Monday, March 02, 2009

London Logistics, Orientation, Code of Conduct

Well... been very busy.  Still getting my head around this "Sunday is a work day" business and when you're reading the papers from home or Aussie friends' Facebook pages and you realise that its still the weekend in Australia but you're at work it gives an odd feeling.

Like tonight, I had dinner in the hotel restaurant (first time I have dined alone in the restaurant... i tend to stick to the food court or room service) and it was "Sunday" night but a work night.  I changed out of my suit for chinos but left my business shirt on and joined diners, some of which were business men talking shop... all very odd for a Sunday night.

Then after dinner, its back to the room where I am catching up on work and am dealing live via Blackberry with the staff who book travel (do they ever go home?).  It seems that my flight to London will be at 2:30am (YES A bloody M!) and will land at Heathrow at 6:45am.  I think its 7hrs so basically, get on and go to sleep.  I will have a driver picking me up, taking me to the hotel... shower, suit up and first meeting will be at 10am.  Meetings are going through all day, there is an open invitation to dinner and its rinse and repeat again for the Thursday.  My flight back to Abu Dhabi leaves Heathrow at 10pm, but I am waitlisted and I have sent a request that I will probably prefer to go on the Friday morning rather than risk not getting on the plane...

I will be a very tired person methinks when I get back and if I do fly back on Friday, it will leave me just one day for the weekend!

Aside from the travel, today was orientation day at what is called "Masdar HQ" in Abu Dhabi.  I work on the Masdar City site out of town and the HQ staff will be joining us on site in the next month, but in the interim we have our corp offices in the city.  I finally met all the HR dept in HQ who have been receiving my many queries and stories of newbie expat angst (I am sure they have heard them all before!) and I was part of their "Orientation" session for all new employees.

If you have been through an orientation or induction process, then you know what these are like, but it took alot longer because alot of the important bits were spoken in Arabic for the benefit of the Emirati employees (who are all in IT) and it was a bit stop/start because of that but it went very well and I got a few tips re the Sharepoint Intraportal and how to take leave, apply for housing cheques etc (you have to pay a years rent up front and the company does that for you as a 'loan' against your accommodation allowance).  Also, a lady from the health insurance came in and discussed all the benefits and its far more comprehensive than my health insurance in Australia.

Funny bit was the discussion on dress code.  UAE Nationals must wear national dress but expats need to dress formally.  Jackets on for meetings, women must have skirts below the knee - one leggy Canadian woman in the room failed already - and we also had a run thru on common Arabic expressions.  "Keefak" means "How are you?" and now I know what it means because it is the traditional arabic slang greeting and I hear it all the time (e.g.  "Keefak Mahmoud, Keefak!")

Then we were shuffled into a "Code of Conduct" session in which we sat for 90mins listening to a British ex-copper now working for KPMG give a long winded and anecdote ladened spiel on why its "not on" to accept bribes.  To be honest, it could have been done in 20mins and he was far more boring than the 3 Emirati women who grappled with the long orientation session in two languages.  A lesson learned - long winded speaking is not enjoyable no matter the language.

Now its nearly 11pm... and I am still catching up on my emails and I have a teleconference with potential partners in Zurich early in the morning.  I cant say that my days are dull!

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