x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Caught between two competing 'homes'

There is a critical moment in an expatriate's progress when the adopted land begins to feel more like home than the old country.

It was a slip of the tongue. A moment of weakness. A lapse in concentration. I was tired. Trying to do too many things at once - eke out the last of the washing powder in the box, talk on the telephone, add washing powder to the mental shopping list in my head. Either way, I made a mistake that no amount of top speed, about-turn backtracking could rectify.

I was talking to my mother in the UK, updating her with tales of my recent holiday, when I happened to mention that despite having a wonderful time, it was still rather nice to be "home". Big mistake. The coldness of the ensuing silence spanned the thousands of miles between us with considerable ease.

It took a little while to click and then I realised what was wrong: I'd just unwittingly confirmed an as yet unvoiced fear of hers: I was starting to think of Dubai - a place that, when I first arrived, had confused and frustrated me, had made me pine, not just for London, but for the green fields surrounding the village in which I'd grown up - as permanent.

Although moving to a new country is daunting, when I think about it, it's probably just as difficult for the people you leave behind. They are there for you in the early days; providing a virtual shoulder to cry on when you're homesick, lonely and worried that you've made a mistake by upping and leaving. Once you're settled, though - met some new people, embraced all those unique experiences, realised that it's really quite nice to live so close to the beach - those pillars you depended on tend to get slightly neglected.

The emails become more sporadic, the text messages less frequent. It was the classic case of the best friend whose place is usurped, albeit temporarily, by the new boyfriend who can seemingly do no wrong.

Perhaps in recent weeks I've been guilty of such behaviour - and for that I feel bad. So even though I am ever more at ease with my life in the UAE, no longer needing to convert every dirham that I spend into pounds before I make a purchase, or waking up on a Sunday morning feeling disgruntled because I have to go to work, I shall be upping the communication ante over the next few weeks.

Friends and family back home better watch out, because I plan to be in contact with them so often they'll beg me for a respite.