Continuing difficulty adjusting

January 26, 2009

Let me start with another [contrite hanging of the head] confession. We shopped at IKEA last night. In my defense, let me say that it is often difficult to find what we need at all, let alone at a reasonable price. We even found something close to drapery hooks which we have been seeking since we moved in. We bought a mess of kitchenware. Up ’til now we had been getting by with a couple of malmac plates and some cheapo silverware. We also bought two office chairs.

When we moved in here we inherited a few leftovers from the previous tenant including 4 plastic patio chairs that had been out on the balcony all summer long baking in the sun. This made them brittle, so two of the chairs quickly shattered (while we were sitting in them) and we have been babying the other two as Paul sits at his computer and I do my sewing. Knowing that they might shatter at any moment motivated us to look for something better. We resorted to IKEA only after looking in a store that was exclusively chairs and finding that the price was thousands of dirhams. They were nice chairs, but really!

So, on our way out of the store, I was pushing the cart full of kitchen stuff and Paul was pushing the cart with the two chairs (in boxes). An IKEA employee whose job it is to hang out in the parking garage and help customers like us offered to take the cart for Paul, who being an independent American said “No thanks, I’ve got it.” The man did not accept this and followed us reaching for the cart handle until Paul gave in. He then helped us put our stuff in the car and we thanked him.

We get home, where we have basement parking, and now have the challenge of how are we going to get all this stuff up to the 8th floor? So, we take what we can carry for the first load and head up. I pulled my suitcase wheel thingy out of the closet and suggest that will be useful to bring up the chair boxes. Paul takes it and heads down to the security/reception desk on the ground floor where they have a grocery cart that we’ve seen others use to bring up groceries, etc. Paul asks if he can use it. The man asks “downstairs?” Paul says “yes.” The man asks if he should help. Paul politely declines. The man says “Respect me, sir.” … How can one not accept his help after that.

Being from America where everyone is supposed to pull their own weight (bootstraps, or whatever), clean up after themselves and make their own way, it is difficult for us to make the shift to a culture where letting someone do our manual labor is respectful. Service jobs are anything, but respected back home. These people take pride in toting someone’s groceries. It beats what they come from, which makes me shudder to think what they come from.

It’s a whole different world.



  1. There’s no shame in buying Scandinavian furniture in the UAE!

    Now, if you had shopped at Wal*Mart, that’d be a different story. 🙂


  2. The furniture is the easiest part of this. . .I’m with Mari. The culture, something that is respectable, but that we’ve made lowly is a harder issue. I once suggested a student write on why our society needs poorer people. . .someone must be where those of us who’ve put ourselves on pedestals won’t go. Got that? I’m reminded of the thrill the Nike shoe producers had in getting a job we now protest that they don’t get enough pay for. ~ Linda

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