A fellow student interviewed me yesterday as part of my course introduction – and the fact that I live in Dubai wasn’t a defining feature of my profile. In fact it wasn’t even mentioned. I always thought living abroad was a major contributor to my world as it exists now, but on reflection, maybe it isn’t. I think it has definitely shaped the person I have become, but it is becoming very clear: the fact that I live ‘here’ and not ‘there’ is no longer the most important thing in my life. It’s time to face facts: I’ve been gone too many years for it to matter a lot of the time.
I remember coming back after a trip to the UK – maybe the second year we were here – and seeing the city on the way home from the airport and thinking it felt like I was coming home for the first time. I’m not sure I really felt that way, maybe I did – but there have been many days since then I have wept for times lost in the UK and for the absence of anything like a ‘home’. But time moves on. These days I mourn upon leaving either country and miss them both equally when I’m gone, albeit for different reasons. I don’t feel one is any more ‘home’ than the other. In fact, often the UK feels distinctly more foreign to me these days than Dubai. Not just the everyday practicalities of how much a pint (milk or beer) costs, or how to work an Oyster card, or how turn right on a filter lane at traffic lights, but far more subtle things, like humour. It sounds a strange thing to say but you really have to be tuned into a place to get its humour. Dubai is still a small town but there are so many different cultures, and a lot to learn about what people find amusing. It’s taken me a while but I like to think I’m ‘in’ on the jokes these days. On the other hand, not living on our peculiar little island in the North sea, there is a lot of funny that you can forget, or get out of the habit of, if you’re not there to practice.
One thing is for sure though, whether you get the humour or not, you know you’ve been living somewhere waaaay too long when they name a street after you.