I don’t know how many times I’ve apologized for the lack of updates on this blog so I’m not going to do it now because I can’t promise to be consistent in writing with all the things currently going on in my life. But if you are reading this, thank you for still being here.
If you have followed me on social media, you may have come across posts where I mentioned that we have left Dubai, our home for the past 10 years and 11 months. To many, it was a sudden move, a surprising decision even, especially when I said we’re moving back to Japan – it’s shocking to some people who has heard me say I will try hard not to live in Japan again, after we left in 2007. (But that is another blog post to write)
I struggled for the time to be able to sit down to write this post and even thought of just closing down this blog and quit writing. But who am I kidding? I don’t know if I’ll ever lose my love for writing. Sentences have already formed n my head even before our flight out of Dubai took off and I couldn’t wait to be able to open my laptop and write away these thoughts.
Also, when you have followers on social media and readers on your blog, you feel some kind of social responsibility to be transparent, to share the goings on in your life, especially they have followed you from the start. And I really wanted to write this post to collectively tell our story for those reading this and for myself, as a reminder years from now why we made this big move.
There is not one single reason why we left Dubai. It is a mix of so many reasons that snowballed into the major but necessary decision to pack up and leave.
Reason #1: my work
“Life’s too short to do the things you don’t love doing.”
Somehow, this quote had been crossing my mind so often I wake up in cold sweat in the middle of the night.
It wasn’t always like that. I am grateful to be given the chance to work in Dubai in my previous company with so many wonderful people who became not just my work colleagues, but my friends. My day job allowed me and my family to live in Dubai comfortably and indulge in life’s little pleasures like traveling outside of the UAE.
However, after many years, the stuff I do for a living has brought more stress than happiness no matter how I tell myself ,”get over it, this too shall pass”. Day in, day out, getting on the train, running to catch the time, sweating profusely during the grueling hot months (more than half of the year?!), sitting down from 8 am to 6 pm on mechanical mode going through papers and papers, putting in over time some of the time but feeling unappreciated, etc. And then repeat again till the last work day of the week. Lately, the theme of my life had been #WaitingForWeekends.
When you reach the point where you dread when the weekend ends and the work week begins, you know life has become stressful and unhealthy. When sometimes you find yourself half-assing your work, unconsciously, you know you need to put an end to it.
I know that sounds like a selfish thing. And there are bills to pay. Believe me, I have battled voices in my head saying, “you should be grateful you have a job!” or “the pay is good, the work is not difficult, why leave?” or “why don’t you just get up, show up, sit for 8 hours and wait for the paycheck?” and then on the other side, so many voices of reasons that would sum up:
“Are you sure you want to do the same thing everyday for the next ten years?”
And the answer to that was NO.
I guess when you work in a place that long, (10 years and 11 months for me in the same company), you would want some sort of change. I’ve asked for it but that change didn’t come and I didn’t see it coming at all. Doing something over and over again that long is not sustainable, at least for me. I feel my feelings weren’t normal because in my previous company, people have worked for 10, 20 or even 30 years. No one ever leaves (almost) that people didn’t believe I resigned and started to speculate and spread rumors that I was terminated. When I said I submitted my resignation paper last November 2017, there wasn’t a single soul who didn’t think I was joking. “Why would you?”
There’s also the lingering matter of my age. I’m 41 and it came to the critical point where IF I have to change jobs, I have to quit the current one NOW otherwise stay there till I retire. There was no change in the horizon with the current one and no, I don’t want to do the same thing I was doing day in and day out for the next 3,650 days of my life.
“So if you didn’t like your job, why didn’t you apply for other jobs, in Dubai?”
We move on to reason #2.
Reason #2: the kids
There are several reasons worthy enough of a separate blog post that could be controversial to other families raising their kids in Dubai. Dubai is still a great place for families for many, however, PERSONALLY, I feel it wasn’t the best place for us anymore. The lifestyle didn’t fit what we wanted for our family.
I have a child who is transitioning into adulthood. She is 14, and while very open minded and sensible, I feel that living in Dubai as she transitions into this very important phase in life will not ready her or arm her with important life skills she needs and resilience when life is not so convenient and comfortable anymore in the outside world.
The other child is six years old and always happier when taken outdoors, not just for a period of time (cooler months in Dubai) but everyday.
Reason #3: the husband’s job instability
Background: we moved to Dubai because of my work; he was the trailing spouse.
To his credit, he really tried. He has come a long way from someone who didn’t know how to speak or write proper English sentences to someone who can negotiate business affairs using a language foreign to him. He is Japanese and only speaks Japanese language with me from the start. And in Japan where we previously lived, there is no need to use English.
In the past years when his job doesn’t work out due to various unfortunate reasons like salary was too low to compensate for the long hours, company downsizing, etc, he managed to get another and then another. He even worked in Saudi Arabia for a year while the kids and I remained in Dubai in 2016.
We decided, ENOUGH.
Now that we are in Japan, he can find something that would suit him better here. It’s his home country after all and as for me – I can manage to fit in, as I did for 10 years I was here before moving to Dubai. I can find something here should I decide to work (I have worked here for 5 years after graduation before).
Reason #4: there’s no forever in Dubai
Dubai is a transient place. More than 80% of the population are expats from 200 different countries…who will ultimately leave one day, it’s just a question of WHEN. It’s actually scary when you really think about it.
Why? The UAE doesn’t offer permanent residency – visas are tied with your job that if you lose it, you only have 30 days to either find a new one or exit the country, no citizenship offered as well.
It’s a temporary place where people come to earn and/or save.
I liken living in Dubai as part of the story of the Japanese folk tale of Urashima Taro – a fisherman who gets to visit a beautiful kingdom under the sea as a reward for rescuing a tortoise. The kingdom under the sea is like paradise and Urashima Taro lingered on, enjoying every moment, forgetting about the outside world. When he came up and went back to land, he was shocked to find out so many years have passed since the last time he was there.
Most expats in Dubai, us included, arrived thinking they’ll stay “just for a couple of years” but then the lifestyle is too comfortable, convenient and appealing, the malls so big, bright and shiny LOL, and we all end up making Dubai our semi-permanent home and before we know it, we’ve been living in this glorious city for years and decades.
And leaving gets harder and harder the longer you live in Dubai.
It’s a transient place and we’re all waiting for that “snap” that could be in the form of: you or your spouse losing your jobs and can’t find one before the 30 days grace period ends, you or your spouse’s company closes down and can’t find another company to sponsor your visa before the 30 days grace period ends, Dubai’s economy all together snaps and you become redundant or worst case scenario, war erupts in the Middle East (the UAE is peaceful right now and I think it will be for the next years…but then again, there’s no guarantee?)
So what if the “snap” happens tomorrow and we have no savings or when we’re 50? Where will we go? Will there be any companies to accept us back home or somewhere else?
We felt it is time to settle and build a permanent home.
WHY THE MOVE TO…JAPAN?
We are all Japan passport holders, my husband is from here and we have family here (his side, our children’s grandparents who are so delighted with our move). Japan will always be that place we can base ourselves the easiest, move with least effort, financially, logistically. Here, we are eligible for social insurance and school for the kids is free.
Also, we feel it’s time for our children to get to know the culture and heritage that’s part of who they are.
Are we staying here for good? I don’t know about the “for good” part but “for now”, yes.
No matter how comfortable and almost perfect life is in Dubai, we are only there on borrowed time. With the visa, we are given the privilege to stay in Dubai/UAE. In Japan, we have the right to stay as long as we can.
One interesting thing about this move – much like when people in Dubai asked me why we left Japan, people here in Japan are asking me why we left Dubai – a seemingly modern day Utopia where everything is convenient; even the heat is a mild matter as we live in temperature controlled houses and sleep with our comforters even when it’s nearing 50C outside.
The grass is always greener on the other side, eh?
January 13th 2018 (that’s today in my time zone) would have been our 11 years anniversary in Dubai but we’re no longer there. I wanted to start the new year fresh and new so I chose to leave before 2017 ended. Honestly, I thought I’d write a really sappy post how I missed life in Dubai but not right now. I actually didn’t have time to grieve over leaving the city we called home for nearly 11 years. I was so busy with so many things like patching things at work before my exit, selling/giving away/disposing things at home and preparing to leave for the Philippines last month for my sister’s wedding. (Had several incidents even before we landed in Manila with Benjamin suddenly getting sick on the plane and we had to call emergency when we landed and then the airline losing 2 of my checked in luggage and typhoon Vinta got our flights to my hometown cancelled …who has time to be sappy about Dubai?)
And then this move to Japan.
I might eventually get nostalgic and write the sappy post someday but not today. I’m busy looking forward to the challenges we’ll all face. The kids’ attending Japanese school, me looking for a job (or deciding to stay at home!), looking for a permanent house etc.
Oh, and the harsh winter. I am more bothered of the cold, cold temp inside the house this winter to be grieving about the past.
I do have a passing thought and probably an advice to you expats thinking about leaving Dubai: don’t leave when Dubai is at its most gorgeous in the “winter” months, especially if you’re destination is the real winter world. You’ll miss and long for Dubai’s glorious sunshines in December.
Leave during the summer when you’re cursing your way out of the airport and happily looking forward to your normal world destination where you can stand outside without your arm pits transforming into waterfalls of sweat and you can breathe without being choked by 95% humidity.
Oh and one last thing keeping me from grieving?
Thank you for this very open, honest post. You do not owe anyone any explanation about leaving Dubai and moving back to Japan but you brought up some very stark reality-check issues which, if anyone’s honest, a lot of people have not really contemplated. Either they are too busy enjoying life in Dubai or they are in complete denial about what can actually happen should they come face to face with these possible reasons to leave Dubai.
I have been quietly wondering about your blog name actually! I hope you find the perfect name for it.
I admire your resilience and for putting your feet firmly down on making the decisions with your kids and family and your own sanity in mind!
Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. It means so much to me.
Yeah, it’s so easy to get sucked into that glamorous Dubai life…I am not sure what’s in store for us but just keep swimming na lang muna kami. That’s how life is.
I know I shouldn’t feel bad about moving to Japan…hiyang hiya naman ako na minsan I say “Yeah, we move back to Japan” with shrugged shoulders..kasi marami naman gusto pumunta or tumira dito…I’ll change my perspective and be more positive. I just need this winter to pass!
Thanks for sharing. It really does make sense.
I wondered about your blog name! I’ll have to think on that one for you!
Now, I can send that link to whoever asks 🙂
I am having a tough time with the blog name. Suggestions welcome!
I am so glad you wrote this post. You probably don’t care, but I think what you did is fabulous! I know settling back in Japan will be a bit of a struggle, but I think it is such a gift for your children. To be able to grow and thrive in their home country is wonderful. I especially like the fact that you mentioned that your son loves it outside. I think also, that Pristine will blossom in Japan, like the beautiful cherry trees.
Ah, a new adventure!
That might make a great new name…”A New Adventure”
I have edited the post after I read your comment about this move being a gift to the kids.
I added: “we felt it is time they get to know the Japanese culture and heritage that’s part of who they are”
Thank you for your kind comments. I wrote that post including you in my mind because I know you cared enough to know.
I really appreciate it. I hope I can meet you in person someday! Love you too!
Hi Grace! I have been checking updates from you in fb..
And when I saw this, was surprised but yes I understand. And thank you for sharing this, for some time now me and hubby have been thinking and praying about decisions and things to do to be ready for the future.
I’m actually happy for you and the family and can’t wait for the new title for the blog ????
I don’t consider myself a religious person if we base on going to church on Sundays but I did pray a lot about this move. I was torn. Ang hirap umalis ng Dubai. I don’t miss the city but I do miss our apartment as it help so many precious memories.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it.
Very well said. I feel the same way when I left Dubai, though my husband is still there up to now. My childs future is more important hence the move to Canada.
We all do what we need to do with the kids as top priorities. Glad everything went well for you.
This is the reason why you have to start a book grace! Impeccable writing!
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Thanks for telling the full story; I enjoyed reading it. Maybe I’ll luck into a visit to Japan for some conference, & get to see you & the family again!
Great post! Hopefully the transition for you, your family, and especially your kids turn out smooth!
Welcome back to Japan!
It is lovely to hear from you.
I wish you enough my friend.
Some aspects of this post really resonated with me, so it was a timely thing to read to be honest. Best of luck, I’ll keep an eye on the social feed + the blog for updates on your new adventures.
My family left Dubai in 2006 for almost the same reasons you did: work issues, better education and environment for the little one, and the heat. On top of that, I got tired of the life threatening roads, and the lifestyle in Dubai. I felt it was not really a conducive environment to raise a child, and it’s better for my offspring to grow up in her own country to learn the culture and her native language with ease. On my part, i got tired of this “invisible pressure/competition” to look good, rich or richer in Dubai. I didn’t have to be a part of it and i wasn’t exactly a part of it, not that i tried nor looked like a Jumeirah Jane, but there’s this sort of “expectation” that you live the life in Dubai.
Fast forward to 2011 , ironically, we had to come back to Dubai for the very reason that we left. Husband’s job pays triple here; education in Academic City is shouldered by the company; the cold weather was too much for me to handle that the heat in Dubai seemed a better respite. However, at present, i want to leave this superficial, oven-hot country (at least before, during and after summer) again! I’m actually envious you got yourself out of Dubai, lucky you!
Grace, you are so right! And you wrote about it all so well. Yes, indeed, life is too short to be unhappy/bored/dissatisfied with a job that you have to spend every single working day doing for hours on end. And the other reasons, all so valid. Hopefully you can now sit back a few months and just get organized and get settled and not stress out too much. I hope your family will all be happy in Japan! And hey, now you are closer to the Philippines and your side if the family! Wishing you all the best and do keep writing!
Happy to read your blog post. You penned down the thoughts of every single expatriate living in Dubai perfectly through this post.
You have definitely thought this through and made the right decision. Things are all gonna fall perfectly in place very soon for you and always pray and wish the very best for you and your wonderful family.
P.S. Have been in touch with the happenings in your life through Insta though..! Benjamin and Prisitne (packed in winter wear) enjoying the snow…is a treat to watch! You very well know Dubai…even with the winters on high here, we still roam around in T-shirts 😛
Thank you for sharing your life experiences so openly with all of us. I was in Dubai from 2008 up to 2016 and was following your blog ever since I stumbled upon it on an internet search engine. Reading through Sandier Pastures somehow makes me feel that I am not alone. Your stories are very relate-able especially for expatriates. So please continue on writing. Closing this blog would feel like a friendship is over. Sorry if that sounded weird, but it feels that way.
The whirlwind of emotions in addition to the overwhelming list of things to close and pack up is something that I can relate to. I have since moved to Canada (am not originally from there) and this move brings with it new challenges, adjustments and brutally cold winter weather!
Hope you can continue to bring us along in your journey in re-integrating with Japanese life and culture.
This is a very well put together and beautifully written post! Ever since I saw you moved back to Japan I was curious what brought you guys to that decision and reading this post I can definitely understand why you chose to do what you did. I’m kind of at a place in my life, even though I’m young, where I think I’m going to have to start making some long term decisions and it’s both difficult and a bit sad, but also a little freeing. You also have your kids to look out for as well and that’s a BIG factor in a lot of things. I certainly hope that you guys enjoy this new adventure in your lives and take LOTS of pictures.
Okay, that last request might have been a selfish one 😉
I understand and feel your post… enjoy Japan… you are 100% right.. no forever in Dubai
I’m here for 14 years now… and I know someday.. i will leave this country with good and bad memories.
I found your blog yesterday and I’m going to read most of it I hope! We’ve come recently to Dubai, so I’m really interested in all blogs and info I can find about living here. Of course, we have no idea how long we stay here, but so far I’ve read and heard many stories about “only couple of years”, so we’ll see.
I wish you a happy new life in Japan 🙂
Wanted to say I love your blog and Japan, well done on this post and happy New life in Japan
I almost always read your posts, but rarely comment and I apologize for that. I think that I’ve been following you almost from the beginning. To see Pristine grow from a 3-year-old to a teenager…the pregnancy, birth and early years of Benjamin’s life…your mother living with you in Dubai, your shared “vacations”.
Wishing you and your family find joy and happiness in Japan. I look forward to following along in your new adventure in the land of rivers and rice paddies.
You don’t know me but I often come across your articles. I’m a Filipino expat living in Dubai since 2006, and now that I’m married and a mom to a 7-year-old boy, I’m starting to worry about the points you raised (mostly, the instability in the UAE).
I would have picked to live in Japan in a heartbeat (been planning to travel there with the family, but something always comes up) but unlike you, we’re not Japan passport holders. Which means I don’t speak a word of Japanese.
And with that, I’ll be back to Googling how to migrate to Canada. Haha.
I’m a fan, btw. Please keep writing.