Important Notice

It is not my intention to denigrate Saudi Arabia or its people. It’s like everywhere else, there is good and there is bad. I would rather focus on the unusual and the humourous. Offence is not intended.

Politics
“The country is not perfect. The media cannot be trusted, mistreatment of religious minorities is common and there are some that live in fear.” You can decide for yourself whether that statement is about Saudi Arabia, the UK, or any country for that matter.
Religion

To quote the Joker, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

khalas.
That is all I will say about either subject.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Margrave the Alien

As a Saudi what is normal to you is often completely alien to me because.... well, I'm an alien here.
I know that as a visitor in Saudi Arabia I should learn Arabic. There is no way I should expect people here to speak English. I've tried to learn the local language in other countries where I've lived and its my intention to try here too. I've got the books and the tapes but... well.... I've been busy and I haven't started yet.
This has led to several rather odd telephone conversations along the following lines:
Him: *arabic*
Me: Umm, do you speak English?
Him: Yes, sir.
Me: Thank you.
Him: You're welcome [he must be thinking: Why the hell is this idiot thanking me for learning another language? Does he think I did it for him?!]

Anyway, we decided to try a new restaurant for some take away food a few nights ago. For a local this is an everyday experience. For a foreigner it can make you feel like Alice in Wonderland. As it was men only I went in to get a menu that I could then bring out to the car so my wife and I could decide together.
I entered the shop and asked the waiter for a menu and he looked at me like I had blue skin. I made the international "menu" sign with my hands and he brought me a menu.... which was only in Arabic.
I was then led to a selection of meats which to my untrained eye all looked the same. I stood there for a while trying to look like I was making an informed decision about what to eat whereas in reality I was wondering what the hell to do next.
To my relief the chap cooking suddenly asked me in English "What do you want?" I ordered a mixed grill and retreated swiftly.
I decided to also purchase a banana milk drink (I love the fruit drinks you guys have here). Because of the language barrier I had to resort to picking up a banana and waving it in front of the bemused fruit drink man.
I now had time to kill. I didn't want to stand in the middle of the shop looking completely lost and out of place (even though I was) but I didn't know what else to do. So there I stood amongst the hustle and bustle without a clue as to whether people were saying "Hi, I'd like to order some kofta and a lamb chop" or "Who is this white fool that doesn't speak our language? Can I give him a well deserved slap to move him out of the way?"
Out of the corner of my eye I saw an old man approaching me in traditional dress. Out of respect I stepped back to give him extra space to walk by, but he stopped right next to me and looked me in the eye.
Me: Salaam
Him: (in a withering tone) Salaam?
Me: (in a questioning tone) Salaam alaykum?
Him: (in an even more withering tone) Salaam alaykum??
Me: (starting to panic) mafi arabi!!
Him: *broad grin*
Me: *slightly scared*
Him: American?
Me: No, English *feeling paranoid about why he wants to know if I am American*
Him: ....america.... american... ahh, England?

I nodded an anxious nod and then to my relief he sauntered away to get the cup of tea he ordered.
My meal was finally ready and I went to pay. The cashier looked at my order and said "right... 1200 riyals please" (US $320! - bad Terry). I stared at him politely waiting for him to admit he was joking and he grinned broadly, saying "ok, 15 riyals". I gritted my teeth, grinned politely, paid and then ran for the car.


My wife: What? Didn't you order me a lamb chop?
Me: Aarghh!

10 comments:

Leila M. said...

heehee Salam? Salam?!

DemonEyes said...

dont let it get to you man,that old man is an idiot,as to the cashier,i get the same treatment in nieghbouring arab countries when they know that im a saudi,,,all they can think of is(guy+money-brain).
aseer moz=banana juice
cocktail=mixed fruit juice
mashawy mshakkal=mixed grill
i hope that helped heheh.if u need any help just ask me.
its always a nice sight to see foriegners out of thier compounds,if our people could only mix together peacfully without judgments.

Anonymous said...

You paid 1200 for a dinner?!!with 1200 I can make a Barbecue party for 24 persons.

Margrave said...

hehehe, no I didn't pay 1200 for a mixed grill! It was 15 SAR, the checkout guy was just making a joke. That's all the cheeky old chap was doing too really, its just that it can be a bit much when you feel like a fish out of water!

Anonymous said...

Even from afar you continue to make me laugh hysterically! Cheers, Brent

Anonymous said...

You know, there is nothing to be afraid of. Almost 99% of Saudis do not carry guns.
By the way if someone say to you "american?" don't reply "English" because they don't think that you're from England rather, they think you're talking about the language you talk. So, you could say "British" "Beritani".

I have a question to you, if you are in a public place like waiting for your meal to be served or sipping coffee in a coffee shop, would you like it when some local person converse with you? or you'd rather not communicate with the local people?

Margrave said...

Thanks for posting and thanks for the advice.
A few strangers have talked to me here - they are always Saudis who have either lived or been educated overseas. At first I am suspicious (just as I am in the UK or anywhere else) but after we've spoken it puts a big smile on my face. So yes, I like it if the local people come up to say hello. After all, meeting local people is most of the magic of living in a different country. Unfortunately, when it comes to Saudi Arabia it's not very easy to meet locals.

Omair said...

Margrave, YOU CRACK ME UP ... LMAO!!

Another question, you may like a local approching you, but how about other 'Westerners'?

dalioness said...

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