I hear so much negativity about repatriation, I can't help but think we've done it wrong and we're still waiting for the negativity to kick in or because it's different for us as we always planned to return to the UK when my husband retired.
Becoming expats was never our plan either and at the time of leaving the UK, my husband had 25 years service with the company so we weren't going on on contracts that could come to an abrupt end.
When we left the UK in January 2011 and headed off to South Africa, we honestly thought it was going to be for the inevitable future, but after 4 years, it was not to be with the government refusing to extend our visas, so not ready to move back to the UK, we went to Dubai, where I never thought we'd end up living for 6 years.
Our move to SA was based on a load of lies. Work for Peter wasn't too bad, other than dealing with different cultures and ways of working and pressure from abroad to work the same way as other countries did. If you've ever lived in SA you'll know that things are done very differently to back home. In fact EVERYTHING is done very differently to back home and it took me up to 18 months to settle in fully, after giving up the battle to be allowed to work or even study and I threw myself head first into volunteering and exploring such a wonderful country, with day trips and weekends away camping. We were adopted by a cat and adopted a dog.
Like our move to SA which was a huge adventure, we were only given 3 months notice to leave and after the rug was literally pulled from under our feet and we departed for Dubai, I never dreamt we'd be there for 6 years. I just envisioned we'd be moving on again soon, so I never put down any routes and although I was able to work, my return to teaching lasted only 18 months, I quit my job and was due to start another teaching post when my father died suddenly and I had to turn the job down in order to help my mother get her life sorted so I could return to Dubai to rejoin Peter.
In SA I was only in the UK for 2-3 weeks, once or twice a year. Then my father had a heart attack and we had dodgy tenants that took me 4 months to evict through the courts, so in 2016 we decided to purchase a flat in Wales to give us somewhere to stay for longer visits and for the youngest child to live in while he was applying for jobs after leaving school, for another to stay in on his visit back from his home in Australia and for our other son and his wife to stay when they visited the mainland from Northern Ireland.
I started to spend more time in the flat and just before covid hit, we'd already decided to get our house back from the current tenants and move the cat and dog to the UK, get house sitters and for me to travel back and forth to Dubai to see Peter whilst he finished his career over the next 2-3 years.
Having been locked out of Dubai for 4 months, we decided to bring his retirement forward to May 2021 and I spent lockdown getting the house ready for our permanent return and on a trip to Dubai in September 2020, we had most of the furniture and our belongings shipped, followed by the rest in May this year. This involved my son coming over to collect the dog for 2 months so I could return to Dubai, which turned into 3 months as Dubai was put onto the red list and there were no flights out. After an expensive and painful mandatory hotel quarantine in the UK, we were finally home, just to go to Belfast to collect the dog and unpack the rest of our belongings that arrived in July.
We're now settled back in the UK, unpacked and put away. We have a new kitchen and shed to look forward to and we're having an extension built at the back of the house to give us more downstairs space for when the family come to visit.
I only hear/read about the negatives of repatriation online and I can't be the only person who has planned our return and is happy to be back, can I?