Having just spent a most pleasant and productive three days with our European colleagues at the annual uber-klatch, this year's was in Vienna, I can now say that I have propelled a pedalo across the Danube, which wasn’t honestly in my list of 100 Things to Do Before I Die.
The frank, friendly-natured chat and goodwill of something like 150 smart people is a wonderful thing, although the rapid expansion of the companies in the network has meant many new faces and the necessity of going through the same explanations and conversations time and again: no, I’m not a ‘Dubaian’ (What is a Dubaian? As I explained once in the long-missed Campaign Middle East, it’s an alien from the planet Dubya), I’ve lived there for 15 years and I’m white because the sun’s too intense to go out burning yourself every week unless you want early ‘rhino skin’. No, it's not all Palm Islands and ski slopes; well, OK, it's mostly Palm Islands and ski slopes. And so on. So many similar questions and answers! Two of the home team were with me and they, at times, had it harder. No, they’re not forced to wear a chador or ‘full hejab’ at home was one response, politely enough delivered but through gritted teeth.
The curiosity and desire to hear more about the region, us and our lives is genuine. They’re smart people, our European colleagues, and the chance to get together, to clear things like that up and high-spot our market is always one that’s gleefully taken on my part. The fact that so many misconceptions still exist is an opportunity to put things right rather than an annoyance to rail at. New friends and contacts made, many things cleared up and new opportunities to explore. Truly a good investment and much fun.
But I was truly delighted and touched when one Bright Young Thing, hearing I was there from the Dubai office and representing the Middle East, congratulated me on the standard of my English.