Five years and counting

Today, FIVE years ago, we landed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Honestly? I can’t believe we are still here. Not that I want to be somewhere else right now but when I look back at what I was thinking when we first set foot here, it’s unbelievable. We thought our stint would be short, like a year or so but we’re five years now – if we were a fruit tree, our trunk would be big, strong, sturdy and we have bore fruits already!

Five years. That long in a foreign country. Our daughter was three when we came here and now she’s eight years old so it’s official to say that she has spent more time here than her birth country (Japan).

As we turn another year in Dubai, I flip through our photo albums and reminisce the years.

2007: Pristine (3 years old) and me 5 days after we landed in Dubai:

You could see she’s fresh from Japan – still doing that peace/victory sign! I am holding a city guide book here as we explore the neighborhood looking for a nursery school. Pristine had been in daycare since she was 20 months old so she’s not used to spending the day cooped in the four walls of the house.

She was looking for friends!

2008: Taken at a hotel in Abu Dhabi when we visited the neighboring Emirate

Pristine has grown to love the place. We found a school to put her in and while she had to struggle with a new language (she only spoke Japanese when we came here), she learned really fast and became the most sociable girl in school!

2009: A random picture of the two of us, just to show how tall she has become.

2010: Outside the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

2011: The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa on the background.

We have said our goodbyes to some fellow expat friends, most of them spent 3 years here and have declared they are done and want to move on. When we said we’re turning 5 years, they ask, how many years more? Hmmm, truth be told, I don’t know. We have not gotten tired of the desert life, just yet.

As for me, who has lived in Japan as a student and an expat for 10 years, adjustment was hard at first. I had lots of frustrations, disappointments and moments of piss at work, about the law, public transportation, etc – especially if I start to compare Dubai and Japan. But I’ve read somewhere that the first rule of an expat is to leave your culture behind and adopt that of your host country, or at least try to. And I did which made things easier for me.

Not perfect but easier.

So what other reasons made us stick around longer? A follow up post is brewing…


From my archive: My Dubai anniversary posts on our firstsecondthird and fourth year.


If you’re an expat reading this, how many years are you in your host country?


  1. You don’t really need me to delurk, but I’ll comment here! 😉 I know the feeling of thinking you’ll be somewhere else in a year or two… when we got married we thought we’d stay a year, maybe two near my parents and then go teach in Atlanta or Africa or somewhere else… we are going on 7 years this summer and now having bought a house we probably won’t be going anywhere for at least another 2 or 3 years. About the time I get my head back above water with 4 kids! 😉
    But it has been a blessing too as my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s just a year after we’d been here and it’s been good for his morale to have grandbabies nearby. 🙂 Good for me too as this will most likely shorten his lifespan quite a bit and he was only 60 when diagnosed.



    1. Of course no need to delurk! You’re one of my most loyal blog readers who leave comments! Thank you very much.

      Our lives – though we might want to plan most of it, sometimes things never happen the way we want them to be and sometimes, that’s good. I’m excited for you and your family with the arrival of the twins. Was it just yesterday we were talking about you trying for your second?



  2. I can imagine it would be really difficult adjusting to Dubai coming from any developed country…but Japan to UAE, I imagine would be doubly frustrating as Japan seems to be the most progressive country in the world in so many respects (particularly in, say, transportation).



    1. The most frustrating was the systematic everything, especially time. In Japan, trains/buses come on time, to the dot and if not, there will be an announcement and delays are always a big thing.

      We were shocked at how the buses didn’t follow a time schedule when we arrived in Dubai in 2007 (now it is better). My husband was so frustrated we don’t know how long we’ll wait outside, in the heat (we didn’t have a car for the first 10 months). He disliked the uncertainty of things!



  3. hi grace! i also live in dubai; been living here for exactly 8 years (as of last thursday). when i first moved here, i planned on staying for just 2 years…but obviously god had other plans 🙂 and so far, it looks like my family and i are planning to stay in the middle east a bit longer



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