Expat life in Dubai

Returning to your home country for a week is no holiday, argues Becky Lucas. But there is a knack to it

The Knowledge

Having just celebrated my fourth Dubai birthday (on July 4 – ironically the day I left the West), I’ve racked up a fair few flights back to my native soil over the years. I ‘popped’ home five times in both years two and three, boomeranging back for weddings, big birthdays, christenings and the like. In my first year I went home three times, between hosting visitors keen to witness my shiny new digs.

This year I resolved to restrict the trips back to two: one in summer; one at Christmas and categorically no more. I couldn’t afford it, I always come back shattered, and I wanted to spend my holiday days exploring this part of the world, darn it: Jordan! Iran! Egypt!

If anyone wanted to make me feel guilty for my extended absence, they’d be welcome to spend Dhs3,000 or so on a flight to come and see me over here. I’d even be so kind as to kick out my partner and let them stay in my apartment. As for weddings and christenings, I needed to toughen up and pick the wheat from the chaff – forget uni housemates and only hit the skies for lifelong pals who’d loved me through the ugly years. It was going to be a stand-off: myself versus all of my friends and family back home.

Needless to say, I caved. Five months in my mum asked me to go back for her (not particularly special) birthday and I couldn’t possibly say no. The guilt! This time, however, I was determined not to run myself ragged, darting about like a schizophrenic bluebottle for too many over-priced coffees, dinners and drinks. Of course, it could be worse – I could have no money to pay for trips back. I could have no chums left. Or I could… be a spy, not allowed true friends or an identity (not so far-fetched these days). But, as you no doubt know, attempting to squeeze the past year of your life into an hour-long catch-up is both exhausting and sometimes tedious – that’s if you’ve repeated the same report to your grandparents, cousins and old workmate word-for-word. You want to hear about them, not you!

So, how to avoid homecoming burnout? Don’t fret – I now have some words of wisdom. Keep your trip home on the down-low. Avoid announcing it on Facebook and then offending people when you don’t meet them/feeling hurt when no one gets in touch (even worse). Plan your itinerary before going back, so you’re not pulled in a zillion directions once there. And, if you’re going to set a date, venue and place and throw out an open invitation, be prepared for exhaustion, as you try to lubricate conversation between people whose only connection is you – or rather the old you from four years ago.

That said, it may sound like I don’t enjoy myself when I go home. Are you kidding? My next flight is in four weeks for a friend’s wedding in some secluded highlands. Just don’t tell anyone else back there…

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