The things I never thought I’d miss

When I moved to Dubai there are things from home that I presumed I’d miss, but the things that ended up being my ‘home comforts’ managed to surprise me! Of course I miss my friends and family, so I’ve left that one out, but things like Irn Bru and bacon are readily available, despite what everyone thinks. Dubai being Dubai, there are not many things you can’t buy, so it goes without saying that most of the things I miss are not materialistic. Here are the five things I’ve decided I miss most about life in the city I’m so lucky to call home:

Walking through town 

Walking around, firstly, is a novelty in itself. You can barely get anywhere in Dubai without some type of transport. I miss going into town. I love seeing the buskers on the street, and that person that’s been drinking for five days straight dancing beside them (badly). I love hearing somebody playing the bagpipes and have started to appreciate guys in kilts! I love walking up Buchanan Street, no matter how busy it is, and I love going to Primark and buying everything. I love being able to stop off somewhere for a glass of wine without thinking about it and, even better, being able to sit outside on the odd day it’s not pissing rain. We really do live in a beautiful city and it’s sad that I had to move away to realise that.

The people

I don’t mean my friends and family, I mean the actual people of Glasgow. I know everyone probably feels the same about the people of their home city but there really is something about us, and I mean that in the best possible way. As soon as I get off the plane I get an overwhelming sense of being home – the friendliness and general courtesy of people at home never fails to amaze me. I don’t know if I’m being biased, I probably am, but I don’t think you will ever, ever beat our banter. Any time I hear a Scottish accent in Dubai I still feel excited and instantly want to be friends with that person, mostly because I’m guaranteed they’ll understand me. As someone told me recently, Scottish patter is like an inside joke that 5,000,000 people just happen to be in on. Too true. 

Chip shops

So initially this was the first on my list, I don’t know what that says about me but I was advised that it probably shouldn’t have been the first thing on my mind…

Like, not just any chip shops, think Blue Lagoon on Sauchiehall street at 3am. There is something so Glasgow/Scottish about unhealthy eating and I love it! As soon as I get off the plane, the only thing I want is a chippy. Forget mum’s homemade dinners (and to be fair, anyone who knows my mum’s cooking will know that I would rather never eat again than something she’s made from scratch, sorry mum but it’s true!) You will never come close to it anywhere else in the world and, like I found out recently, we’re the only place that put pickles on the side – I’m sorry, but people everywhere else haven’t lived! Square sausages and potato scones do come in close second and third, but I think I’d find them in Dubai if I searched hard enough. 

Cheap alcohol and being able to afford all day sessions 

You can pay roughly anything between £8 and £10 for a drink in Dubai and forget a bottle of wine for less than £40 when you’re out for dinner so, yeah, enough said. Tax free salaries are great they said…if you don’t drink!

Grass, trees and fresh air 
This is the strangest one but one of the truest! The desert is so dry, and while picturesque, it’s not quite the same as fields and hills covered in green. Of course there are grass and trees in Dubai but you have to go searching and they are so obviously designed and unnatural. I love landing in Glasgow among fields and coming home in autumn when the leaves actually fall off the trees and turn brown. Living in the desert obviously means dry, hot air so I miss opening my bedroom window rather than turning on the AC, which is never the right temperature and gives me a sore throat! Don’t get me wrong, I am the first to complain about the Glasgow weather but, just like we all complain about the heat on holiday, we’re never going to be happy.

There are many other things I miss, too many to mention, but these are the ones that took me by surprise and the ones that I urge everyone who still lives in Glasgow to never take for granted.

To leave or not to leave…that is the (constant) question…

I am lucky enough to have lived and known life in another country, another culture and another continent. I am lucky enough to have successfully climbed the career ladder and built a life in the sun. Everyone who knows me thinks I’m lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m lucky; I KNOW I am lucky…but the luckier I am, the harder the decision to give it all up becomes.

I will have to give it all up one day. Dubai is a bubble that is waiting to burst. For some people that happens within a year or two, for others it takes a decade. I feel like my Dubai life is like a fast-flowing river and I’ve taken it upon myself to build a dam that is protecting it from overflowing back to reality. Leaving is going to be hard.

Every year goes something like this:

1. I’ll not think about it until Christmas

2. I think about it until Christmas

3. Christmas at home is fun, but nothing has changed and it is cold 

4. I return to the sun and fall back in love with Dubai

5. The time comes when I need to decide if I’m staying or leaving so I stop thinking about it

6. It is too late to leave so I sign up to another year…

7. Repeat

I don’t know if I actually want to leave Dubai or if I consider it every year because I thinks it’s strange that I don’t want to. I don’t want to leave prematurely, yet I don’t want to spend my last year wishing I was home (or somewhere else…) I’ve weighed up the pros and cons a thousand times and Dubai wins – for now. 

Where would I go next? Would I survive without the sun and the tax free salary? Would I regret it? Will I adapt back to life in Glasgow? My head hurts even thinking about it!

I am at stage number 1 of the cycle right now, and I am anticipating the next 6 until this time next year when, no doubt, it will all start again.

A ‘lifetime’ of friendships and what I’ve learned about their worth…

“Everyone has a friend during every stage of their life, but only lucky ones have the same friend in all stages of life…”Author: Unknown. Verdict: Absolutely False.

I will readily admit that I love a good quote, who doesn’t? No matter what happens in life I can always find a quotation, from one source or another, to relate to. Sometimes it’s a song, or I’ve even turned to Disney! They, at least, make me feel like I might just come out the other side of a shit situation or, at best, help me realise that the ‘tough’ time I’m going through isn’t that bad at all.

I have seen the quote above shared on social media several times. I completely understand that it is ‘true’ for some people; although for those of us who have boarded a plane for life abroad, or for one reason or another had the exciting opportunity to establish a new group of ‘girls,’ then it rings untrue on so many levels. I feel extremely lucky, more than lucky, to have friends all over the world – some I have known for my lifetime, some I have known for years and some only months. They are all as valuable and as irreplaceable as each other. Why do only people that have the same friend at all stages of their life get to be lucky? Here is my evidence to prove that, on this charge, the verdict is absolutely false. Here are the four types of friends that you need in your life and, if you have at least one in each category, the four reasons why you should consider yourself lucky.

The ones that have been around as long as you can remember

This is the obvious place to begin. However, are these friends the most valuable? The answer, like all of the friends I will mention, is yes, sometimes… 

They are sometimes sisters, or often as good as. They are the ones that know your elderly grandparents as well as you do. They are the ones that give you a second home, a second set of parents and a second fridge to raid. They are invited to all family events, sometimes before you! They are the ones you need when your family pet passes away. They know your love-life better than you and will forever remind you of ‘that one time…’
These friends keep you grounded, keep you connected to your roots, and ensure you always find your way back ‘home,’ no matter how many thousands of miles away you are.

The ones you work with

Now, I’m going to use the term ‘professional’ lightly. If you met my friends in this category, you would know why (you know who you are, clan!)

This stage of my life has been curve ball after curve ball. From the moment I ventured on my teaching career I have seen too many changes. Every year, so far, I have faced decisions about new roles, promotions and school changes. There is nobody I need more in these situations than my colleague friends. I love my ‘friends that have been around for as long as I can remember,’ but bless them, they wouldn’t have a clue! 

You don’t just need them because they understand the jargon; they understand you professionally. They both know, and want, what is best for your career. They are the ones that support your professional goals. They know all about the internal politics of your profession and what is going on in your head from 9-5 (or 7-5 if you have the pleasure of teaching in Dubai!)

These are the friends that allow you to see snippets of their life, the ones you get to share all the gossip with because they don’t know any of your other friends and the ones that you spend most time with. They are, ultimately, the ones that help you through the day to day rockiness of life, in more ways than one.  

The ones that show up for a while 

This is a funny one. Do all of these friends have an impact on your life? I don’t know for sure, although I do know that these types of friends have taught me more lessons than some boys about the joys of relationships! 

I have seen so many ‘friendships’ that fizzled out after a short time, mainly due to the temporary nature of Dubai, but also some that were around from as long as I can remember and, I thought, were going to be around forever. You need these friends, not physically, but to have lived and learned…

Not all of these friendships turn toxic. You just grow apart and, when a ‘stage’ of your life is over, they are no longer a part of it. You were, however, still lucky to have known them. They may be the people you partied with at university, or the old lady that worked beside you on your weekend job helping you through the hangover. They are the ones that we allow into our lives, sometimes completely and sometimes selectively, for just a ‘stage’ but not forever. For the ones that do end badly; they are the ones that teach us about the friend we never want to be. The ones that we will compare our amazing friends to. 

Despite all of this, or how your friendship came to end, they are the friends that you still think of fondly because, at some point or another, they were a huge part of your life. 

The ones that turn up unexpectedly 

This one is my favourite, simply because I have so many! I cannot begin to explain the amount of times that I am confident my luck in finding lasting friendships is over and then, out of the blue, someone new shows up. They may be people you meet through other friends or people you share hobbies with. Personally, these people show up in my life because I get to work with new people every year. These friends always start as colleagues, some then fall into the ‘show up for a while’ category, but there are always one or two that slip through the net and straight into my heart as a friend for life.

They are the ones that are your ‘here and now.’ They know your life as it is at this moment. While they may not have ever met your grandparents or been to a family celebration, they are the people you need at that time, for whatever reason, and in that given time, end up proving they are worth keeping. These ones win your heart in a very short space of time; they don’t have a lifetime to prove their worth, maybe only a few months or years, but if they do it, they do it right! They also turn up later in life, when you’ve done your living and learning, and know exactly what you want in a friendship. These friends will one day be friends ‘for as long as you can remember,’ albeit when you are old and senile and lucky to remember your own name!

Yes, having the same friend at every stage of your life is cool, but making new friends at every stage is just as fun too! If you have any friend that you know will be around forever then count yourself lucky, no matter how, why, where or when they showed up.

No job? No prob! Four reasons to embrace unemployment and move to another country…

dubaiPeople who know me well will know that my overall time at university was extremely bitter sweet. A few years of ultimate highs, followed by a period of lows and, eventually, success. Five years, a few tears (and plenty of beers) later I found myself graduating with an honours degree in primary education and ready to embark upon a lifelong career of teaching.

In 2011 I was a fun-loving twenty-two year old with my whole life ahead of me. The number of cities that I had resided in throughout my entire life equated to only one – Glasgow, or home as I call it, to be more precise – and I had zero intentions of leaving, ever. Why would I? My family were there, my friends were there and I was happy. At this point in my life the craziest thing I’d ever done was tick a box entitled ‘preference waiver’ for my Newly Qualified Teacher induction year and ended up working in a lovely little school only thirty miles from my front door – This was no more than an inch outside my comfort zone, however less then a year later I would find myself another 4825 miles away from the safety net of home.

Now I go to bed most evenings begging two questions – how have I ended up living 4855 miles away? And why am I still here, four years later, with the sand of the Middle East holding a very special place in my heart?

I learned very quickly that teaching jobs in Scotland were few and far between. Every job advertisement was either temporary or part-time and the idea of a permanent job anywhere in Glasgow was merely wishful thinking. I don’t really remember making the decision to apply for jobs abroad – it was obviously an option I explored on a whim, somewhere between reading interview rejection emails and applying for supply work in every council within 30 miles of Glasgow. I do, however, remember the day I was offered a job in Dubai, only a couple of hours after a 7am phone interview. After quickly locating it on a world map, googling some general information and talking to relevant people, I had accepted the job within 24 hours. I had only eight weeks to pack my life into a 30kg suitcase and begin an adventure that would eventually become the greatest of my life.

So, here are my four reasons to embrace a challenge and move to another country:

Change Your Five People

Jim Rohn once maintained that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Whether you agree with him or not, and I am not sure I do, we cannot deny that the people around us have a heavy influence on our lives, sometimes good and sometimes bad – if those five people don’t change then neither will you.

Move away and become the average of five new people. Don’t replace your old five, but turn your five people into ten. My five people at home are the best in the world, but we all grew up in Glasgow, went to the same school or university, visited the same places, support the same football team, know the same people…

Having friends and colleagues from different countries, of different religions, various ages and diverse backgrounds has opened my mind beyond explanation and made me almost ashamed of how ignorant I was before.

Fall in Love with Something New

Unfortunately, some opportunities are limited to climate. You will never develop a love of surfing or dune bashing in Glasgow or have the chance to ride a camel through the desert in America. It doesn’t have to be a hobby. For me, it was traveling.

Having never left Europe, Dubai presented a world of opportunity when it came to the rest of the world. The number of cities you can get to in under eight hours is crazy! So far I’ve managed to get to Thailand, Vietnam, India, Singapore, Armenia, Australia, Indonesia, as well as inter-railing for three weeks around Europe.

Move away and give yourself the chance to fall in love with something new.

Appreciate Home

I have never been so in love with home, or the people that live there, as I am now. As soon as I land in Glasgow airport and I hear an all so familiar ‘awrite pal’ or ‘aye nae bother’ I get the overwhelming emotional feeling of being well and truly home.

I walk to the shops when before I would take the car. I appreciate the architecture as I walk through the city centre. I enjoy putting on layers of clothes for the winter December days and being wrapped in a blanket on cold evenings when it is pitch black outside. I happily share clothes with my sister and actually talk to my brother when I bump into him in a nightclub. I choose to go for lunch with my mum over going for a few drinks with friends.

Move away and learn to truly appreciate the little things, even the ones that once annoyed you.

Don’t Find Yourself Asking ‘What if…?’

Don’t give yourself the chance to regret not moving away. Throughout my first year in Dubai, when I was faced with many ups and downs, I thought about going home. I was lucky enough to have quickly met the most amazing group of friends and never felt the need to re-pack my suitcase and head back to Glasgow, however, I could have easily done it. Don’t ask yourself why you should move away, ask yourself why you shouldn’t.

I promise it is worth taking the chance, and you never know, you may just like it enough to stay four years and counting…