It doesn’t matter if you have lived in Dubai for 10 weeks or 10 years, “When are you coming home?” is a question you’re likely to hear regularly.
I know that it's meant well. People I care about immensely want to see more of me, how could I take that as anything but a compliment? But I also take it as a synonym, of sorts, for, "OK, you have had your fun in the sun, but it's time to come back to the real world … you're coming back to the real world, right?"
The problem is, I have no plans to go "home". In fact, over the past eight years, Dubai has become my home. I have lived here for most of my adult life and only ever really worked in the UAE. My years spent waitressing, barista-ing and interning were in London, but it is in Dubai that I built a career.
I have established roots in the Emirates, know Dubai like the back of my hand (despite my best efforts, Abu Dhabi is still a bit of a mystery wrapped in a conundrum to me) and I have built relationships that I know will last for life. I now find that I have to use Google Maps an embarrassing amount to navigate Camberley, the town I grew up in, and always have to ask friends for recommendations of places to go when I’m back in the UK. But ask me for somewhere to go in Dubai of an evening, and you could very well get a comprehensive spreadsheet of recommendations, new and old, sub-divided into bars, cafes, restaurants and experiences.
The majority of my family are in Scotland and I grew up just outside London, and I love Britain. I love eating all the food I can get my hands on when I'm back, I really love seeing everyone I miss when I'm there and I even love wandering around in the grey rain and cold, just so long as it's limited to a couple of days and I've packed a warm enough coat. But after a week or so has passed, I'm always ready to get back to my cosy apartment in The Greens. For me, right now, that is home.
There is another major reason why I am in no rush to book a one-way ticket to Heathrow Airport: Brexit. Now, call me crazy, but a stable life, home of my own and weekends in the sunshine spent diving, hiking or at the beach quash any urges I may have had to fly back and live among the confused in a time of major uncertainty for the UK.
Yet, in my experience, this line of questioning (about when you're going "home") isn't limited to people outside of the UAE. As residents, we have a habit of assuming everyone is here on a short-term basis.
If I had a dirham for every time I have heard, “I am only going to be here for a year or two,” I would be a moderately rich woman, or at least have enough to pay for a cheap flight back to London.
Perhaps it’s because, no matter how long you stay in the UAE, permanent residency isn’t offered here. That might make it feel a little more temporary for some, but, as it stands, I honestly don’t have an end date in mind.
I often hear it said that there is nowhere better than London on a sunny day, but let’s be honest, they are few and far between. For me, the weather we have in autumn, winter and spring in the UAE is consistently fantastic.
I know life isn’t perfect, and our experiences are all totally circumstantial, but find me a city anywhere where life is always sunny, and then I might actually up sticks and move. Until then, Dubai is home, indefinitely.