Tuesday, August 16, 2011

S ... as in Sam

I've written about the unique language barriers of UAE before, but had another funny experience and had to share it. With 80% of the population being expats and everyone required to speak English, you get a complex mix of accents. So, although everyone is speaking English, it's incredible how often things are misunderstood, misheard or misspoken. I'm reminded of this every time I pick up the phone as the phone makes things that much harder to understand - it's too bad more people don't just use email. :) Anyway, on to my story.

We decided to have pizza delivered. So far, we haven't had any food delivered to our house for the following reasons:
a) there aren't many places that deliver out this way
b) it's been hard to explain how to get to our compound, and
c) it requires picking up the phone, which most of you know, I hate to do

But, the monotony of my cooking, combined with the day's laziness, combined with a new website that lets you order take out online convinced me to try and order pizza from Domino's. Back home, we would never order Domino's as it reminds both of us of the cheap and awful pizza we used to get in college. I'll bet it's been 20 years since I've had a Domino's pizza ... they must have improved by now, right? After all, they are still in business. So I ordered our pizza online thinking, "how wonderful that I won't have to give directions to our apartment over the phone".

... you already know what happened, don't you? The delivery guy - who either couldn't understand my written directions which I included with our web order OR didn't both to read the directions I included with our web order - called me for directions.

"hello, is this Renee Stoll?"
"yes, Renee Stoll?"

SIDENOTE: Most phone conversations start like this and I still can't figure out why. I think the average for me is three hellos, but the winner was one very frustrating beginning of about 6 hellos before I finally had to ask who the caller was and what they wanted. I know there must be some cultural etiquette thing going on here, but I've yet to figure it out. When I do, you'll be some of the first to know.

"Where is your location, Madam?"
(sigh) "We're in the Al Seef Compound by the Ministries Complex"
"Al Reef?"
"No Al Seef. S, as in Sam, E E F. Al Seef."

SIDENOTE: This is about when it dawns on me that this non-Western English as a second language speaker is hardly going to understand "as in Sam". Oh well, too late now, but I've got to come up with something more universal than S as in Sam and F as in Frank.

"Al Seef - it's near the Ministries complex. Take Al Salam street, then the Ministries complex exit and we're on the right before the roundabout."
"Yes, turn right before the roundabout."
"The Ministries complex, madam?"
"Yes. Al Salam street to the Ministries complex exit."
"Ok Ok - I come and I call you when close."

Well, the good news is that we did get our pizza (and without any additional phone calls), but the bad news is that Domino's is as bad as I remember from college. Next time I'm calling the Lebanese place and telling them I live in Al Seef, S E E F, as in Fatoush.


  1. Renee, that just made me laugh out loud! I miss you and your great stories!

  2. :) thanks Rhonda! Hope to see you on Friday, Sept. 16th, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, see Lynette.

  3. From another American in Abu Dhabi... the only edible (delivery) pizza in town is Telepizza. http://www.telepizzauae.ae/en/home

  4. Ooooh, thank you, Tami! Will definitely check this out. We're going home for a visit in September and can't wait for some real deep dish.