We moved to the UK in June 2021. Originally from the UK, we left in January 2011, 11 years ago for 4 years in South Africa and 7 years in Dubai.
We kept our house in the UK and rented it out, recovering it from tenants in December 2019. In 2016 we bought a flat in South Wales for somewhere to stay when we visited and I started spending more time in the UK, as the kids left home and school.
Covid caused us to change our plans for our move to the UK. The plan had been for me to travel back and forth to Dubai or joining Peter on his travels, to have house/pet sitters until 2023. I relocated the cat and dog here in January 2020, made my first trip to Dubai in March 2020, then had a swift return to the UK as covid broke and borders closed.
By the time Peter visited the UK in September 2020, we made the decision to leave in June 2021 and for Peter to retire, 2 years early.
Although we've returned to the same house we lived in before starting our expat journey, it is without kids, we have new neighbours, making new friends and keeping in touch with old ones. We can now spend more time with the ever growing family.
We haven't just moved back though, in many ways we've relocated, moved to a country that has changed in regards to the way things are done and whilst we've bought property, been landlords, kept UK sims, kept bank accounts, paid bills etc, the way in which things are done now are very different.
Also we've been used to doing things the Dubai way. From customer service, to buying and selling things as well us setting up utilities, paying bills. It's all done very differently. In Dubai, everything is paid up front, from house rent, buying a car, insurances, deposits for utilities and everything is linked to an ID card.
Whilst we've been abroad we've continued to pay for everything up front in the UK, now we are back all the companies want us to have everything on direct debit. It's been easy to set things up as we've maintained a credit history and bank accounts here, plus we haven't required a visa to move here and have been able to buy a sim card in a local shop and not have to register it.
Here are some other things we find are different:
The UK is mostly self service, you pay for bags and no one packs them for you like they do in South Africa and Dubai.
The internet is consistent and you can make video calls freely through apps. Video calls were blocked in Dubai and internet was slow and limited in South Africa.
The TV freeview channels are great in the UK but it is expensive to watch the sport and movies. They were free on the basic TV package in Dubai. But British TV is driving me mad. The shows commissioned are very good for dramas and I do enjoy the soaps and quiz shows, however the amount of reality shows and shows with ordinary folk and minor celebs cooking, sewing, making pots, singing, dancing etc are driving me up the wall. Its lazy TV same format just a different topic.
It is safer to drive on the roads in the UK, using your phone is illegal, seat belts are worn, no tail gating like you had in Dubai. Night time driving in Dubai was safer with everywhere lit up. In South Africa there was always the fear of being hijacked and driving at night was dangerous, mainly due to pot holes and animals wandering. Mind you I did a lot of damage to my car in the UK last year, when I hit a badger late at night. Car parking spaces are bigger in Dubai. South Africa had car guards who helped you park.
The weather is better in South Africa, not too hot, not too wet and not too cold. Dubai is too hot half the year and the UK is well...... you know.
Houses in Dubai are more expensive, houses in South Africa give you more for your money in terms of space but you have to pay for security. Houses in the UK are insulated, have small rooms, but easy to heat in the winter.
The post works in the UK and is delivered through your door. In Dubai you had to have a PO Box Number as there was no street delivery and in South Africa you'd be lucky if it didn't get stolen.
I don't have a preference in regards to where I live, although I did prefer South Africa to Dubai in regards to lifestyle and the weather. I'm just happy to be in one place for as long as we choose to be, our own home, no company in charge of visas, no flights to visit family (other than a son in Northern Ireland and one in Australia).
We said once we returned to the UK, we'd decide if we were to stay in our family home or move somewhere else near by. We're having a new kitchen fitted and have plans for an extension in the spring as well as starting decorating. I don't see us moving for a good few years, if at all, as long as we can both manage the stairs as we get older.