries for about £50.  Quite how they manage to sell me an apple, imported from Australia for 12p, I have no idea; equally, banana are about 8 pence each.  There are quite a few manufacturing plants here - the Coca Cola company has a factory, so I can buy 12 cans of Diet Coke for about £1.50.  24 bottles of water costs around £1.50.  Similarly a Mars bar costs 23p (not that I eat any of course - just pure research).  Meat is cheaper too and generally of good quality - a lovely joint of fresh lamb - cost £4.90.  HOWEVER, and there has to be one doesn't there - it has to be that over here there are very few reliable "sell by" dates!  They are more likely to have production dates on the label and yes, there are occasions where I have got home and my yoghurt with a good sell by date is curdled and when my meat smells off (it happens a fair bit, despite carting everything home in cool boxes).  I think it's fair to say that things aren't transported here well so I find that I am always at the grocery store trying to find fresh ingredients - even bananas here only seem to last about 2 days!  Eggs- now this I find rather strange.  The sell-by date in the UK is usually about two weeks after they hit the shelves - here, it is a whopping three months.  Chickens to my knowledge lay the same eggs worldwide, so are mine really safe to eat three months after they have emerged?  Who knows!  Generally, I would say, groceries are about 25% cheaper than in the UK.

Going out is probably a major difference that we have seen.  We eat out a lot - nowhere flashy but a local steakhouse or similar.  For a family of 4 it probably costs us about £25 which I think is pretty good.  I remember being in Pizza Express in the UK and paying nearly £40 for the family.  Days out are also cheaper - a day in the water park for all of us is about £50.  No, not cheap - but compared to nearly £120 for Legoland Windsor last summer, it's much better value.  cartoon

I think it's fair to say that we have a better standard of living here, but let's be honest, we're not paying any tax or NI, which has certainly helped us considerably!  They're thinking of introducing VAT here though, which will probably change things quite a lot.  There's also talk of income tax in the future . . . oh dear . . . we may be home sooner than we think!!!!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

What is it really like here . . . . TV & Radio


So, here we are, living in a foreign country and I am asked so many different questions by different people that I thought I would jot down some answers.  Here is the first:

What's the TV like?

TV is complete and utter rubbish.  We have a few English channels for our cable subscription of about £15 a month.  One of which is BBC Prime. 

I am actually a huge fan of the BBC in general - I think they make some of the best TV programmes out there - especially dramas and historical dramas.  In theory, some of them should be on BBC Prime?  Well, so you would think.

The BBC should be ashamed of themselves exporting the kind of rubbish we pay to see.  Peak time programming (from 7pm tonight) is Next of Kin (last aired in the UK in 1997), Keeping up Appearances Episode 1 (first showed in the UK in 1991), Staying Put (a home improvement show that I have never heard of), and Trading Up (a property show allegedly shown in 2001). 

The children are happy - they get the range of Disney Channels ranging from cartoon channels to the movie channels and to be honest, I like them too.  Before you think I have regressed into my childhood because of the pitiful adult programming, I haven't really.  I love Disney for two reasons:
1 - it keeps children children for longer - sweet, mostly innocent stuff (OK, let's forget that The Lion King's father was murdered, that Bambi suffered a terrible ordeal and Cruella cut up little puppies for their fur) - Mickey Mouse, however, captivates the little ones!
2 - there is NO advertising!  We realised the other day that we had no idea what to buy the kids for their birthdays and the simple reason is that they don't see anything advertised so they have stopped demanding anything.  Believe it or not, they are actually using the toys they already have, the favourite being Lego.

We also get Emirates News . . . . well, this will deserve it's own separate blog entry - let's just say for the time being that the news is heavily censored here and if it weren't for the Internet (oh, and The Sun being imported) I wouldn't really know what was going on in the outside world.  (I am perhaps being unfair, we do get BBC World, which is marginally more interesting than BBC Prime!)

So, Tim and I exist on the good old fashioned art of conversation - and when that runs dry, we stick on a DVD or boot up the PC.  

Don't, whatever you do, come here for the TV!


What about the Radio?

The radio is actually pretty good - there are pile of local (Dubai) English speaking FM radio stations - it does feel as though they are always playing tracks from the same old records - you can almost tell when one of them gets a new CD!

We have a Dubai "chatting" radio station - a bit like London's LBC radio, which is generally OK, albeit a little slow, but it covers a whole range of Dubai news, such as property but never politics.

Radio in our house is a different matter though - before we left we bought a Roberts radio from John Lewis (I so miss that shop) which picks up a signal from the internet.  Quite how it works I really have no idea, but you can listen to any radio station in the world.  Ours is tuned to BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, London's Capital Radio and some Sri Lankan radio station for our maid, Sujartha!

One thing Tim is really getting into over here - primarily I think because he is stuck in so many traffic jams - is texting the local station.  So far, he has won a pile of books on Dubai and a Nokia phone  (all in the last month).  The children are getting into it too - the breakfast show is hosted by Catboy & Jordybird - a husband and wife team from the UK who do provide a British sense of humour to an otherwise boring 7am traffic jam.  Oliver regularly quotes the text number to me and the kids have already had a few of their comments read out on the radio.  The current topic is in relation to the radio station giving out a large Mother's Day prize . . . . children have to text in with the reason why their mum should have the prize. 
So far, Tim has texted in the following suggestions from our children - all read out live on air by the way:
From Oliver, age 5 "because my mummy is warm and cuddly"  (yes, it's 40 degrees outside and mummy is still trying to lose weight) and
From Ella, age 3 "because I love her" (ah)

We didn't win!