After more than three years away from the UAE, Piotr Osinski’s mind still boggles at how friendly the country is. “Whenever people ask me about the hospitality there, I tell them the story of what happened when I landed,” Osinski tells City Times over the phone from Poland.
“I was alone for two months before my family joined me there,” he recalls. “I went to Ravi Restaurant, which I found on TripAdvisor. There was a man sitting on the opposite chair. We were sitting on a big table. I ordered something, then he ordered something. After a couple of minutes he got his food and I didn't, so he told me that probably the waiter didn't understand me and he offered to share his food with me, which was unthinkable in my culture. I haven't had an experience like that in my life, so it was very nice.”
Osinski shared the stranger’s meal and once his own came to the table, they shared that too. In the end, the man made an excuse and went into the store. Osinski waited for the man to return to say goodbye but when he did, he had another surprise waiting for him. “When he got back he told me that he had paid the bill and he wished me a good stay in Dubai and left.”
His second happy memory came after his family moved to the city. “It was the first week after I got my car. So I didn't know how to how to pay for the parking. There were some people walking past. I asked them how to pay, expecting that they would just tell me what to do and leave. Because in Poland, the amount of time people can give you for this kind of thing is 10 seconds; they will tell you what to do. And if it's like more than 10 seconds, they will just tell you that they don't know what to do and they will leave. And I remember asking this guy who was with his friends. And he was Syrian. He spent more than 10 minutes trying to figure out what was wrong with my phone and why I couldn’t pay using it. And then he just paid it himself, wished us a pleasant stay. We wanted to refund him, but he refused to take it,” Osinski recalls.
Karolina Osinski, Piotr’s wife, agrees with his assessment of the people in the UAE. She had a number of people go out of their way to help her while she lived here. “In the early days in Dubai, I used to do the school runs. And I used to get lost a lot,” she laughs. “One day I ended up far, far away – in Ras Al Khaimah, I think.” Because she’d been on the road for such a long time, her phone had died too. “There were no buildings, the houses were few and far between. And there was no one to ask for help.” Then she spotted a man with a goat. Though they didn’t understand each other’s language, they communicated through that universal speak – pointing, gesturing and miming. She kept asking the way to Dubai.
The man led her – slowly, for she was in her car and he was walking his goat – to a map drawn on sand. “It led me home,” she says.
“He was not the only person who helped me when I got lost. Another time, when I was lost and my phone died, another person – from India – was trying to tell me, ‘you have to go there and there’. When I couldn’t understand, he asked me to follow him and he went to his car. He just showed me the way and I followed him. And then he just waved,” she says.
The Osinskis were pleasantly surprised at Dubai’s charm. Everyone here is very helpful, they say. “People work really, really hard here. And they keep on smiling,” says Karolina.
Their other takeaway from Dubai was ‘heat can hurt’. “In Europe when it's hot, it's still manageable,” says Osinski. He recalls, “Another memorable story from the early days of our stay was when my family arrived in May and we went to Ras Al Khaimah. We went there for kayaking, and I remember someone in the agency telling me that it's probably too hot for kayaking, but the other person said that it’s a bit higher, so the temperatures are lower. So we went there for kayaking. It was Ramadan. It was super-hot.” After a few minutes in the water, the family rushed back to their air-conditioned car.
“I even have a picture taken just after we entered the car. It was nearly 50 degrees Celsius. We were not used to this kind of temperature. In Poland or in Europe, when it's hot it's still manageable. This is the first time I realised that the heat can do harm to you. And so, we just drove out, drove really fast to the first store just to buy ice creams to cool us. And I remember eating those ice creams and hiding ourselves from the people around because it was Ramadan. I think it looked hilarious from the outside - us hiding,” he says.
Dubai is a land of dreams, of opportunities and of record-breaking grand structures. But what struck and has stayed with the Osinskis is how friendly everyone here is. “I found people very fun, very friendly. It was something I wasn't expecting that much," he adds.
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