Expat Living: When You Don’t Know How to Say Goodbye

So this is it, the final countdown, after months of going to and fro, we are leaving Dubai but just how do you say goodbye?

It’s surreal.  We. Are. Leaving Dubai.  We are leaving the place we have called home for the past 3 years.  Leaving Dubai and in doing so leaving the birth place of the Baby.  Leaving Dubai and leaving behind the friends who have become family.

I’ve had friends leave Dubai and watched as they packed up their lives, excitement tinged with sadness as they prepared to move. I didn’t understand their nonchalance at the prospect moving.  The saying goodbye.  The doing things one last time.  And now it’s my turn.  It’s me who’s being nonchalant.  It’s me who is living in a surreal bubble, not really sure if I’m coming or going.  Except the thing is, we are going.  We are leaving Dubai.  And soon.  Wednesday the 25th May to be exact.  I will board that plane, with the boys, with the husband and know that I’m not coming back here to live.

We’ve started our final rounds of goodbyes, and this time it’s me being the nonchalant one.

The truth is, my friends are like my family out here.  They are there for me to call on when things are tough, they are there when things are amazing, they’ve been with me every step of this relocation making me laugh when I felt like crying.

And I don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye.

I don’t know how to put into words what they mean to me.

How do you tell the girl who you met within hours of getting off the plane, that the hand of friendship she offered was a lifeline.  That it immediately made you feel more at ease.  That it calmed down the worries that had you tossing and turning in the nights leading up to your big move.  That in randomly offering to make a stranger some baby food would lead to a friendship, not only with myself, but as a family.  That our boys would be “best friends” for about half the time they see each other anyway.  The husbands playing golf.  The family days out.  The family days in.  The Christmases spent.  From one random internet email.  How do you say goodbye?

How do you tell the girl who you met when all your friends were leaving, that, even though she went and had her Baby before you even though you were in hospital first, knowing that someone else was going through the newborn stage at the same time as you, with a 2 year old as difficult as yours, made you feel less alone.  That knowing she is at the end of the phone whenever you need a play date means the world, again with the kids being best friends for about half a play date before being sworn enemies.  Swapping baby sleep tips.  Toddler tantrum tips.  How to get through the day tips.  How do you say goodbye?

How do you tell the girl who dropped everything to rush to help look after your boys while you had to go to the doctors that you couldn’t have been without her that night?  How do you say goodbye?

To the girls that I met when the boys were tiny, to the girls I’ve met since the boys were bigger, to the girls I only just got chance to meet.  How do you say goodbye to a life you will no longer be living?

And yes, it is a new adventure.  One door closing means another one opening, and I am so excited about what is to come, but that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier.

That’s why it’s easier to be nonchalant, to focus on the practical elements, the packing, the whats, the wheres.  To think about the next step rather than what you are leaving behind.  I finally understand why.

It’s hard being the one leaving, but it’s harder being the one left behind.

How do I say goodbye to those I am leaving behind in Dubai?  How do I tell them I understand what they are thinking, that I know it will be OK, that I know that there are lifelong friendships that have been made.  That we will be back.  That there is the UK visits.  That I know all of this will happen because it happened to me, I’m meeting the friends that left Dubai this summer, I have flights booked and wine bottles with our names on them.  And the same will be true of them.

But in the meantime, how do you say goodbye?


When You Don't Know How to Say Goodbye Leaving Your Expat Life




  1. May 23, 2016 / 8:29 am

    Good byes are sure one tough thing to do..And especially when it’s about leaving Dubai.. All my friends and family who left Dubai always keep telling me about their Unending love for this country…

    Wishing you and the boys a brand new happy journey and life ahead!!

  2. May 23, 2016 / 8:56 am

    It’s hard to leave but exciting at the same time. Best of luck on your new adventures!

  3. May 23, 2016 / 12:11 pm

    It’s always difficult to move on but so much easier to keep in touch these days. Real friends will always be in your life.

  4. Pen
    May 23, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    Good Luck Laura with your new journey with your boys, I don’t envy you I have been here 10 years and not looking forward to the day we pack life up and move somewhere else 🙂
    Think of it as not goodbye but as a bye for now until we meet again ! ..

    I have enjoyed reading your posts x

  5. Diane
    May 23, 2016 / 3:01 pm

    I sympathise with you and wish you well, and as a hardened ( and probably twice your age) expat of more than 24 years , I too have found leaving the Philippines after 9 years the worst thing I’ve had to do so far and I’m moving to yet another lovely place .. Spain.. The Philippines has been our home, place of fun and amazing social scenes, fabulous holiday spots and short breaks to romantic islands with pristine beaches .. just being able to live a life that nowhere else can offer with freedom to do anything and go anywhere. Learn new skills or use old ones again, help with charitable organizations, make friends easily that will last the test of time ( or moving) . I’ve friends from our time in Jakarta nearly 20 years ago who visited us in MANILA last year and we picked up where we left off!!! Having heard from many incomes overcthe years, the Philippines is the best kept expat secret place ever!! Wonderful friendly people, very pro western culture but really a mishmash of many different ones making it an interesting experience..
    Hmm .. Getting used to NOT having home helpers, nannies, drivers etc., trying not to bore old friends we meet up with again with all our ” expat” stories … we wonder how we will cope…
    The old song goes ” wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home” is how I see what our lives have been.. Moved house/location now 19 times, never thinking or knowing what was ahead.. Exciting ? Yes ..worrying ? Sometimes.. But always a positive experience from everywhere, take that with you and forge ahead to new and exciting times with your very young family.. I envy you the wealth of experiences ahead of you.. . Good luck..

  6. May 23, 2016 / 3:14 pm

    Big Squeezy Bear Hugs. That’s how I say my goodbyes. Such an emotional read, and I wish you the very best with your move. I am so glad I got to meet you, albeit a little late. Stay in touch!

  7. May 24, 2016 / 8:51 am

    It’s never easy saying goodbye, whatever the circumstances. After having made Dubai your home for this time, I’m sure it’s very hard for you to write this. Wishing you all the best!

  8. May 31, 2016 / 10:21 am

    What a lovely post it must be hard leaving somewhere you made home outside the UK where you’re more likely to work hard to make friends because you’re not that expat boat. I hope you’re settling in well back in the UK #twinklytuesday

  9. May 31, 2016 / 12:58 pm

    It sounds like you have made some lovely friendships there as a family and it will be hard leaving. I hope you soon build the same bonds in your next chapter of life whilst keeping in contact with friends from Dubai #TwinklyTuesday

  10. June 1, 2016 / 1:47 am

    Good byes are always so hard. Good luck in your travels.

  11. June 1, 2016 / 3:54 am

    I’m terrible at emotional goodbyes. I do like you and focus on the practical and appear casual about it. It’s so hard to find the right words without sounding clichéd. I hope you all do stay in touch 🙂 #TwinklyTuesday

  12. June 2, 2016 / 10:36 am

    This is such a lovely post- goodbyes are never easy but I just can’t imagine saying goodbye to people who have had such an impact on the new life you had in dubai. Just remember that they’ll always be there – it’s never really goodbye these days and more of a speak to you soon! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    • Laura
      June 3, 2016 / 11:12 pm

      Thanks Lisa – it was so sad and surreal! Lots of tears shed xxx

  13. June 15, 2016 / 3:00 am

    When I was out with some of my besties a few weekends back, we said how we have to make a pact to never leave Malta. We joked that the next person to leave will see us all wearing black as if we’re at a funeral. I’ve said goodbye to so many people; most of them didn’t affect me too badly as I think I’ve just hardened myself. But there has been one that made me cry. The worst aspect is how many best friends my kids have had to say goodbye to. It’s such an awful part of expat life but of course an inevitable one. You’re one tough cookie (or is it all part of a nonchalant act?) and I know you’ll do just fine in Qatar. Sorry I sort of ‘missed’ your last week; can’t have been easy at all. xx

  14. June 29, 2016 / 11:24 am

    I’ve never been through this but had tears in my eyes reading. I guess when you are so far from family it’s inevitable to gather a substitute family instead. As you said, you’ll meet up again so it’s not ‘goodbye’ just ‘see you soon’ xx #blogstars

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