“Well apparently there is a problem with the two bobs” Laura explained in her thick Italian accent. Elize and I stared at her at a complete loss. “What does she mean Gina?” Elize asked in her very precise South African accent which sounds more German and less British than many of the other South Africans — total mystery to me — don’t ask. Sometimes it becomes quite confusing when we are all together trying to decipher exactly what the other person is talking about when we get stuck in our home country’s sayings, folk-lore and cultures. “The bobs!” Laura says waving her hand across her chest. Ahhh! Elize and I say in unison. Boobs! Laura they are called boobs not bobs. “Yes, of course — whatever. I once took a house slipper to the electrician because he asked for a ciabatta.” I thought ciabatta was bread? “Yes, ciabatta is bread but it also an extension cord and a house slipper. How was I to know?” Laura explained to us with several hand gestures, a roll of the eyes and shrug of the shoulders; all in a way that only Italians can do.
Because many expat women in the UAE are somewhat confused as to what we can and cannot wear it, and where we can wear it; we sometimes cross the line of appropriateness. We are asked to cover our shoulders and knees while at the local mall, yet there are a number of women’s lingerie stores with very risky advertisements prominently displayed at the front entrance. For many women, it is extremely confusing. I remember when I first arrived staring with dropped jaw at the naughty nurse uniform and the stick on pasties in the front window of the Fredrick’s of Hollywood store. Fredrick’s is definitely a little risqué even for the United States.
“I hate it when this (circling her hand over her entire upper torso) doesn’t seem to work.” Maha explains with a natural, yet unintentionally sultry Middle Eastern accent. As I understand it, some of the women from some of the Middle Eastern countries rely heavily upon their assests, either directly or indirectly, to get stuff done — not that this is much different from other countries, but it just seems to be amplified when you add sky-high jewel embossed stilettos, tight flashy shirts, fake eye lashes and an entire pot of MAC eye shadow. The combination is a killer presentation intended to lure unsuspecting man flies into a sticky web. It was just the other day that I caught myself saying at the mall, God, she looks sexy in that abaya! Definitely words I never thought I would say but then IT WAS an incredibly sexy, feathery, lacy abaya! (I promise the entire topic of abayas is a future blog post). See why it is confusing? This is definitely a culture that appreciates the finer things and there isn’t a shortage of expensive lingerie stores. Then again, there isn’t a shortage of cheesy lingerie stores either. I found the below items near the children’s pajamas at local store.
See why we are confused? As expats I think we feel that simply providing these clothing options gives us a license to wear them, but in this culture we can wear them but we have to put a housecoat on top of it. Most cultures dress for the outside world, but the Middle Eastern culture dresses for their inside world. Their best is viewed by their private inner circle and our best is on display for everyone. It’s a little tricky to get into the swing of it.