Bahrain vs England: 10 differences

Today I was in the ladies toilets at the university and a man was also in there cleaning.It got me thinking, as I often do, about the differences between living in Bahrain and England. A man would never be cleaning the ladies’ in Bahrain. Haram! I’ve lived in the Middle East since I was three months old. As you would expect I’ve gotten quite used to their way of doing things.I am fully British and hail from the northwest of England but when I used to come for the summer holidays and the couple of years in between that I’ve actually lived here, it’s been quite strange to realise I’m not very British at all. I’m certainly not very northern (and people often like to point this out).

So, when I do come back, I notice things that people take for granted, just as they would notice what I wouldn’t in Bahrain. There are plenty of differences so I’m going to share a few of the less obvious ones with you.

1. Hair salons
One time I hadn’t been back to the UK in 3 years and one of the first things I noticed when I came back was the fact that you can see inside the hair salons from the outside. In Bahrain beauty salons are strictly for men or women. You can see into the little barber shops but women’s salon windows are always blacked out. I actually quite like that. Let’s be honest a head covered in tin-foil is never a good look.

hiltons hair salon
Image by Wrote on Flickr

2. Friendly people
British people are so reserved and generally quite unfriendly to strangers at least. For instance just check out peoples’ reactions when you sit next to them on a train! Or actually try talking to someone random and see how they react. Whereas in Bahrain you smile or say hi to most people you walk past and it’s completely natural.

3. Greetings
Kind of goes back to people really. In Bahrain you hug or kiss people on both cheeks whether you’ve just met them or have known them for years. It’s very awkward trying to do that with anyone in England!

4. Zebra crossings
I love how every driver immediately stops when you’re even nearing a zebra crossing in England. There are some in Bahrain but I doubt anyone knows what they actually mean. Cross at your peril in other words.

Image by FaceMePLS on Flickr

5. Toilet etiquette
OK this one’s a bit strange. How can I put it? Bottom washers. Arabs tend to wash their bottoms after going to the toilet with a hose which is in every house bathroom or public loo. It sounds gross to the British but actually if you think about it it’s so much more hygienic.

6. Architecture
I love British buildings because most of them are so old and you really get a sense of English history. Around where I live in St Annes there are some fabulous houses that make me imagine secret rooms hidden behind bookshelves and attics full of memories. In Bahrain there are still some amazing houses but everything looks much more modern. Every house in insanely different as well; one will have a Japanese influence and sit beside one that looks like it should be in the Mediterranean.

Belton House (NT) 15-10-2011
Image by Karen Roe on Flickr

7. I can walk!
Walking is such an odd thing to do in Bahrain probably because of the lack of safe pavements and often sweltering heat. I love being able to walk everywhere in England; you feel so much healthier. In fact, I love how I can take public transport as well. For instance there’s no such thing as a train in Bahrain (yet). I just love not having to drive (and if I was I’d love not having to drive on the crazy Bahraini roads).

8. Water on tap
It’s pretty great I can tell you. There’s nothing worse than realising you’re out of water when you’re about to boil some pasta or make a cup of tea and find out you just can’t.

Kitchen Tap
Image by wwarby on Flickr

9. The postal service and internet shopping
Complain all you like about Royal Mail but all I ask is go and try and send a letter within Bahrain. To be honest I never bothered trying to work it out. You can’t just get it delivered to your house in Bahrain; that would be too much effort for the postmen. So you have a post box but they’re hardly convenient.
Anyway back to my second point – internet shopping! It’s slowly taking off in Bahrain but there’s hardly anything available. You can get anything with the click of a button here!

10. Widespread alcohol availability
Alcohol is allowed in Bahrain but only in restricted areas – namely hotels, social clubs, licensed restaurants, bars, nightclubs and booze shops. But you cannot have any place that sells alcohol in a residential area, near a school or in a shopping centre. In England however, you can find it most places. Costa Coffee at Manchester Airport even sells beer! Not that I want a drink everywhere but it’s just nice to know I can.