Growing up as an Indian on Arabian lands is a sentiment. Your parents had once left behind their families and hometowns to start a new life in a foreign land which now, ironically, is the only place that will fit your definition of “home”.

You grow up with an inkling of a fear that someday you’ll have to leave behind everything you are familiar with, probably never to return. And things will never be the same.

If you’re the only Gulf kid in your peer group, you’re bound to be the butt of a lot of customized jokes. Personally, I’m fine with camel jokes (as long as they are funny), but there are a few stereotypical ones that get on the nerves of most Gulf NRI kids (yes, I’ve done some research).

So here goes –

1. Mr./Ms. Money Bags

The assumption that every NRI is filthy rich is like the European notion that every Indian has worked in a call-center. It’s absurd.

Would you believe that some churches and other institutions in the Gulf offer prep talks to students who will be pursuing their college education in India? Among other things, they are warned about this stereotype and to be wary of being exploited by others because of it.

Having to keep your guard up in a whole new place (which is, in fact, your home country) just because people have this notion is quite sad.

2. Bahrain? Ah, same as Dubai only nah. What’s the big deal?

It’s. Not. The. Same.

Dubai is a part of the UAE. Bahrain is another country. Just like Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman. They are all different kingdoms. It’s acceptable if you are genuinely confused, but to brush someone aside when they correct you about their hometown by saying “it’s all the same”, is not.

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3. Desert Jokes

These I’ve heard plenty. I usually join in the fun too with stories featuring my family who lived in a tent in the desert, surviving solely on dates and camel’s milk.

But if you think the Arabian Gulf is just a drab place with sand dunes and concrete jungles, you’ll be surprised to know there is more to it. It is home to some pretty stunning beaches and other natural wonders as well.

Jabal Qara Caves, Saudi Arabia
Khor Fakkan Beach, UAE

4. We All Know Arabic

Few Gulf countries have strict rules on mandatory Arabic classes in schools. Where it isn’t mandatory, it isn’t learnt. The only language you need to know to get by there is English, which most of the local population can understand and speak well.

Most people assume that I can read or at least speak Arabic but, honestly, the only Arabic I know is the national anthem (which I can recite flawlessly, convincing people that I am making sensible conversation with them in Arabic).

5. “Funny” Accents

Growing up as an NRI kid, you’re stuck in the middle of two (or more) languages and so it’s a neither-here-nor-there situation. Most people thus tend to have an “affected” accent while speaking in their regional tongue. This can be outgrown and so good-natured pokes (from the right people) are welcome.

I’ll confess, quite ruefully, that there are those precious few who purposely “affect” their native language for God-knows-what. But it’s mighty unkind to label the rest of us as snobs to the same effect.

At the end of the day, not every Gulf NRI kid is a snob and not every desi kid is a saint (sorry). So, get those stereotypes out and give the tykes a chance. You’ll have a culturally-confused friend for life. Inshallah.

Image Credits: Google Images


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