Equality or an equaliser… the expat life


In my opinion being an expatriate in the Gulf has its advantages, when it comes to being shielded from the Celebrity Cult, which is overwhelming the television screens in the western world.

It is not only film stars and professional football players and their wives, sometimes referred to as ‘wags’, who seem to dominate the TV programmes, but nowadays we also have TV chefs… all promoting series of their keep-fit training programmes and interior designs of their homes.
I recently read in a newspaper, that British pop stars and footballers enjoy visiting the Gulf and walking along the streets, mostly unrecognised. My question is: Why do millions of people tune into quiz shows featuring, often uneducated sports persons, answering questions, which the average eight year old could answer without having to ask the audience for help?
In the past couple of decades, television seems to have replaced everything, which used to stand for civilised living like books, family discussions, religion and music (classical not the ear splitting noises of today’s popular music).
Despite the numerous and terrible wars and armed conflicts going on around the globe, there are actually TV shows with contestants on so-called deserted islands where they are supposed to fend for themselves in order to manufacture fear and ghastly experiences, all watched avidly by millions of viewers.
Another TV show features subnormal human beings put together in one house with 24 hour TV coverage that is in all rooms of the abode! One such British show resulted in a quite minor Indian starlet rocketing to fame, because of racial slurs made by another contestant. It seems nowadays, that the old adage of 15 minutes of fame can be achieved by appearing on some TV show or other.
In the USA and in the UK, the originators have made millions from presenting amateur singers and other acts in a nationwide search for new talents. However, it seems to be the relentless contestants who seem to make up the endless trailers and a surprisingly large part of the show.
What has all this got to do with travel?
I like to think, it is a case of equality or equalisation!  Today everybody can travel all over the glove. Some of us are more fortunate than others… but most of us expats living in the Gulf can travel at least a couple of times a year on vacation.
The Hollywood or Bollywood superstars drop into our patch on fleeting visits, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes to add to their bulging bank balances… but we are on equal terms to them, because we can stroll along the sandy beaches and can admire the futuristic architectures any day and shop until we drop in some of the world’s most exciting and brand conscious shopping malls.
We watch the celebs modelling the latest fashion designs in front of the beautiful Taj Mahal. But we know that they fly in for a couple of days and whoosh, they are off again to the next destination.
We can model our 100 times cheaper outfits for our spouse’s camera and spend longer periods, as we enjoy a vacation at India’s most famous site, a relatively short flight from the Gulf region. And nobody is going to harass us for an autograph or photo opportunity, except an unofficial guide, who insisted on advising us about the best spot to take photographs… but that’s another story.
We can join a desert safari for less than the cost of a night out in a five star restaurant in Dubai and enjoy an evening under the stars complete with camels, tents and Bedouins whereas the globetrotters often travel halfway around the world for such an experience. Now that’s equality!
We can browse in the souks, bargain for gold items, when the prices are down, hunt for antiques, buy oriental carpets, which would cost a fortune in Europe, send exotic presents back to our families and friends, which we would never be able to locate in our home countries.
Perhaps the film stars and pro-footballers drive big four wheel vehicles or large American cars, but if we put our minds to it, we can also acquire such vehicles and with petrol, even now, three times cheaper than in Europe, we can afford then, now that’s equality!
Because we visit our home countries and watch satellite TV channels, we are aware of the celebs and we still get a kick out of e-mailing our family and friends to tell them, that we have just attended a concert downtown featuring one of their celebrities, now that’s equality!
I must admit, I am eagerly awaiting Russell Watson’s next visit to the Gulf, he is a great singer and also a lovely human being. Of course, we also have the advantage of sometimes being able to meet these stars in person, how is that for an equaliser?
Speaking Out by Jonna Simon