Double deal: On having two homes

There’s something I should reveal about expats in Dubai: we lead double lives.

Most of the year is spent in our adopted country, the place where we’ve made good friends, the kids go to school and we work, have pets and own a 4by4. And you can feel perfectly happy and settled there, until July – when you realise you could probably fry an egg on your car so off you go on your long summer sojourn to your other home.

During this time in the motherland, I’m always reminded just how much I love seeing family and old friends, how much I enjoy cooler air, greenery, more effective customer service, and people who understand what I’m saying.

There’s an initial period of adjustment, of course. A kind of reverse culture shock, where you have to get used to looking the other way to cross the road, taking a brolly ‘just in case’, knowing only two people in your childhood town and feeling a bit disconnected. But once you’ve settled in, your old life fits like a glove (helped along by the fact you’re there in summer not winter and everyone’s happy to see you after so long).

This means that, however much you enjoy the country you’ve moved to and also call ‘home’, returning to it after an extended holiday always evokes mixed emotions. As the plane takes off, you look forward to getting back to your own space, re-instating old (and easier) routines and no longer living out of a suitcase.

But there’s also sadness at leaving and guilt, too, because you’re taking the kids away from loving grandparents and extended family. You know you’ll miss family get-togethers and that Facebook doesn’t make up for not being there in person when things happen at home.

The exhilaration and impossibleness of cramming a year’s worth of socialising into one or two evenings with your oldest and dearest friends also leaves you wanting more.

Unless you’re a frequent flyer who jet sets regularly from one home to another, transitioning from one country to the other is never as easy as you think it should be.

Dubai International Airport: The first clue that everything's super-sized
Landing in Dubai after a prolonged stay away is also the only time you see the city through a tourist’s eye. The cavernous, marble-floored airport, with its elevators the size of my first flat, wall of water and endless shopping. The heat and humidity that hit you as you step outside. The crazy drivers on the six-lane highways and, outside our compound, the sandy dunes that stretch for as far as the eye can see, punctuated by desert shrubs and the odd tree.

Seeing camels by the roadside is a novelty again – as is coming across a bus shelter that looks like this:

Comfort zone: One of the city's air-conditioned, enclosed bus shelters, although if the air-con doesn't work they tend to turn into roadside ovens

The contrast between the two countries couldn’t be greater and it takes a few days to reacclimatise – to get back in the saddle. But soon it should cool down, and with some precious memories from the summer and the kids back to school today after the epic 11-week holiday, it feels good to be home with DH.

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