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What a difference a lunch-break makes… - By Rebecca Wicks

Along with such changes to our lifestyles in a city that's moving so quickly, come the constant reminders that life here is a world away from the one a lot of us left behind in our home-countries.

Whilst pondering my future and consequentially of course, the meaning of life, over a tuna sandwich on my lunch break yesterday, I felt the urge to note these major differences, so I'd always remember the spiritual (and physical) distance I've traveled in the space of one short year.

Only… because I was hungry, it kind of came out about food.

Still, it helps to start somewhere, so let us take a look at that solitary hour in time that many of us - the whole world over - choose to ignore; the lunch break. Just how can two cities offer two such different experiences?

Lunch hour in London:

Step 1: Exit office via lift, step onto street outside.
Step 2: Break into instant goosebumps, folding arms against chest and performing high-pitched 'brrrrrrrrr' noise for added acknowledgement of rubbish weather.
Step 3: Walk/run round corner towards nearest shop featuring pre-determined, desired edibles.
Step 4: Glare at local 'suits', all with more money than me.
Step 5: Peruse the numerous sandwich, salad, sushi, burger, chips, quiche, Chinese, Indian, Thai etc, options on offer. Make purchase.
Step 6: Head to TopShop/Zara/Sainsburys/New Look/Accessorize etc.
Step 7: Glare at local 'suits', all with more money than me.
Step 8: Spend unjustifiable amount on Visa card just because it's an easy and adrenaline-packed form of escapism from dreaded debts.
Step 9: Glare at local 'suits', all with more money than me.
Step 10: Head back to office, eat gorgeous, pre-packaged, hunger-busting lunch.

Lunch hour in Dubai:

Step 1: Exit office via lift, step outside onto four-lane motorway.
narrowly missing speeding 4x4.
Step 2: Dodge speeding taxi whilst on sand-covered zebra crossing.
Step 3: Break into instant sweat, flapping arms about to create human fan whilst feeling any unfortunate underarm fabric develop sudden wet-patch.
Step 4: Run from speeding mini-van, whilst developing instant tan.
Step 5: Glare at local 'suits', some with more money than me.
Step 6: Stand at crossing for 25 minutes, watching speeding cars.
Step 7: Cross motorway, run to middle of roundabout. Stand for 10 minutes waiting for speeding cars to stop.
Step 8: Weave through car park, glaring at 'suits', some with more money than me.
Step 9: Locate food court and decide against another polystyrene plate full of food colourings.
Step 10: Head back around corner to office, narrowly missing desert safari 4x4 collision in driveway and waiting 35 minutes for gap in traffic. Eat another samosa from work canteen.

As you can see, my tuna-sandwich based ponderings didn't really conclude all that much, apart from the fact that whatever country you're in, you inevitably put some element of your being in danger when you take that lunchtime leave.

In London, we may have Boots Meal Deals and Pret a Manger prawn cocktail on wholewheat loaf with crunchy homebaked chips and an apple (drool), but we also put ourselves in debt by a thousand more temptations.

In Dubai, the majority of us have food courts at the end of our perilous, traffic-dodging journeys, but as a result, at least most of us expats owe slightly less to a heap of clothing store credit card schemes.

Posted: 10 April 2008

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