Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Canadian Desis Returning To The Gulf

Khaleej Times recently published a very interesting article on Canadian desis returning to the Gulf.
SUCCESSFUL Gulf-based Asians often have a tax-free lifestyle second to none. BMWs, fancy condos, five star travel, household help, minimum one month long paid vacation time and a hectic party/club scene are a normal way of life. The only thing lacking perhaps is a sense of belonging and the premonition that all this is ephemeral.
I wish when I was there in the Gulf, someone had told me how to enjoy this five star travel lifestyle (not to forget the 'hectic party/club scene'). The BMW wouldn't have been bad either!

The truth is in the first word of that sentence - 'Successful'. Now you have to define success, but on the whole I would not argue that an average South Asian family in the Gulf probably enjoys a lot of comforts that they would not enjoy back in Canada. The company usually pays rent, tickets to go back to desiland during the month long summer vacations, tax free income, eating out whenever you feel like it (without worrying about halal / haram or your burger being real meat instead of what is called a 'byproduct'). The trade off is of course living under the constant subjugation of Arabs (called 'Rafeek', 'miskeen') or being in trouble with the law (life is good as long as it's good - any trouble, you're fucked).

To me the writing appears mostly as a fluff piece (even though it raises some interesting issues). I, for one, would have liked the writer to interview more families who had returned to the Gulf and been there for a while now. Do they still like it? Do their Canadian-born kids like it?

There is no doubt that Canada has a problem hiring the immigrants it allows in. The first generation always struggles. As for the second generation? Even I now sometimes think it may not be a bad idea to move back for a bit, make some money and come back, even though last year I was of the opinion I would never move back. After some time, the long winters start to get at you.
"Going back was not an option, none of that one foot here and one foot there business," says Jasmine candidly.

"However, initially, we did have our share of adversity. The usual things - no jobs, no recognition of our credentials (she was a teacher in Saudi), savings rapidly going down the drain, having to pay rent for 12 months up front, post-9/11 retrenchment."

The Sawants, with their two sons, Aniruddh, and Siddhant, now 19 and 16 respectively, bit the bullet and consciously made a decision to adopt the Canadian way of life.
And this last part is where I agree - many of the 'successful' immigrant families I see - where the couple has "made it" - usually stems when both the husband and wife immerse themselves into the system. Rather than fight it or accept the bad bumps, they get involved and try to work their way through it. Sucks if you are a doctor, but most other professions find some vocation within three years.

This is a very interesting article - as I said - when I consider places I wouldn't mind working for a few years other than Canada - the UAE, with a suitable job, is very high on that list. But would you live in a place where nothing is as it seems and you have no future, for (very) high bucks?


Anonymous said...

You know, we were *thinking* just about that not so long ago(maybe 6yrs back). My dad worked in the UAE for almost 15yrs and so did many members of my family. I got lots of family members there married to locals. So when I went to visit, they were *pushing* us to relocate there since we already were Canadian citizens and were telling us of all the benefits(like you mentioned). I think it would be hard for us to move now with young kids and I for one am not sure coz the *rules* for women/girls there are not to my liking. I have 2 girls and I don't want them to have *walls* surrounding them in both education, rights(yes, within islamic boundaries)and to top it all RESPECT (for females). Alhamdullilah, we are fine here but I wouldn't mind going there for vacation(and shopping of course, who can forget those gold souks??). sf

squarecut said...

(First off, Oilcome back. Second off, refrain from using the F-word,keep this blog rated G, all right! =P I kid I kid! Do as you please!)

I guess this totally depends on "what phase" of your life you are at. If you a home free single dude, why not give life a chance. With that being said, I am trying to figure out a way to find out how to get a job in UAE, or Saudi (like in the ARAMCO camp, though highly unlikely, I know). I remember that my father was one of the very few Chemical Engineers right after the independence who decided to live in the country and NOT leave for a great life in ARAMCO and such. Well, we grew up in BD, and had an average life. But when I see all these expats from the middle east are crowding the elite colleges in the United States, you have to wonder how great an education and childhood they must have had. Even though I sound like someone with NO vision and NO long-term plan, I still think if you think you can shine and move up the ladder, you should definitely give it a shot.

And I highly doubt that the level you will be working at, anyone will call you a miskeen. I mean, if you get there with McKinsey who would use any derogatory comment? And if it so happens that your children (hypothetically speaking) get some really good education up until high school (which only puts them in these elite colleges in the US and you are so rich that tuition is no object), I actually think it's a great life-style.
And about things not being permanent, well, our life is ephemeral to begin with, so why bother or think about having a permanent place? And on top of it, we are getting into a new age with the help of globalization. That idea of "my country" and "my home" will only fade....

With all that said, hook me up with something at McKinsey, please! =P

squarecut said...

oh just needed to add to the last comment. It seemed like I was comparing BD's lifestyle with the one in UAE, and definitely UAE wins. But even if you were to compare your Canadian lifestyle, I was gon' say, UAE still wins! =D

mezba said...

Sf: I never thought of it from a woman's point of view - actually I don't know if its that restricted (as compared to Saudi) but you do need husband's permission to do a lot of things. If your relation with husband is good then no bother, but if there is trouble, then a woman is screwed.

Ah yes the shopping malls.

Squarecut: actually the only time you will not be racially discriminated by Arabs is if you are working for a foreign company in a top position. Sure, they may not call you miskeen or rafeek but there are other more subtle ways to be a racist. Also, if your kids go to the upper schools where the rich Arab kids go, then be prepared for him to get into fights and then be blamed.

Shabina said...

"But would you live in a place where nothing is as it seems and you have no future, for (very) high bucks?"

hehe, great q. omar and i are currently living in the gulf, knowing full well we dont plan to stay here long-term. huge bucks arent involved, but we're definitely far more comfortable than we woulda been in a big city in the states, AH.

though omar claims the money he saved since he started working in doha has depleted a bit since we got married and i moved in... :D

Achelois said...

The problem with the UAE is they have got too much money and its gone to their heads. They want everything from Lourve to ski mountains but sans desis. Desis are supposed to fuel their smooth running with their blood and sweat and then look from glass windows at locals skiing in their long robes. It is a sad life and whether you are a Canada return or not, you are an effing desi - a miskeen rafiq. I have lived and worked in 5 countries and the Gulf I have found to be extremely racist.
We know a Pakistani/Canadian family who was refused by a landlord in Abu Dhabi to rent his flat because he was, at the end of the day, a Paki!