12,000 people in the Middle East! This is crazy!

These were the first words spoken by French DJ David Guetta last Friday night during his concert at Yas Arena in Abu Dhabi. Ian and I decided that it was part of our duty to research local culture to attend the concert, which was the biggest thing happening in Abu Dhabi last weekend, so we got tickets a few weeks ago. Twelve thousand people for a concert put on by a DJ is quite a large number, and the spectacular outdoor venue at Yas Arena had an electric atmosphere during the performance. It was a scene that most people would expect in America or Europe, but this type of thing is quite common in the Emirates these days.

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As I’m transitioning to that state of being a resident of Abu Dhabi, I’m also discovering that a lot of things here are pretty mind-blowing. And by no means is it just the touristy stuff, either. Living here is pretty spectacular in a lot of ways.

Abu Dhabi is a very cosmopolitan city. There are people from all over the world here. Only 17% of the city’s residents are nationals. Everyone else brings experiences from their own countries, and this makes for some great, cultural diffusion. Not only is it great for me to try new things and hear about what it’s like in different places when I meet new people, but I also really like the little things, too. For example, I can pick up my favorite British snacks of McVitie’s chocolate-covered Hobnobs and Jordan’s Muesli in the Carrefour. I can also get products from all over the world to try. The cosmopolitan nature of this place permeates pretty deep into how the city functions.

These are the sort of things that one can appreciate from living in a place as opposed to just going there to visit for a few days, and I’m really enjoying getting used to living in Abu Dhabi. Of course, there are some things that are easier to get used to than others, and at the end of the day some of my preferences are not going to be changed. For instance, it doesn’t matter how many times I play soccer here, I am still going to think that it is unnatural for humans to play a game in which they don’t use their hands. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to appreciate what the game means for the rest of the world, but I’m also going to share my like for basketball with people here. At the end of the day, it’s always good to try new things and you become a more adaptable person when you can draw upon a wealth of different experiences.

Abu Dhabi is also a place with great restaurants, we haven’t gone wrong eating out yet. The cafeteria food is good, but they like to have lamb and rice at every meal here. If you asked me where to get a great burger in Abu Dhabi, I could list three places off the top of my head. A taste for American food is something else that isn’t going to be removed from my psyche in the same way that the Indians here are going to bring their taste for Indian food. People from other countries bring some of their culture with them something that makes Abu Dhabi an exciting place to be.

I’ve noticed this several times in the past while being abroad, but something that I always find kind of crazy is that even though people can be very different on the surface, there are some things that are pretty fundamental about being human. People everywhere like having a good time after working hard. People everywhere care deeply about their families. People everywhere like having friends and can be incredibly friendly.

It can be hard at times to think about people who appear to be very different in this way, but it’s surprising what can bring people together, like a David Guetta concert. We even ran into several of our fellow PI classmates at the concert and had a great time.

My goal with this post was to highlight some of my experiences during this study abroad semester. Last fall, a few people expressed to me that Abu Dhabi would not be a cultural experience. They claimed that it was the same as living in America. I didn’t agree with these statements then, and I certainly don’t agree with them now. There are lots of things different from living back in Golden. Some are big things, like the importance of Islam. Some are little things, like the flexible viewpoint of not starting things exactly when they’re scheduled to start. Visitors to this or any region are smart to adapt to and learn from these differences.

Just in case you were worried that we ran out of cool stuff to do on the weekends though, we didn’t! Ian and I continued our golfing adventures at the Abu Dhabi City Golf Course. It’s a grass course located downtown and all nine holes are located within a horse racing track. Obviously, I didn’t hit my ball off of the course, but there were a few times where my ball actually teleported to being on the race track after I hit it. I don’t know how it happened, but hitting from a dirt horse racing track was a new experience. The place that we ate at before the concert was also noteworthy. It was at the Yas Viceroy Hotel on Yas Island, which is a new development that houses things such as an F1 race track, Yas Arena, hotels, restaurants and a links-style golf course. The thing to do this time of year is to eat outside, so Ian and I were able to enjoy views of the Yas Hotel (which lights up purple and blue all night long), the F1 track (which goes around the hotel), and the yacht port (which is inside the F1 track). It’s really one of those places where one only has access to the bare necessities.

Then we went to the spectacular concert that went until 2 a.m., and finished up another great day in Abu Dhabi at the time that most locals go to bed every day of the week. As David Guetta said, this is a crazy place. Living here is quite an adventure, and I feel like I’m settling in nicely so far.