Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Madison Observations - Day 12

We're coming to the end of our world wind USA tour and having a blast catching up with friends and family. Our only regret is that we can't see everyone and can't spend more time with the folks we do see. Two weeks seemed like plenty of time, but now with 3 days left, there's still a list of people we won't get to see this trip. Thank goodness for Skype, Facebook and email. So, as we wind up our visit, here are a few last observations.

Customer Service
It's funny what you get used to. In UAE and in Abu Dhabi especially, customer service pampering is the ultimate goal. For example, when we checked into our hotel when we arrived in Abu Dhabi, our car doors were opened for us, our luggage taken out of the car and up to our room, and no tip was expected (and barely accepted when offered). What a difference to the Marriott we're staying in this week. I ended up checking in by myself as Brian was at an event for his conference. I asked the front desk clerk for a luggage cart and he simply pointed to the entryway. I wrestled our 5 bags out of the car and onto the cart and weaved my way into the hotel and past the desk. There wasn't anything rude or uncaring about it, just a funny observation that no one (especially a woman) would be allowed to do that in Abu Dhabi. At least 2 hotel workers would have insisted on helping and doing it for me.

We experienced a similar level of service at Boston Store when Brian was shopping for suits. In Abu Dhabi, our sales clerk helped him find the suit, get the right size, alterations were included and we were approached within 30 seconds on entering the store. At BS, Brian wandered for at least 5 minutes before the 2 available clerks stopped chatting long enough to notice him. Then had to do everything for himself and hunt them down to ask any questions. Alterations were an additional charge.

Yes, I know, I sound like a very snooty snob! It's really just an observation on how different service is and how quickly we've gotten used to a different style. No better or worse, I can tell you plenty of stories about shopping in Abu Dhabi and getting irritated by hovering sales people who are "too helpful".

I told Brian last week that I thought driving here was easier, but when he asked why I couldn't really answer. After giving it some thought, I've come up with the following ideas:

  • I know where I'm going. If I'm looking for something specific, I have a good idea of where I'll be able to find it, whereas in Abu Dhabi I'd have to do some web research to find out if the item exists and then go on a hunt to find it.
  • Most of the roads are two-way so it's much easier to cut across traffic to get to the other side of the road. As I've posted before, most UAE roads have an island in the middle to prevent you from cutting across the road so you often have to go a block or more past your destination, do a U-Turn at the stoplight and then get to the side of the street you need.
  • The speed limits are much lower. I hadn't really done the math to find out how our kilometer per hour compared to the US miles per hour, but now that I have, I realize our speed limit in town is around 45-50, the larger roads around 65-70 and the limit on the big highway to Dubai is around 95! I feel like I'm crawling along here which makes things a lot easier (if a little annoying when I'm in a hurry)
  • The driving here seems much more sane. Maybe it's the speed over there but I'm not as worried about being cut off, sped past or crowded out here. I'm finding it more relaxed and a little less stressful ... well, except when we get to a roundabout, which we're now used to, but seems to still be a mystery to Wisconsinites. :)
A few other minor things we've noticed and wish we could take back with us:
  • TV shows - much more variety here (and of course it's all in English, which helps) 
  • Restaurants - we do have some nice restaurants in AD, but the variety of food choices and the number of really nice places is better here (and prices are lower)
  • Decaf coffee with cream!
  • Target, Home Depot & Boston Store

A huge thank you to everyone who rearranged schedules, organized parties, made special foods and helped us with laundry!! We've had a wonderful 2 weeks and have gotten just the energy boost needed to face the rest of the hot summer in Abu Dhabi. And a huge apology to those of you we missed seeing on this trip - we'll try to catch you when we're back next year. (yep, we'll be back each year in September for the User's Group Conference for Brian's work.)

And, since many have asked, I am planning to continue the blog even after I get started with full time work again. The posts might not be quite as consistent or timely, but I'll keep blogging - thanks for reading!

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