“Our homes are not defined by geography or one particular location, but by memories, events, people and places that span the globe,” says author Marilyn Gardner.

As an exciting land of opportunities for a plethora of adults, Dubai quickly became home to my parents who arrived 30 years ago with no plan of settling down or raising a family here.

So immediately when people ask “Where are you from?”, my brain starts to do the math. Wait, do I say where I’m born and raised? Or where my parents were born? But hold on, I grew up in Dubai my whole life, so this for me, is home.

Hard Rock Cafe

Hard Rock Café, Image courtesy of Linda Hollier

All the early residents have seen the city grow since the early ‘00s, where the emirate as known by many ended at the old Hard Rock café in an area what is today known as Media City today. The comfort, safety and warmth to different cultures has left it as a cushion for many like my parents to settle down and make this inviting haven their home.

While growing up, I viewed being unique with a negative lens, I’ve now realised how being different actually makes you stand out, thereby coming to the conclusion about how the pros outweigh the cons.

What is the definition of a Third-culture kid?

As per google, it’s a person who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up in. The terms refers to the mixed identity that a child assumed, influenced both by their parents’ culture and the one they’re raised in.

The term was first coined by American sociologist Ruth Useem, who focused on studying the lives of expatriates living in India.

While a lot of us tend to focus on the negative aspects that come from moving abroad, we usually avoid shedding light on the myriad of positive elements and memories that we can cherish for a lifetime from this experience.

Now as you go on to read and might be on the same journey as me and what I’ve learned and observed might come with a hint of nostalgia, you might relate to the below as your embark on your own path in this city.

My friends became my family

Having been raised in the same school for 12 years, my peers became my family and 16 years later, we to this date still speak on the phone almost every single day. Be it the first piece of advice I need, the first good news I wish to share or the first person to vent to after an unending series of unfortunate events, my friends are now family, and we don’t think twice before showing up and being there for each other on a daily basis.

I’ve bonded with peers over my differences

No one person in the emirate fits a mould. We’re all different and unique and come with our own set of experiences to the table. While it was challenging start to absorb facts from different backgrounds, before developing my own identity, I eventually realised that these differences are what gave me my own individual identity. With a sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness instilled in the other children I surrounded myself with while growing up, we quickly started learning from each other and found a comfort in the discomfort.

I’ve also bonded over nostalgic memories…

Laban Up

You can spot a Third Culture Kid in Dubai from a mile away. With a somewhat similar upbringing in the emirate, we instantly bond of similar elements of our childhood being, Oman chips, TGIF, street-side shawarmas or even long-standing locations such as the Clock Tower, we all instantly bond with each other, perhaps without even knowing each other’s name.

I try to comprehend situations with an open-mind

If there’s one element that stands out in the UAE, it’s respectful tolerance. To see how different cultures bond seamlessly, continues to amaze me on a daily basis. Be it our work environment or a pilates class, the exposure is not limited. With British, Australian, European and various other cultures, being under one roof, we aren’t tied to one culture and tend to appreciate different elements of different cultures from around the world. We don’t immediately rebuff an abstract concept, as we’ve been exposed to various upbringings over the years. Overall, being a third-culture kid is not always easy. You need to understand your cultures and lifestyles to be able to embrace how being different is a good thing. This however, makes you more approachable because you can understand others better.

I always value my roots

Image courtesy of Pexels @fuzail-ahmad

Every trip taken to the motherland, comes with a deep appreciation. To see my roots, brings a sense of newness with each visit. For me Dubai is home and I could never replace it with any other city, including my hometown. Although, it’s only when you’re taken away from what you have that you tend to appreciate what’s back home. Every trip that I take back to my roots, to spend quality time with my grandparents or cousins, I realise their value and appreciate what it feels like to be back to where my parents are from.

Convenience is not taken for granted

Dubai Metro

Image courtesy of Pexels @denys-gromov

In which part of the world can you press a button and have your groceries delivered in 15 minutes at any given part of the day? From my favourite gourmet burgers to a green juice, the seamless system ensures, convenience through every aspect of living here. Be it a short-haul trip or a long vacation to different parts of the world, I quickly realise the privileges and quality of life of living in this emirate. With a myriad of services offered right to our doorstep, a sense of appreciation seeps in after every trip taken abroad.

Every day is an adventure

Old Dubai by Malik Shibly

Image courtesy of Unsplash @malik-shibly

No one day is same here. As a community of learning and growing together, people come to this part of the world with a blank canvas to paint their own story. With new activities and discussions offered, there’s a lot left to the imagination as we’re constantly discovering what the city and its people have to offer. Being born and raised here only taught me more than I could imagine and I’m only excited to see what’s next in line as I continue to live here. As a melting pot of cultures this place has so much to offer and its city full of opportunity to both the working class and entrepreneurs.

I have a soft spot for beaches

The undeniable love for sand, picnics, azure waters and the beach is a big part of me. No matter where I am, there’s nothing like a calming walk by the beach or a few hours in the sun on a weekend. Because we are blessed with tropical views and eternal summer here, and I’m never going to let anyone take that away. While my love increases double fold during the Winters, I still enjoy a peaceful stroll during the warm season.

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Images: Supplied & Feature Image: Unsplash @ismail-merad