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!
It’s really interesting to read this. I can feel, reading this, that you chop back and forth between the good and not so good things about being back in England. It sounds like its been tough on you all. And I suppose you are coming back home where everyone is just getting on with their own lives and not understanding how you can’t just fit back in with the routine?
That’s exactly how it feels. Very very odd! Thanks Trish, for “getting it” :) xx
Moving back home must be so strange, when you’ve traveled ad grown as a person. And pretty intense for your kids too. Good luck, you seem to do pretty fine so far!
Thanks so much Esther! :)
It sounds like you’re starting to settle in a little more, and I’m sure that getting a house will help! We’ve been back for almost a year and a half now, but we lived in a tiny apartment for a year, so we didn’t really ever feel settled there. We’re in another apartment now, but it has more potential to be our home for longer, and we have more room to move around. I think it will help, but we’re still getting settled in here as well.
After a year and a half, I am starting to realize that the longing for being in another country will likely never go away. Your point about appreciating what you left behind is probably one of the most important things to me. After a weekend camping trip in the mountains, I am finally starting to feel that I can be happy in the US, even if I never move abroad again–but that’s not going to stop me from trying!
Good luck with the house search and everything, Emma!
Thank you Marina! Now comes the difficult part of choosing a house! :D
Mayah Thomas says
Wow wish I was able to travel this much! I wish you luck in your search!
Thanks so much Mayah! :)
Stephanie Usher says
I found this really interesting! I’ve never really considered what it’s like to move “back” home! xxx
Thank you Stephanie! :)
Laura H says
I lived in Paris for a year 2015-2016 and coming back to England was very strange – especially moving back in with my parents! I went alone though, I can imagine it being even harder with a whole family.
Thanks Laura, what a fabulous place to live for a year! :)
Lynne Harper says
I have never lived abroad but have always wanted to, my friend lives in OZ and says she will never come back home to live. Good luck with the next chapter of your life x
Thanks so much Lynne… I think after a certain amount of time, it’s less likely that you do go back somewhere, you change too much! x
I found this such an interesting post to read as up until recently I’d never imagined ever wanting to leave the UK. Now I often find myself wondering what it would be like to live in another country. Would I like it and want to stay there forever, or would I hate it and want to jump on the first plane home? I guess you never know until you try. Oh, and I know it’s 6 months too late, but welcome home!
Thanks so much Louise! I really would recommend a spell abroad to everyone, it makes you appreciate things in a whole new light, both home and abroad! :)
Thanks for the heads up, Emma! We’re in the planning stages of the repatriation process and I am not looking forward to it, especially after almost 20 years in the UK! Made a note about those boxes…
Yep, get those boxes sorted sooner rather than later! I think as long as you prepare yourself for the weirdness factor, it will be a bit easier. I just expected to just slot right back in where we left off, and it just doesn’t work like that! Thank you! :)
Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes says
I have never thought that moving back would be just as hard as moving away. Good luck in your next chapter and finding your family home :)
Thanks so much Jemma!
melissa major says
Must be nice travelling to different places, I need to do it one day
I really recommend it Melissa! (:
It must be pretty difficult to move abroad, but I am sure you had a great experience!
The good outweighed the bad, definitely! Thanks Lilinha! :)
lisa prince says
I’ve literally just gone through those boxes in my loft, made my self £145 selling things I had forgot about lol, I would love to live abroad , it looks such a lovely place x
That’s pretty inspiring Lisa! Need to do a Car Boot sale here or something! :D
Repatriation is something I have yet to deal with, and I can imagine how surreal the experience may be. I have been living in the UK for almost 6 years now, and the thought of going back to the US someday has me wishing I could create a hybrid country where I can have the best of both worlds. Good luck on the second half of your first year!! x
A hybrid country, that’s a fabulous idea!! Thank you Yaya, and good luck to you one day if you ever make the move back! :) x
Rhian Westbury says
I can’t imagine how tough it must be moving back home after being abroad for so long. To be honest even living in the UK I get your hatred of carpet, homes have too much of it x
I cannot bear the stuff now, didn’t even occur to me before! :D Thanks Rhian! :) x
MELANIE EDJOURIAN says
I haven’t ever lived abroad it must have been a great experience. Lol I’d get onto checking through those boxes and having a clear out or they might come on your next move.
They are definitely not coming with us for another move! Must have taken up at least 6 square metres of space in the lorry! :D
Mummy Times Two says
It must be really hard feeling so torn between two places, I know my Other Half finds that really difficult sometimes.
It’s such a weird feeling… Thanks so much!
Midlife Singlemum says
Very interesting. I have long suspected that it’s not so easy going back. Buying a new home sounds very exciting though. One of my favourite waste of times is watching episodes of Escape to the country on You Tube, LOL. What is your county of choice? So many shires and only one life – that’s my problem.
Definitely Hampshire or Wiltshire! I grew up in Hampshire so that would be easiest! :D And yes, it is honestly one of the hardest things we have done so far, not what I had dreamed about at all! :D
I am an expat as well but I don’t think I could ever stand returning to my home country. I go back once or twice a year to sort out things and I find it that I can’t return to my new home faster. Did you think of moving back if you could?
I think about moving back every day, but to be honest, I think it would be nice to live in another country now before we finally settle down somewhere. Time will tell! Thank you Joanna!
Sarah Bailey says
I can’t imagine what it is like to move to a new country or move back, I think I would find it stressful. I hope you are settling back in OK in your own way.
Thanks so much Sarah, it’s definitely been stressful at times!
Midlife Singlemum says
I think the most important thing is to have a strong family unit so that it’s the family that defines the kids rather than the environment and outside factors.
That’s so true. It’s me that’s struggling the most out of all of us if truth be told, although the Small Boy is less than happy about the move back as well! :) x
Stephanie Merry says
I’ve never lived abroad but would love to. Not sure I’d love the challenge of settling back into the UK though x
If you ever get the chance I would really recommend it. It is eye opening, even if it’s hard to come back! :D x
I understand it’s been hard for you all and I’m selfishly very happy you’re back and looking forward to having you all even closer!!xxx
Being closer to you all has been the best thing. We are looking forward to being even closer too. xx
Jen Walshaw says
Wow, how can it have been six months already! I can not imagine how hard it must be for children to come back to somewhere that they have not really spent that much time or remember the early days
Thanks so much Jen! Yes, 6 months already!! Time flies…