I’d like to thank Zaina for being the first interviewee for this series. I’m excited to have received responses from all over the world. It should be fascinating seeing all the differences and similarities. (Note: LROL is for Little Reminders of Love.)
LROL: At what age do people typically begin to go on dates?Zaina: I’d like to start off by saying, the population in Dubai is largely made up of expats and I was raised in the expat community, which consisted of Lebanese, Palestinians, Jordanians, and Egyptians, along with a few scattered British and Italian expats.Growing up here, we started dating at a young age. My best friend got her first boyfriend when we were in the 7th grade, when we were around 11. And she dated him for 2 years. That’s actually when most people in my school started dating. Around the age of 11 or 12. But you know what it’s like when you’re younger. Your dates are usually group dates so a little different from dating as an adult.
LROL: Who asks whom on a date, normally?Zaina: Typically, the guy asks the girl out on a date. I actually don’t know of any girls who’ve ever asked a guy out here. I’ve considered it but chickened out. Mostly because I didn’t think it was worth asking out a guy who wasn’t willing to put the time and effort into taking me out on a real date instead of just “hanging out”.
LROL: What is a typical first date like?Zaina: Usually, it’s going out for coffee or drinks after work, in the evening. Most of my first dates have consisted of getting to know each other over drinks after work one night. It’s a more casual atmosphere so most of the guys I know prefer it.
LROL: What is culturally “expected” of you and your date?Zaina: Culturally, you’re expected to go out for a meal, get to know each other, be conservative and not touch each other in public. Yes that must be mentioned. Hand holding is okay in public but you can’t really go much further than that. And of course, it is definitely not expected that you go home together – as in end up in bed together.
LROL: Who plans the date?Zaina: Usually the person asking decides that.
LROL: Who pays?
Zaina: The guy always pays and he’s usually the one who asks the lady out so I guess we could say the person who does the asking pays.
LROL: What are the post-date norms?Zaina: There is no 3-day rule that I know of. You call back if you’re interested. You don’t if you’re not.
LROL: What would you change about the dating culture of where you live?Zaina: I think there’s a problem in Dubai in the sense that you have a lot of options and so because you know there’s another person round the corner that you can pick up, it’s really difficult to keep people interested. Men really have their pick of women. And most people coming to live here, only come for a few years so no one is really looking for a commitment or to settle down. So you have a lot of people just looking to have some fun. For the person who is actually looking for a relationship, your options and very limited because most people just want to have some fun.
LROL: What do you like about the dating culture of where you live?Zaina: Hmm… good question. Actually, the great thing is that the onus is on the man to impress and I like being wooed. Men really know how to treat a woman right, at least on a date. Pick you up, open doors for you, order for you, book the best table in the restaurant. It’s nice having someone pamper you for the night.LROL: What was your best date?Zaina: My best date was when I was living in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the Emirates, just an hour drive from Dubai. I had just met an American guy who lived down the street from me. He asked me out to dinner. Didn’t tell me where we were going just told me to dress nice. We went to this lovely French restaurant in one of the nicest hotels in town. He got us a table outside (and we were the only table outside actually), right by the water. We got appetizers, wine, champagne, desert. And the meal I order turned out to be one the top 10 meals in the city (he sent me an article about it the next day). It was just a very nice date – he pulled out all the stops.LROL: And your worst?
Zaina: I actually haven’t had any really bad dates. I guess I’ve been lucky.
LROL: Anything you’d like to add that I forgot to ask?Zaina: That’s all. The only thing I would mention is that Dubai isn’t really like the rest of the world in the sense that most of the people here are only here temporarily and depending on the community you live in, everyone probably has a very different experience. There is no one culturally accepted norm. My point of view is that of the Arab expat who grew up in Dubai but has also lived abroad and so we have Western tendencies. However, there are a lot of Arabs who are more traditional and don’t really date. They’ll just have their family set them up with someone. It really just depends on your community and what the norm is there.