It's the tiny poll that just keeps on giving: in what has to be installment number 14 of HSBC International's Expat Explorer Survey, just 54% of people asked in the UAE said they had made friends with locals.
I think my desk debated last time this survey made news, and we figured that of the 2,155 expats in 48 countries on four continents that were contacted between February and April, the UAE's contingent had to be shockingly small. And considering the number of people pouring into this country every day, they could have just arrived. And when locals make up just 20% of the population, well, it's just that much more difficult. Then there is this whole rising issue of Emiratis and the Government wanting to protect their culture from the continuing expat invasion. Language barrier. Religious differences. A tendency to hang in different places. Oh, and the decided pecking order here. You get the idea.
I have however, finally made the beginnings of a friendship with an Emirati - a reporter for Abu Dhabi TV who was on my recent press trip to the Czech Republic (the one I still can't bring myself to discuss due to the utter lack of photographic accompaniment it would involve, ref: STOLEN CAMERA) and he was lovely. Very funny, generous, interested and patient in explaining his country to the rest of us. (We, and by we I mostly mean me, had a lot of questions). I have also made quite a few acquaintences, mostly while working on stories, and they were the same. And I think I could have quite a lot more friends (see previous post), if I were a little more adventurous. Wink, wink.
My point is, I do not care where you are living (even my home and native land of Canada, which topped the list as the most welcoming) it's never easy to meet a new friend. That's why I count myself so lucky, especially here, no matter where they come from, when I do.