When I first moved to south of France back in 2000, I was surprised how people immediately recognized me as an American.
Sophie would laugh and tell me how people can tell I am American from a block away … especially, because I said hello to people I would pass in the street.
My first or second week in France, one day Sophie, Matt and I entered an elevator with a woman already in the elevator, and so I said “good morning” to the woman who was already in it.
The woman looked at me with a bewildered look on her face, and asked me in French “excuse me, but do I know you?”
Sophie explained to her that I was just being friendly. The woman didn’t show any emotion, and didn’t even say good bye when she exited the elevator.
This has happened many times over the years I have lived in France … often when I say hello to people, they will ask me “do I know you?” It always makes Sophie or the friends I am with when it happens laugh a lot.
I guess this is something cultural … or at least it was back in the good old days in America … people said hello to each other when they passed them on the street; we used to hold the door open for people too …
Yes, it is true … compared to Americans, the French come across cold and unfriendly … and to be honest, we, Americans are viewed by most cultures as fake, and over enthusiastic …the standard American “hey!!!! Hoooow are you?” Doesn’t sound the most sincere, I agree.
Ironically, in cycling, more often than not, when I am cycling in France and Italy, when I pass someone or get passed by someone, the rider usually says “bonjour” …
I was recently in France and I got passed by 3 different pro riders, one of them being arguably the most famous climber in cycling … and each of them said hello as they passed me.
Marko noted how he was impressed to see all the rider said hello to each other, no matter what level of rider they were.
In Gran Canaria last year, everyone, even majority of the pro teams who were training would say “Hola!!” as they passed.
Which leads me to the point of today’s blog…
A few years ago, I was training for my 7 ironman challenge … and I was training about 45 minute drive from my home on the Palm towards Abu Dhabi (exit 390) … the Palm is on the outskirts of Dubai towards Abu Dhabi and exit 390 is in between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and the place I liked to train. The roads are good, safe and long so I could do long training rides in the desert.
One morning .. around 3:15am … I was riding a long when out of nowhere two cyclists passed me. I normally, never saw other cyclists training in the same area, esp. not at 3am … so I was shocked/surprised. And the two riders (white guys) who passed me didn’t say a word. They just passed me.
I love this story and I have told it 100s of times .. yes, I was riding my bike deep in the desert at 3am and I got passed by two other cyclists who did not say a word as they passed me. No “hello”…No “fuck off.” They said nothing.
I was so annoyed that I pushed and pushed until I caught them, and passed them … and made sure they didn’t pass me again.
In Dubai … there is a syndrome … which often infects many people when they move here.
I call it the Dubai syndrome.
It seems that many expats who live in Dubai think they are much more important than they really are…
The other day, Marko and I were doing an easy 3 hour recovery ride … and we got passed by a group of 100+ cyclists (its Friday group ride) and only one person out of the 100+ riders said hello as they slowly passed us.
Even Marko was surprised. And he mentioned to me later, “it seems that in Dubai cyclists don’t speak to each other…”
So I told him another favorite training story of mine ….
Once I was finishing a 16 hour ride in Dubai … and I was on the bike track, tired and going nice and easy the last 3kms … and this clown rides past me, not fast, but slowly passed me, and he says nothing. Not a word.
We were the only two people on the road …
It was just he and I riding at the bike track around 11am, no one was around, and yet he still says nothing as he passes me.
So I ride up next to him and said, “you’re not even going to say hello??” He immediately apologized for not saying anything, and made up some excuse how he was concentrated or something.
A few minutes later, we finished the ride and, I guess he felt bad because he came over to me and tried to small talk about my ride, and he asked me how long I had done … and I told him how I had just finished riding for 16 hours, and didn’t have much patience for some guy to pass me and not even say hello.
… yesterday morning, Marko and I rode at the cycle track in Nad Al Sheba again … and nearly every rider who we passed or passed us in the opposite direction said nothing.
Marko laughed out loud after the 5th consecutive rider who ignored his “good morning…”
I enjoy living in Dubai … but unquestionably, there is a special syndrome that often affects people when they move here. I call it the Dubai syndrome … people who live in Dubai feel some type empowerment … it seems that everyone really thinks they are Donald Trump or Lakshmi Mittel …
People fall in the trap of thinking they are more important than they really are.
It’s a theme I keep hammering away at … don’t fall in the trap of believing you are cooler than you really are.