Burj Khalifa visitor
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

When I read about an 82-year old British expat living in Abu Dhabi and not wanting to go home, I smiled as many expats feel the same.

Economic migrants are the chaps that have left their home countries for better opportunities, a good quality of life and free time to enjoy the nicer things the world has to offer, and when they achieve all that, why would anybody want to go back again?

The UAE is one of the 10 listed countries that expats wish to live and work and maybe retire in.

The report in Gulf News said the octogenarian who lived as an expat for 50 years, has a caregiver now to look after him. “I have many friends here. I am happy here,” he says.

(Incidentally, during my long stint in Dubai, I made two friends, exactly, and a couple of enemies).

When I first landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I congratulated myself, “Wow, from riding a crowded, sweaty bus to flying high in a Boeing. You have made it, kid.”

(Incidentally, the airline then offered free beverages and free peanuts. Those were the good old days. Now I pack chocolate bars and Pringles in my carry-on baggage, download movies on my iPad and take my own neck pillow as the airlines are barely able to keep afloat).

Expats (mostly white-collar Western expats) did not consider Saudi Arabia among the best countries to live in and work. Ditto with Greece and Kuwait, according to the website, Expat Insider. The list was based on various indexes such as Quality of Life or Family Life.

Saudi Arabia was thought of as a ‘hardship posting’ because there were no leisure facilities and activities; it was all just work, making Jack a dull and dangerously depressed guy away from home.

Times are changing

There were also no malls in the kingdom earlier. (There was also no internet or smartphones, but that is another story).

However I loved the Jeddah beach and the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea where I went scuba-diving and watched the colourful coral and sea-life, very near to the shore. (This was of course, much before the beaches were taken over by international hotels and turned into moneymaking strips of sand).

I believe things are changing fast in Saudi Arabia, and expats who suffered Walt Disney cartoons on the local TV channels, now have tonnes of entertainment, including movie theatres and wrestling shows.

According to expats, Greece is thought as not doing too well because of its low Personal Finance Index and Kuwait because of the non-existent Happiness Index and the low Ease of Settling in Index.

No Indian city is listed in the most favoured expat destinations, not even Bengaluru, though there are many Canadian, American and Brit expats working here in this IT and education hub.

According to Conde Nast, Singapore is on the top of the list, because of its friendly people, good schools and the ease of settling in.

Gulf News asked other expats on UAE’s National Day what they like about the country and the response was ‘tolerance’, ‘safety’ and ‘economic and social independence’.

But one sad thing for expats is that they cannot live permanently in any of the Arab Gulf States after their working life is over.

Change is however, coming slowly and some states are thinking of offering citizenship to certain expatriates and then one may not have to think about going back to the previous life ever again.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.