Giving a talk to a group of American MBA students last week (because I get myself involved in odd things occasionally, that's why) and a lively Q&A was had by all. One question really hit me, though, and has had me thinking since. It was about The Deal.
You see, The Deal used to be nice and simple for people coming to the Gulf. You sign up for a couple of years, come out here and set up home and then you either go back with a little money saved or you stick around for a while longer. You're effectively transient and on the hog's back financially, so a lot of things that might matter if you considered yourself here for keeps are not really germane to you. You know, civil liberties, your status as a resident as set against being a citizen, whether the law applies to you or is applied fairly to you. All those questions that really don't come up if you're just keeping your head down and making a few sovs in the time you've got. Some people have a plan, others just keep going for as long as it seems to make sense. But we all know we're going to go home or move on at some stage.
But now there's a new generation of people coming out here that appear to have signed up for a New Deal. For a start, there's a lot of folks that seem to think they're moving out to Brentford-in-the-sun (and so, in so many ways, they are!). Which is all very well, except this may look like Milton Keynes and it might have all the facilities of Cleethorpes and more - but it is, underneath the sparkly veneer, a very, very foreign country indeed.
The mass of incoming people ('newbies' if you want to be a jerk about it) who have little idea of the mores, culture or social setup here is considerable - certainly enough to outnumber any longer term residents, traditionally the people that comprised the informal suport network for new residents that helped to show them the ropes and mentored them for those important first few weeks. So now an increasing number of people are arguably finding out about basic stuff the hard way - something that is, incidentally, avoidable. Alongside all the breathless promotion there could be at least an attempt to build a little cultural awareness. An informational film played to incoming passengers may be an idea instead of a mindless flick about The Mad Maggot, for instance. Or a leaflet at immigration. Cost - little. Impact - large.
And then there's the other part of The New Deal. If you have bought a house or apartment here and you're set up for life - if your only property is here and not back home, if you've put down your roots here, so to speak; then what is the deal? You're raising your children here, you're committing for the longer term.
What then happens in terms of the relationship between the UAE's people and you, the new property owning resident. Where are we going with the relative status of people and addressing the different expectations of people regarding systems of governance and the place of the individual within that system?
That was the question I was asked and for which I have no answer. You have to admit, it's an interesting one!