This month, I went home to the UK for the first time since before COVID-19 set in. And, oh boy, was travelling on a plane straight-up weird. If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be flying home wearing a face mask and gloves the whole time, I would’ve said they were crazy. Well, well … it just goes to show you never know what can happen. As well as COVID-19 affecting literally everything right now, the idea of going home for an expat is a strange concept. Let’s talk about it.
Being an expat is like being a chameleon
When you settle abroad, that place then becomes your home. But the best part about it is that you also have this other original home that’s just a flight away. And when you go to said place, everything is just as you left it. The food you so miss when you’re away is there. Everyone’s speaking your language. Your family and friends are there – the best part. But then after a few weeks ‘at home’, you then leave to return to your other more exotic ‘home’. It’s like having your cake and eating it too, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I first started living in other countries, my idea of ‘home’ was my home in the UK. And I think the reason behind this was that I was always abroad temporarily. When I went to Greece to study, I was there for half a year, when I went to work in Austria, again it was only for half a year. Then I went to Brussels for an internship and, you’ve guessed it, I was only there for a short time. This time, in Poland, I am here indefinitely, and I have a settled life here more so than what I had in any other country. So since I’ve lived here, my idea of ‘home’ has changed for me. I have my own apartment, my own balcony, a job, an actual legit Christmas tree (that was a big adult moment for me last year), and I also have a boyfriend here too (this list is not in order of importance). All of this is the kind of life stuff you expect to have when you’re settled somewhere. And if you were to ask me if I feel like I have a settled life here? I’d say yes. Now when I go to the UK, it is still like going home, but I do end up yearning to be in my little space in Poland after a few weeks. And now, as I write this blog post in my comfy clothes, on my bed in my little apartment, I’m having that ‘agh, I’m glad to be home moment’, which I never thought would happen to me abroad. My life here is small, strange, unique, amazing and stressful. But it’s mine, and I love it.
This is a reason why people shouldn’t be afraid to move abroad
One of the main excuses people might give for not moving overseas is that they’d miss home. But they forget that, actually, your idea of home changes as you progress through your time in a foreign country. They forget that they will set up their own digs abroad and maybe they’ll start comparing what they have abroad to what they didn’t have ‘at home’. They forget that they can come home anytime they want! So, you can reap the rewards of a life abroad and also enjoy the perks of going back to your place of birth? Yes! What’s not to love!? This is the reason why people shouldn’t be afraid to move abroad. People get so anxious about the distance they’d be away from home that they end up thinking it’s a permanent thing. But once you calm down and embrace the opportunity, you become aware that there are regular flights to your home country and it really isn’t that far. Also you don’t have to live there forever. People move around all the time.
being physically far away from your home country helps you grow the heck up
One thing I’ve noticed about being physically far away from home is that I have grown up. A lot. When I was a child, I used to cling to my Mum’s leg. I was a real mummy’s girl and I’m pretty sure that the last thing my family expected me to do was move abroad! Yet, here we are.
When you’re abroad and your Mum can’t just pop over for a cup of tea or your Dad can’t just come over to fix your washing machine, you start to rely on yourself and only yourself. And that can only be a good thing! I think one trait shared by all expats is independence because you have to be independent to survive living abroad. Then when you go home, you go home feeling accomplished. Repeat after me: I am a badass woman who can handle living abroad and that’s pretty cool. This is what I think every time I go back to the UK.
Then when you finally get to that stage of calling your place abroad your real home, that’s a sign you’ve truly grown up. You no longer rely on your parents for support, and you no longer need the home comforts to make you feel whole. However, I do appreciate an order from the British Corner Shop every now and then. Hint, hint, family and friends.
And when you finally call your home abroad your ‘actual home’, you start to notice the difference between ‘going home’ when you head to your home country and ‘coming home’ when you return to your hub abroad.
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