I've been back in the UK for just over a month now. People keep asking me if I prefer living in Dubai or the UK. They're both so very different that it's hard to make comparisons. I'm still making regular trips to Dubai to see my husband and it'll be another 2-3 years before we're back here full time.
It's winter in both countries, sort of like a UK summer in Dubai, but we've had torrential rain, flooding and sand storms over recent weeks.
So far the UK has been cold, very wet and windy and when the wind picks up the temp drops dramatically. A bit of a reverse to a summer in Dubai where the humidex factor adds an additional 10c to the temps. But at least in the UK I can get out and about in between the rain storms and it is lovely to come home to a warm house, unlike Dubai where most of the year it's just hot or hotter and going outdoors in June till September is unbearable with the heat.
In Dubai we drive on the opposite side of the road to the UK. I have no problem switching driving from either country, it's 2nd nature to me now, but I find I still go to get in the wrong side of the car when I'm in the UK and then reach to the left for the seat belt. I drive an automatic in Dubai and usually the rental cars are manuals, occasionally I forget to change gear, but using my right hand to do so is an automatic response.
The roads in the UK are narrower, as are the parking spaces and of course there are fewer lanes on the motorway. I have to remember to stick to my own lane and not undertake, something that is common practice in Dubai and driving too close to the car in front will get me in trouble here in the UK. It also takes longer to switch lanes in the UK.
I can take Bob almost anywhere and it takes ages for us to get anywhere as he's so excited with the new sounds and smells and people are constantly stopping to pet him, which he loves, unlike Dubai where people ask you to make sure your dog doesn't bite them. In Dubai, I would walk Bob then go back out for my shopping and/or coffee. Here I can combine the two, we're out at least 2 hours every day. I still can't let Bob off the lead in public, but in both Dubai and the UK there are dog parks I can visit by car.
Going shopping in the UK stresses me out. Hot inside, cold outside, in and out of shops etc drives me mad. Being approached none stop in the streets to donate to this, that etc is too intrusive, however little difference from Dubai in the malls where you're at constant risk of being sprayed with perfume or an attempt is made to sell you property. In Dubai it's just a case of pick which Mall you want to go to. I do prefer the UK though, wandering around side streets, independent coffee shops and being out in the fresh air.
There were 7 of us living in our old family home in the UK. it's a 6 bed house, my first thought when I got back was 'this is too small, I can't live here, I feel claustrophobic' however having been in the house for a month now, I'm loving the cosiness of it, being able to clean a room and shut the doors. A separate kitchen so the food smells don't fill up the whole house. I've never really felt like I've settled into life abroad, in the back of my mind I know we'll be on the move at anytime soon and it's been hard to settle, but I've always made each house a home. It's also nice to have carpets under my feet again.
Cost of living
This is a difficult one for me to judge as I'm still mainly spending Dirhams and haven't been back in the house long enough to get a fair view of the bills, we're paying all bills in both countries as and when they come in and things like car insurance and the council tax have all been paid up front until I have time to set things up with transferring money etc. AED 100 is approx £21. I find that money seems to stretch further in Dubai than it does in the UK. Coffee out is about the same price, train travel in Dubai is around a £1 a trip.
Where do I prefer to live?
I'd quite like to live in the same country as my husband, cat, dog, kids, grandchild, mothers etc. The reality is we're spread out in the UK quite widely and one child lives in Australia and another in Northern Ireland. I don't have a car at the moment and can actually only get direct public transport to my MIL in Bristol and daughter in Gloucester, every where else requires bus, train, walk.
I've noticed how dirty and messy the UK is, it all looks so tired and old, dark and gloomy.
On the other hand the wild flowers on the side of the roads and the random spring bulbs look so colourful compared to the beigeness of Dubai.
I can't just hail a taxi here in the UK, if I've done too much shopping, it's a 90 min drive to the beach rather than a short car or train trip. The local pool is a 30 minute walk away instead of 2 minutes over the road. Parking costs in the UK are expensive, compared to free in Dubai, there are no drive through coffee shops of ATMs in the UK. I have to fill my own fuel tank, pack my own shopping. I can't valet park at the Doctors. But I can phone people up without worrying about the costs, I've got TV I enjoy watching and friends nearby.