Tuesday, November 13, 2012


It's midterm time again in the UAE.  This semester, I am teaching an introductory class in microeconomics.

Giving midterms to Emirati students is sort of . . . interesting.  These are people who are ultra privileged and have never had to work a day in their lives.  Honestly.  This is one of those places where that cliche is the truth.  I have surveyed my classes.  I have asked the question, "By a show of hands, how many of you have had a job?"  No one has ever raised a hand.

Also, they have maids.  It is standard for Emirati families to have at least one maid.  So in addition to never working, these kids have also never learned to cook or clean up after themselves.  Just wandering the campus, I see empty wrappers and cups all over the place.  These things aren't being cleaned up because maids aren't allowed on campus.

One student told me a story once about visiting a family in California.  The husband and wife told her, "We've got to leave you alone for a while, so go ahead and make yourself breakfast.  Eggs are in the fridge." The suggestion stunned her.  At 22, and she didn't know how to fry an egg.

Can't one learn how to fry an egg simply by watching an egg being fried on a cartoon?  What's the difficulty? Crack the egg.  Put it in a frying pan.  Turn on the gas.

Ah, I see.  They wouldn't know to add butter to the pan from a cartoon.  Point taken.

There's also the gas problem.  If it's old school, you'd have to light the burner.  Okay, there's more to it than I thought.  The kid could've burned the house down.

Anyhoo, I guess that's enough setup.  Okay, so I hand the midterms out.  The students--according to a recent study, Emiratis read three pages per year--look at the midterm.  Then they start working.  Before ten minutes have passed, a student will raise her hand.  I'll wander over, already knowing what she's going to say.

"How do I solve this?" she will ask, pointing at a problem.

"I can't help you now."

"Why?" she will ask, with curiosity that seems genuine.

"Because it is a midterm.  Students don't get help on midterms."

And away I will walk, only to see another student raise her hand and ask the same question in a different way.

The best part is this: When I tell them that I won't help them, they give me an accusing look, as if I should feel bad because they don't know the answer.

Expats here say that once Emiratis get a job, they never actually do it.  They just take sick days or sit in their office playing computer games and texting one another.  The way they are raised, I wonder how the result could be any different.

* * *

In other news, I am keeping up with my goal of not drinking alcohol this month.  On Days 2 and 3, I felt kind of cranky.  Other than that, I haven't noticed any side effects.  This could be a really easy month goal wise.


  1. i like to leave comments to show appreciation for the posts, but i know that my comments will never live up to the quality of the post.

  2. I'm going to drink more this month to make up for you drinking less.
    We can have a symbiotic relationship

  3. @Mudwig: Your comments are great. I look forward to getting them.

    @grrouchie: I like that idea. Fat Tire and Guinness are my favorites, but I usually have to settle for Heineken out here. But any old beer will do.