Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Lunch That Never Was

Published January 31, 2012 - Muscat Daily. Click here to view article.

Today you must bear with me. I will be complaining about an attitude that a large percentage of my Omani family, friends and colleagues suffer from. Foreigners living in Oman joke about it online and behind closed doors. Even Omanis sheepishly admit it's a problem. Before you read any further, keep in mind that I suffer from mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's the small details that drive me crazy. I'm going to give you a list of scenarios that I had to live through in the past fortnight, and you help me pinpoint the problem.

Scenario One: Last week I arranged a workshop for 40 Omanis to attend. I booked the venue, arranged the menu, and sent out invitations. I also called all participants the day before the event to confirm their attendance. They all knew attending was mandatory.

On the day of the event, 25 people showed up on time and another five strolled in an hour late. When I called the missing ten their excuses were as follows: three forgot, two went to the wrong venue, four never bothered to come, and one was busy at the fish market. None of them bothered to let me know they weren’t coming.

Scenario Two: Last weekend a relative of mine got married. The bride's family announced they were slaughtering a goat and having a low-key wedding lunch. I was asked to make a wedding cake and 100 cupcakes as a favour. Never one to turn down an opportunity to bake, I happily agreed.

The day before the wedding I spent six hours in the kitchen making the cakes. On the morning of the wedding I woke up bright and early and spent another six hours decorating the cakes. I was proud of my work.

An hour and a half before lunchtime, the freshly cooked goat and rice arrived early from the catering company. The family decided that having fresh hot rice and meat was more important than the wedding luncheon, so they sent around trays of rice to all the invitees' houses instead of having them over. Lunch never happened. I never got an explanation or an apology.

Scenario Three: A college student who requested an internship in my office refused to start this week. Her excuse? She needs to catch up on sleep because a five-day break between the last day of exams and the first day of her internship just wasn’t enough.

Another student showed up on the first day, then never came back again and won't answer her phone. A third student had the audacity to ask if he could just skip the internship altogether but receive a certificate of attendance anyway in order to graduate.

I can think of endless other incidents of a similar nature that I witnessed in the past few weeks alone. Sometimes I find the attitude charming and try to convince myself that Oman is one of the very last nations on earth where people are still laid back, and that I should appreciate it while it lasts.

Occasionally I find it deeply amusing. Lately, however, I've been finding this lack of urgency and accountability simply irritating.

I questioned several Omanis about this recently and their only explanation was, “It's part of our culture.” I couldn't agree more. It is part of our culture and has been since the 1970s when modern life was handed to us on a silver platter. However, do we really want it to remain part of the culture? Are we proud of it? I'm certainly not.

There may be plenty of productive and professional Omanis out there, but they remain a shining minority. A large percentage of Omanis my age really do not understand the importance of proper work ethics, commitment, and most importantly the value of others' time and their own. It may be unintentional, but that doesn't justify a thing.

On a final note, in case you were wondering what happened to all the cupcakes from Scenario Two, rest assured that I made two neighbourhood soccer teams very very happy that afternoon.


  1. Susan,
    Admire the way you write up articles with the elegance of a pro! Btw the article is very relevant and as a teacher I am really habituated to this kind of attitude in my students too. But as you say, its not intentional and on the flip side, this "no tension" attitude is great to lead a "Live for Today" life that is now gaining relevance. Again I would recommend you to do a research on whether this attitude is helping Omanis to achieve a healthier heart and also a strong/cool mental attitude.

  2. omg lol. i apologise on thier behalf!!

    but this is something that omanies need to change and not throw it on calutre..

  3. Susan you are right: this selfish attitude has only arisen since the 70s when many (not all) young Omanis became spoilt. It should not be dismissed as “charming” or “laid back” because it is this same arrogance and lack of consideration for others that has lead to the very high accident and death rates on our roads. It is also a major cause of many of the other problems of the country for example the unemployability of many young people

  4. Love this post! I live 'in the region' but I'm an ex-pat. I do see the same amongst the ex-pats as well (at least in my little place in the world). The laid back attitude for many ex-pats I believe is acquired after living in the region for a while. And that is not necessarily a bad thing :) However, I also find it frustrating at times. In my mind, the question is where does one draw the line between laid back and inconsiderate? I love it when friends drop by on short notice, but I find it very difficult when people simply don't show for an event/meeting they have previously committed to attending.

  5. LOL, you could've offered the cupcakes to your loyal readers!

  6. Thanks for an article that was refreshing and unbiased. As you would know Susan, where there is a will, there are many ways. Perhaps the proactive and productive omanis must show a way for the insouciant majority. Articles like these definitely aid thought process, so kudos to you for trying.

  7. I totally agree with your observations Susan. Your readings are totally correct.This is more rampant in Salalah. North is still better then here. Its high time that young Omanis have to live up to their expectations and think globally. They cant go on depending on expat for long. They have to enjoy working not look work as pain.

  8. Refreshing to see an unbiased article! Where there is a will, there are many ways. Perhaps the proactive and productive omanis can show the way to the laid back, insouciant majority. Articles like these will certainly create awareness in the right direction. Kudos to you Susan, for trying.

  9. هذه اللامبالاة (بل استمراء الكسل) ليست ثقافة بل هي كما ارى رد فعل خاطئ للنعمة والرخاء اللذان نعيشهما (بطرة كما نقول بالعامية(، ومع موافقتي أنها غير مقصودة إلا أن رد الفعل من جانبي هو دائما ولم لا تكون المحافظة على المواعيد مقصودة؟
    هذا السلوك ببساطة هو قلة شكر كما قال الشاعر:
    إذا كنت في نعمة فارعها فان المعاصي تزيل النعم
    وداوم عليها بشكـر الإله فـإن الإله سريـع النقـم
    وقلة الشكر مفضية لامحالة لزوال النعمة ونحن نشهد هذا في شكل الهدر المحزن للوقت و المال وقلة الانتاج واستمرار الحاجة للغير لإدارة عجلة الآعمال وانتشار أمراض الحياة الراكدة كالسمنة والسكرين أتمنى أن لاأكون بعدت كثيرا عن الموضوع.

  10. Susan lol, excuse me for laughing in advance as its a narky laugh.

    Reminds me of the days when the front door was wide open for the whole nation to come in, yet a simple phone call to say they were on the way was a very shameful thing to do..yet disturbing the tennets of a home and their young baby was all soo acceptable. This laid back yet rude aspect of the culture should surely be done away with.

    What a pity the laziness of some people closes doors that so many others world wide are in dire need of. Id be delighted to join you in one of your confrences & you know id definitly be in on a cupcake calorific session too.

    Miss you sweets.
    God help Salalah & our children so that the future is brighter and more productive. Ya Allah.

  11. Mmmmm, cupcakes. I envy your baking skills.

    At first, the laid back attitude is charming.

    But then it gets annoying.

    And then you try to change it or work with it and you go mad and either leave or adapt the same mannerisms in yourself.

    I like it at time. Hate it at others. But where I live nobody ever cancels without notice, they just show UP without it.

    My husband always says that's more a Muscat thing and I DO notice it more in my Muscat friends. I don't know any Dhofari experience girls beyond Pearl. :)