Taking the plunge to pack up our belongings and move abroad was not a decision we took lightly. It took months of back and to, why we should and why we shouldn’t questions as well as a very long list of considerations before we finally said YES let’s do it!
I should say that this is not a bitter post toward moving away from the UK to the Middle East. We have truly grown to love the sandpit that we currently live in! Rather I feel as though the points I want to make in this post are what happens as par for the course of uprooting our young family to another country.
In order to gently remove our younglings away from the grasp of our immediate family members we had to assure them with a verbal agreement that a) we would make it back to the UK every few months, and b) we would be back for good in two years max!
So far our latest trip back to the UK was after an 18-month break and this coming October will be four years of Desert living for us…
I think our recent Summer trip back to the UK was a bit of an awakening for us. Slotting right back into our old life wasn’t really possible as it didn’t really seem to exist anymore! It’s one thing I didn’t really expect when we left the life we knew so well behind, that four years down the line it would feel unfamiliar to an extent.
When we left the UK back in 2014, our life, memories, regular events, interactions and relationships with friends and family came to a halt. Four years is quite a substantial amount of time for the life we left to move on, evolve, expand and change to suit the people we left rather than us.
Distance creates distance
I suppose the problem is, that we kind of live in a time warp in our minds, imagining everything to be as it was, but the simple fact is people move onwards with their own lives! Of course close friends and family are always there at the end of a watts app message. Email and Skype are a godsend to keep in touch with the Grandparents. But sadly there are many old acquaintances that are now just distant and disinterested, even when we try to reconnect!
Changed values and accents
The longer we live out our current lives in a very different place that is full of multicultural diversity with many individuals of different nationalities residing, schooling and working in the same location, then naturally our own cultural values will adapt and evolve. The adaptations have had a change in my family, even if it is only a minute change, on the way we think, talk and go about our daily lives! Taking those newly learned ideas and values and even the ever so slight changes to our Northern accents are almost making us feel a little bit like outsiders in our hometown when we go and visit.
What new sibling?
We left the UK with one daughter in 2014 and returned this Summer with two! The problem was, that nobody really knew our second child, except for those that had flown over to see us. The emotional attachment and memories were mostly with our firstborn, so relationships had to start from scratch for those that had just met her, which is a strange feeling when you personally know this little person so well and take it for granted that the relationship will be the same as the older sibling! Social media updates and email, even Skype calls don’t really cut it when sustaining a bond between your new baby and friends and family back home. Here is where making the trips back much sooner than 18 months apart can be beneficial but only if the finances and time off work allow you to do so!
There’s no place like home..or is there?
When you grow to love being in the new place you live in, differentiating the lines between home and here begin to blur. We’ve known all along this move isn’t a permanent thing as we’re here on a work visa, but when you really enjoy living in a place it can cause your heart to be in two places, which is so conflicting when you want to plan the next move, be that stay, go home or go somewhere new entirely!
Living out of the suitcase
I think every expat I’ve ever discussed with this agrees the ideal scenario is where you can stay in your own private accommodation when visiting your home country rather than stay with someone in their home. Having your own space is everything! When that isn’t possible and space is tight in whoever’s home you may be in, you can spend up to a few months, if you do the whole Summer at home, using your suitcase as a wardrobe/worldly possession organiser/laundry basket! Then, If you decide to house or hotel hop packing and unpacking up the case several times over can be a laborious task!
Goodbyes only get more difficult!
I genuinely believed that saying goodbye would be like a piece of cake after so many visits back to the UK, but unfortunately it seems that’s just not how our emotions work. Goodbyes are awful especially when you spend a month living in someones home and your kids grow so attached to their much-missed relatives and friends. What’s worse after a few trips back and knowing how it all works by this time, you know how awful the goodbyes will be in advance, the down in the dumps feeling begins days before actually having to say goodbye and there is lingering sadness in the air. My oldest child is fully aware of what’s going on and I feel like she is emotionally traumatised every time we have to fly back to Dubai.
You will need a holiday after the holiday
Going home is just exhausting. The family wants to cram as much of you as possible so house visits, days out, meals and late nights don’t give you much time to relax. Then you want to squeeze your friends in between. Holidays are supposed to be about winding down and a visit home is not that.
It’s not all doom and gloom
Despite the teary goodbyes and those acquaintances that are now distant, the new way of thinking and even feeling a little like an outsider at times, the true friendships and family connections that matter will be stronger than ever. Absence does make the heart grow fonder and time and distance aren’t that bad after all. There will be new babies on the other side to get to know as equally as much for those to get to know your own young children. Best friends will pick up where you left off. Grandparents will swoon over your children, babysit and bring you a glass of wine whilst you put your feet up! To some, you might enthrall them with your stories of living in a far-off land. And best of all the sacrifices outway the negatives as it makes you become an altogether better person to live and experience life in another part of the globe!
How is your experience of moving abroad and visiting your home countries? I’d love to hear from you!