Everywhere Connie and I go we are aware of cultural differences. That’s one of the nice things about travel, seeing the way other people live and what they give priority to.
I’ve never traveled in the Middle East and still have not except for a Gulf Air flight from Athens to Bahrain where we simply caught a connecting flight to Bangkok. Nevertheless, the flight to Bahrain was culturally instructive.
First of all, even though obviously every seat on the plane is assigned to a specific person, as soon as they announced that boarding of the plane would begin in an hour every person waiting at the gate got up immediately and got in line. Then they stood in line an hour until boarding actually started. As if somebody else would get their seat if they didn’t hurry and get on the plane.
Next we noticed that most of the people were carrying on boxes and suitcases and shopping bags and assorted personal belongings. Three or four items per person. So as people got on the plane the overhead bins filled up very quickly resulting in dozens of people near the back of the plane with no overhead space left turning around and walking against the flow of people getting on. So that’s relative chaos from the start.
But the best part was when we were a half hour or so from Bahrain and the pilot gave the standard announcement to fasten seat belts as we were beginning our descent. As soon as he said “fasten your seat belts” there was a metallic cacophony as 50 or 60 people immediately un-fastened their seat belts, dove into the overhead bins and starting grabbing their stuff in preparation for landing. So guys were trying to cram big boxes under seats and holding suitcases on their laps and twisting themselves into coats while the flight stewards yelled at them in Arabic.
Everything settled down as we were on final approach. But as soon as the wheels squealed onto the runway the other half of the people unfastened their seat belts and, with the plane still rolling along the runway at 150 miles-per-hour these guys were digging the rest of their stuff out of the overhead bins and heading to the front of the plane to get off!
Connie and I were laughing so hard and trying to conceal it that somebody might have though we were bent over crying in relief that the flight was ended. I still can’t tell the story without laughing my head off. I think an FAA safety inspector seeing that on his vacation would have had a stroke. What a great show.