I’m sat in my dentist’s waiting room and it occurs to me how stubborn and inflexible I’ve become. You see, I’m not in Dubai, but in the UK – in Bristol, to be precise. And it’s freezing cold: snowy slush is gathering on the window outside, and the old gentleman beside me coughing his guts up. This is supposed to be my holiday.
I moved to the UAE well over a year ago, yet still I cling to aspects of my old life in the UK. And of all the things to cling to, my focal point has been my dentist, a person who seems to take pleasure in scolding me no matter how much brushing, flossing and gargling I’ve done in the past six months – and then charges me for the privilege. Why he’s deserving of such loyalty is beyond me. Surely there is an equally expensive Dubai version.
In my defence, he’s not the only one. There’s good old Aldo, my diminutive Italian barber on the corner of Regent Street, who’s been reminding me of his fondness of Portuguese cold soup for well over ten years. He’s never done a particularly good job, and at least in his case I’ve found a Dubai ‘replacement’ (alas, six months without a haircut is too long to wait), but there’s comfort to be found in a familiar face, in that faulty hairdresser’s chair and prices that haven’t risen in a decade. And yes, I realise I’m starting to sound old.
As soon as I book a holiday back to the UK, I get to work making appointments and planning what little time I have at ‘home’. I’d be a fool not to use the opportunity to add a full-body MOT while I’m there. Dentist: check. Haircut: check. Maybe a whip round the old shops for a new wardrobe – clothes are that much cheaper now that the dirham has strengthened and the UK economy remains at a standstill. If only I’d kept my gym membership, I could end the day with a few laps of the pool and a jog on my preferred treadmill.
But isn’t it time to move on? If you’ve relocated to a new country, at what point do you let go of your old life and embrace the new one? Or is the ‘problem’ that the majority of expats in Dubai don’t see their stay as long-term? After all, everyone’s always saying it’s a transient place. People come and go all the time. But is that really how I want to live my life?
I should resolve to look forward, not backward, and the first step in fully acknowledging Dubai as home will be to find a new dentist.
And yet here I am – again – sat in the same old waiting room, the chap next to me still coughing, the sleet still gathering outside. When the receptionist asks when I’d next like an appointment, I have to pause. Eventually the answer comes. ‘In another six months, I should think.’