Blue Collar Hospitality

I’ve been truly struck by how friendly and hospitable service staff in Abu Dhabi have been. Whether it’s the doorman outside our hotel, waitstaff in a restaurant, or cashiers in a store, they always greet you with a genuine smile and go the extra mile to make your experience a good one.

A couple examples:

  • Even though tap water is drinkable here, everyone uses bottled water. But in a restaurant, you’re hardly allowed to refill your own glass because the waiters will swoop by before your glass is half empty and do it for you.
  • We spent 45 minutes wandering through a local department store looking at electronics, kitchen appliances, and other things we might need to buy once we moved into our apartment. Employees made sure they were always nearby, but waited patiently for us to ask a question rather than interrupt us.
  • I ate lunch at Burger King this afternoon, and the woman who took my order personally folded my napkin into a little triangle before laying it on the tray. It was a small touch, and surprisingly, made fast food feel much more like real dining.
  • (So far at least) We’ve never been run out of a restaurant. When you finish your meal, the waitstaff will offer you dessert or coffee, but they’ll never bring you the check. If you want to stay longer, that’s fine. They don’t hover, they don’t keep checking on you every 2 minutes. But as soon as you make eye contact or raise a finger to get their attention, they’re there with a smile.

Working at Burger King is no better job in Abu Dhabi than it is in the USA. If their benefits are better, it’s because of the laws here, not the generosity of their employer I expect. Yet they make the best of it. They treat each customer like they were important. And it does matter.

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