And they all lived happily ever after

I’ve just finished watching the season one finale of ‘Once Upon a Time’, which turned out to be surprisingly good in the end. I suppose given it’s by the same people that made ‘Lost’, that I should have expected an awesome pilot episode to hook me in, some fairly random and dramatic twists and turns during the early part of the season, a few ‘album fillers’, followed by a blinding ending; it would appear that’s exactly what was delivered. Here’s hoping that, unlike Lost: a) the second series is as good as the first, b) it continues to make some sort of sense and c) it doesn’t limp on aimlessly and draws to a neat and comprehendible conclusion by the end of the third season.

A classic fairy with a wand

I wish for…a perfect place to live  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, it got me thinking about Dubai vs London, and how it’s often kind of like living in Fairytale land vs. Storybrooke (for those people who haven’t seen it – which I’m guessing by the audience figures reported on Wikipedia, is the majority of you – Storybrooke is the town full of fairytale characters who live under a curse of unhappiness in a land with no magic i.e Maine, USA). And like these places, Dubai and London are worlds apart, one’s glitter to the other’s grime – but sometimes there are parallels. Usually about stuff that irritates me. In fact, the things we most often moan about in the UK are quite often startlingly similar to the ones we complain about the most in Dubai, too. Here are my top three ‘mirror, mirror’ moments, that bug me just as badly in both places:

1. Driving

It takes HOURS to get anywhere in a car in London. It never ceases to amaze me how bloody long it takes to get out of London as well. It has been known on a bank holiday weekend to take me three hours to reach the M25. The traffic officially moves slower than it did when horse and cart was the only thing available. And yet ironically there are cameras and speed humps everywhere, to catch you out when you are finally moving faster than 20mph and riding a wave of euphoria. White van man with his abusive and cavalier driving is the scourge of society and everyone hates anyone in a flashy car. You can never find a place to park and traffic wardens are evil. As are cyclists, pedestrians and buses.


It never takes very long to get anywhere in Dubai unless you are a) headed towards Sharjah or b) you get into an accident with a fundamentally stupid person and die on the way to your destination. The traffic officially moves faster than the speed of light, except when there is a hidden camera in which case everyone will jam their brakes on really, really hard just as they reach it and cause even more accidents. White toyota truck man is the scourge of society because they drive at about 30km/hr everywhere and use the indicator stick to hang their lunch bag on, and everyone hates people in flashy cars, even other people driving flashy cars. Everyone except you is terrible at driving and it’s each man for himself AT ALL TIMES. There are no pedestrians or cyclists because you would have to be certifiably insane to be either and expect to live.

2. The Weather

London is wet, windy, dark and cold for about 13 months of the year. It seems to take everyone by surprise each March that spring does not produce daffodils, farmers markets and glorious sun-filled Easter egg hunts in Hyde park, but instead is just a slightly less dark version of winter. Summer yields about 2 weeks of glorious weather which everyone gets very excited about and when, it’s true, it is the best city in the world to be in. (Luckily that’s the bit I’m normally there for). Outside of these precious 14 days, Londoners experience soggy tennis, Shakespeare in the park shivering under umbrellas, and endless rained-out BBQs. The saviour of all this atrocious weather is The Pub, which can be relied on in all situations to be warm and sell alcohol. Two things which Londoners value above all else.


Dubai is hot, all the time, and when it isn’t hot it’s hotter – or alternatively, hotter than Hell. It seems to take everyone by surprise each May that it’s time to decamp until October. Although a few silly people insist it’s ‘mild for the time of year’ as they boil in 110 degree heat to eat their dinner, mostly everyone just sits inside and moans about how hot it is. Air conditioning is a way of life, and for four months a year most people do not breathe fresh air or see the sun unless they can absolutely help it. Everyone gets sick as a result and with pasty sallow skin and dark circles from too much partying to make up for the lack of fresh air (well that’s my excuse) they mainly look like they live at the North Pole, not in the desert. In the winter season, which is glorious, it usually rains for about 2 days, torrentially, in localised patches. Everyone calls their friends and people get jealous if they miss it.

3. People

People are quite rude in London. And pretty selfish. When I was pregnant and travelling on the underground, even though I had a badge that said ‘I’m up the duff, give me a seat please’ (yes, there are official badges) no bastard gave me a seat. No-one looks where they are going in London. No-one says ‘excuse me’, or ‘sorry’, or ‘good morning’. In fact eye contact alone can count as a human rights infringement. The only time this is not true is if you are queuing for something, when good manners abound for some reason, and everyone gets really mad if someone tries to cheat. If there’s one thing we Brits can do right, it’s form a line. But other than that, most of the time, Londoners could learn a few manners and it would be a nicer place for it.


People can be pretty rude in Dubai too. Except if you are pregnant or have a small child, or are paying for something, in which case no-one can do enough for you. Except if they are having a bad day or are terribly important with a small penis, in which case they will still be a complete a-hole. Queues, like car indicators, are an urban myth. They ignore the laws of physics, refuse to go from first to last person in a line, instead they generally form a sort of seething mass of humanity grouped from front to back in roughly the following order: Local, Female, Western, Regional, Female & Filipino, Other. If you are female and western, lets face it, this is an excellent system – but I imagine it pisses off large portions of the expat population no end. Hence system B of queuing which goes like this: Bunfight.

Yes, two cities… different yet the same. I’ve not even started on tourists or the cost of living. But I guess there are things that are annoying wherever we live. My husband and I once conducted research on where would be the best place in the world for us to live, with the intention that we would be there by 2005. We took into account weather, education, work, housing, ability to travel, potential to die from a natural disaster, political climate, taxes, and distance away from our families. The place we came up with was San Diego, CA. We went there on holiday to check it out, so serious were we that this was ‘our place’. It was crap. We just didn’t feel the love at all. A year later we ended up in Dubai. Which I guess just goes to show that magic isn’t always where you expect it, and true love is a city you can bitch about and still want to live in, happily ever after.

Or at least for another few years.