“Reluctant housewife; mother; domestic goddess; frustrated career woman; and lover of fine handbags” reads Mrs Dubai’s Twitter biog, who incidentally is this week’s guest blogger.
Having featured her in our recent mummy bloggers post, we were intrigued by the idiosyncrasies of raising a child abroad and got in touch with Mrs Dubai to tell us more about…
Bringing up children in Dubai
Source: Creative Commons/ Holger Zscheyge
Last week my seven-year-old daughter asked me a “knock-knock” joke taken from an English joke book.
“Who’s there?” I asked.
“Ahmad,” she replied, using the correct guttural pronunciation of the name, “Akh-mahd.”
“Akh-mahd a mistake,” came the reply, followed quickly by “Mummy, I don’t get it?”
I explained that, while she said the name the correct Arabic way, an English person – for whom the book was written – would pronounce it “a-mad”, as in “a-mad a mistake”.
One of the things I love about bringing up children in Dubai is the exposure they get to so many different cultures. While nearly 200 nationalities live in the UAE, inter-racial antagonism of the sort you might get in the UK is rare.
My daughter’s classmates and close friends come from India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, France, Germany, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon, as well as from the UK and UAE. She thinks nothing of peppering her speech with words and phrases in Arabic, Hindi, German and French, and falling back on gestures whenever language breaks down. And, because she’s learning the languages from native-speaking children, it doesn’t feel like learning, and her pronunciation is spot-on.
Another way in which I notice my daughter’s attitude to different races and cultures is when she’s describing a person. When I was a child we used to describe other children in terms of hair and eye colour, then perhaps height, build and clothes.
One of the first things my daughter wants to know, however, is, “What colour is her skin?” and it’s not a racist thing. Her descriptions of skin are not literally black or white, but include all shades in between. She might describe a child as “really white-white with really pale hair”, “sort of creamy-white”, “pinky-white”, “light brown”, “medium brown”, or “sort of coffee-coloured, like from the Philippines.”
Since she was able to speak, my daughter’s been able to differentiate the colour variations between an Arab, Indian, Filipino and Caucasian skin. The product of a mixed marriage, she once asked me, aged three, “Why do daddy and me have brown skin but you have white skin?”
I very much like this celebration of and respect for others’ differences. I feel like my children are true global citizens – and I wonder if that would be the case if we’d stayed in England.
Mrs Dubai has lived in Dubai for 14 years. She’s currently trying to write a book while bringing up two small children, which any mother will know is utter madness. She blogs at http://mrsdubai.wordpress.com and you can follow her on Twitter @MrsDubai