BC Expat kids leaving UAE
What I miss most about leaving Dubai Image Credit: Image composition: Melany Demetillo-Reyes/ Shutterstock

After nine years living in the UAE desert, my emotions have been all over the place since my family and I arrived back on home soil in the UK. One minute I’m wailing into my coffee after catching sight of my much-loved beach bag in the back of the wardrobe - and the next, my heart is singing as I watch the children cuddle into their grandparents’ arms to listen to a story.

It’s been a crazy, wonderful, difficult, beautiful, tear-filled journey, but here’s what I'm missing most about the UAE...

Expat friends are the best

It isn’t the big, flashy events that I miss. It isn’t the parties on yachts or the brunches with camel riding and live singers crooning away in the corner. No, I don’t miss any of that. I just miss strolling into my friend’s kitchen and hearing her coffee machine whirr into action. I miss hearing our children rush around together, so close that they could be cousins. I miss hearing every little detail of what has happened in their lives, as our babies crawl at our feet. It seems surreal that I stepped out of their lives when we boarded that flight home. Not having these friends a short drive away has been the single hardest thing about our move home.

I actually miss the heat

When I was a Dubai expat, I missed wrapping up warm every winter. Even the thought of frosty mornings and snow-heavy clouds were enough to prompt a serious dose of homesickness - so it’s ironic that now the tables have turned, I would do anything for the chance to warm up on a Dubai beach. I had forgotten quite how cruel cold mornings could be; from mustering up the strength to climb out of a warm duvet, to the feeling of numb toes as you stroll across the kitchen floor to flick on the kettle, to the torture of stepping out of a warm shower and drying your skin in sub-zero temperatures. Slippers are, quite literally, the new flip-flops.

The UAE's amazing culture

I once had an argument with a tourist at a wedding in Dubai, because he announced to our entire table that Dubai had no culture. I told him to head to the Creek and jump on an abra. I told him to haggle in the spice souk. I told him to head to a camel race and soak up the atmosphere. I told him to drive to any street in Jumeirah and wait for the call to prayer. I told him to head into the desert at sunset and stand there in the dunes as the sun dipped below the horizon. And all these years later, I’m glad I stood up for Dubai that day - as these things are amongst the most precious memories I have of that city I called home. In fact, a few weeks ago, I heard some Arabic music in a kid’s cartoon - and my eyes pricked with tears.

Having a helper is more than just a privilege

It’s a huge cliché for a newly repatriated mum to say she misses ‘the home help’ - but for me, it isn’t just about missing having somebody around to clean up after my feral kids or do the laundry. She was part of the family - and I miss her, rather than her first-rate cleaning and childcare skills. Thinking about the way her face lit up when she saw the kids in the morning, or the way she kissed the baby and told her she loved her, or the way she sent me endless messages when we were away asking for photos as she missed them all so much kind of breaks my heart now. We keep in touch, but it obviously isn’t the same - and I feel strangely jealous of the family she has joined (as lovely as they probably are).

There's nowhere quite like it

Nobody needs to phone the coffee shop downstairs and get a skinny latte delivered to their door - but when you have a newborn baby and haven’t even managed to get dressed for three days, it is pretty helpful. And the same goes for when you realise you’ve run out of nappies and have had to fashion something for the baby from an old muslin until the shop down the road delivers a pack. Or when your husband gets home from work and looks in the fridge, before promptly declaring it is the perfect night for a home delivery. And yes - as shallow as it all sounds, I miss all that. I now live in a sleepy village and when I rang the local Chinese takeaway to ask if they did home delivery, they laughed at me. Keep me in your thoughts, readers. It’s hard out here in the real world.

Louise Emma Clarke is author of the books 'From Mum with Love' and 'Mum's Big Break' who writes about life with her three young children on her blog Mum of Boys and Mabel.