Something I find interesting that wasn't so in Japan and as far as I know doesn't seem to be the case in the U.S. is the sense of community. It may even be an anomaly in Abu Dhabi, but we have a good situation with our neighbors. Because of this we were able to do a kid exchange.
It wasn't my idea; it just kind of happened. We went up to the pool this morning and at the same time our neighbors were going up. It was nice to have a good group of kids up there playing and splashing. After about an hour we got ready to leave and then the little girl next door asked if she could come over and play so I said it was fine with us as long as their parents said it was OK. After lunch our kids went over to get them and everyone started playing at our place. Even though there were five kids over, everyone was playing well. I was chatting with our neighbor and then I started noticing that only the neighbor kids were playing at ours. Our kids had decided to go over to the neighbor's house to play with their toys while we had kids who weren't ours playing at our place. It seems that the interest was less in playing with our neighbor's kids and more in playing with their toys
This isn't a problem because our kids frequently go over to theirs to play and vice versa. I feel like this is something that I would've seen in the U.S. 20 or 30 years ago but not so much today. In Japan I can imagine this happening in the countryside, but not where we lived unless there was something marked on the calendar a month in advance and there were several rounds of thank-you gifts exchanged afterward.
I have a feeling that this is possible here because about 20% of the residents in this apartment complex work for my school. I also give a lot of credit to our neighbors who are so nice, I sometimes wonder why they want to talk to me. There really is a much more relaxed feeling towards getting kids together that is missing in the U.S. because of being so paranoid and in Japan because of being so apologetic.
That said, I hope our kids trashed their place as much as everyone trashed ours.