Whilst in one sense it seems like mere days ago since we bade snowy Munich a fond farewell after seven years away, landing back with a bump on a dark damp English Winter’s night, this past six months has also seemed like the longest chunk of time I have yet to experience on good old Planet Earth.
Here are a few observations I have noticed along the way (some tongue in cheek, some not so) about the good, the bad, and a few of the “ugly” things about moving back to your own land (temporarily or not so)…
It’s a funny thing repatriation, a huge chunk of you has probably changed forever, and those of you currently going through a return home would do well to remember that… I have written this for posterity’s sake, it’s part of my family’s journey (some of you know I like to record these milestones), but hopefully those of you about to/currently experiencing the same thing might find it slightly comforting to read the following, and know that you are not alone in having similar feelings.
Things you missed the most – typically friends and family – are super happy to have you home, although they cannot help but start pointed conversations about you never moving abroad again, and how much stuff you have all missed out on together! They cannot possibly understand how you might sometimes struggle with settling back in, and neither should you expect them to if they haven’t ever lived abroad themselves… Having said that, catching up with loved ones (and not having to rush off anywhere), is definitely the best bit about this entire repatriation thing;
Moving back is a lot harder than moving abroad. You will not be swept along with the novelty of everything as you would be in a new country, and it may be a bit of a shock to find yourself waking up every morning wondering where on earth you are, and yes (don’t take it personally those of you with roots firmly in place), at times wondering why on earth you have come back. As I have said before, it is definitely a good idea to treat the first year back at least as you would any new Expat location (I intend to!);
You will look on your own country with new (and often critical) eyes, but along with the negative stuff (it was definitely easier to get certain stuff done in Bavaria) there are also some happier surprises – appreciating the beauty of a country that you might previously have taken for granted for example. In the 6 months we have been back, when visiting places both new and more familiar to us, we have had our breath taken away by the beauty of parts of Norfolk, The Peak District, Suffolk, and good old Cornwall in a way that we might not have appreciated had we not ever left and come back;
You may well find that you have brought home strange new obsessions. I seem to have acquired a completely irrational hatred of carpet for example (having only lived with wooden and stone floors for the past seven years!), and English houses seem full of the stuff;
Prepare yourselves to overdose on the foods you missed the most whilst away. You may therefore find that after a while you no longer like them (which is probably just as well, as you might find yourself needing to go on a massive diet otherwise!)…
You suddenly have a new-found appreciation of the supermarkets in your own country, I might be biased, but I think England has some of the best (and you can only truly say this if you have lived abroad somewhere where food markets are the preferred option of shopping environment!), you have to learn to shop and cook in a completely different way… Do note however, that the same food markets will now be what you somewhat ironically hanker after instead!;
The school uniforms your non-uniform wearing children so desperately wanted to wear are now a major bone of contention. Every. Single. Morning. Speaking of children, a move back can be particularly hard on a child who has spent more time away from his/her own country than actually in it. Be prepared for lots of emotions in that department, and not just from them;
Also whilst we are also on the subject, your own country might not be as child friendly as you once thought. I honestly felt happier eating in German restaurants with children, and as for the tuts and glares on public transport with a (relatively quiet) baby here, don’t get me started!
You will miss things you never imagined you would about your “old” life. For example, in the end I had no qualms about driving like a bat out of hell on the Autobahn, but I have yet to bring myself to drive on the M25 – it might be a lot lot slower, but it’s just too thin, busy and scary…
You have a newfound appreciation of native radio stations (I am so grateful to not have to be subjected to Status Quo on repeat – or the bizarre “No Milk Today” by Hermans Hermits that they seemed to play constantly on nearly every single radio station in Bayern);
Having lived abroad for several years, you are now an expert on making any rented house a home (even if the house isn’t really somewhere you had any desire to live in the first place!). Having said that, I cannot wait to buy another house to actually be able to decorate (even if we don’t end up living in it for very long!) – that really will be a novelty after such a long time!… By the same token, you find yourself being much more of a DIY doyen than you ever thought possible, having graduated in the art of fixing stuff so you didn’t have to try to converse/deal with the workmen in your adopted countries, and/or come to think of it, your own!
A one time longing to be able to understand everybody and everything will (at times) be overtaken by a desire to suddenly not be able to understand everybody and everything;
The boxes in the loft you swore would be sifted through before you left all those years ago, came with you for several moves and countries, and now sit untouched in a new loft (ours won’t be coming with us to any future locations. Honestly!).
The novelty of being able to pop to other countries relatively easily is something you now desperately miss. In England you can’t exactly say “I might just drive to Salzburg this afternoon”, or how about “Prague or Venice for the day?”… Well I suppose you could, but the drive would be muuuch longer!
You find yourself checking the weather in your old homes automatically (well – you are English after all!…), and more often than not you end up surprised when you read an advert for something, and the part of your brain that used to automatically say “but you can’t go to that, you don’t live there anymore”, is overridden by the other side of your brain that suddenly pipes up with “why yes, yes you can!”…
I honestly cannot believe we have been back for six months already. I am not going to lie, it is definitely one of the more challenging things we have done together as a family, but with the news that we can begin to look for a true family home of our own again soon enough (and closer to friends and family with it!), we can start to look forward to settling down properly – for however long that might end up being!!
If you are currently going through something similar, I know it’s a small thing in the grand scheme of things in this often seemingly broken and hard world, but it’s still the closest “in limbo” state I have ever felt, and completely discombobulating nonetheless (gosh, I have wanted to use that word for ages!)… Give me a shout if you need an ear and all that…
Anyway, an insight to Corsica coming up shortly!