There’s No Going Back Home

photo credit: fRandi-Shooters

Written for the Scintilla Project based on the prompt

What have been the event horizons of your life – the moments from which there is no turning back?

I’m using this prompt loosely as I have no desire to rehash life’s past events today.  However this prompt sparked a thought inside me, something I have been thinking about lately, so I decided I might as well blog it out (so to speak).

The event horizon of every expat’s life is the moment they become an expat.  As much as we tell ourselves we can go home if this expat thing doesn’t work out, we never can.  That is not to say we can not return to our point of origin, we can, but instead that we can not go back in time, to the time before we became an expat.

For those determined not to enjoy the expat experience (you know who these people are), they can go back to the time before they became an expat, because in a sense, they never were one.  They lived somewhere else for a time, but in their minds, they were always home.  Their new life was one which they constantly compared to their old life and the new life was always found wanting, it never lived up to their old one.  It’s not hard to go home if you have mentally never left.

However, for those, like me, who are determined to enjoy the expat experience to the fullest, those of us who throw ourselves into our new lives wanting to soak up a new culture and a new way of living, there is no going back home.  Yes home is still there in a sense.  Our place of origin still exists.  The people we knew there are, for the most part, still there, although they have moved on with their lives.  Lives that no longer include us.  But some of these connections can be rekindled on our return.  No, the thing that has changed, so fundamentally, is us.  We can no longer go back in time to the people we were before we became expats.  We can’t slot back into our old lives complete with all our old feelings of home.  They simply don’t exist any more.

People ask me when I plan to move back to Australia.  I have no such plans.  Although my motto is never say never, at this point in my life, I can’t see myself living back in Australia.  It’s not that Australia is a bad place to live.  With all her faults, she’s still pretty damn special.  However, it is me that has changed so much in my 2.5 years here, that I can no longer picture myself being happy back in Australia. Even though I spent the first 35 year of my life in a monolingual culture, I can’t imagine going back to one.  For better or worse (and with a great deal of frustration at times), my life has adapted to living bilingually. I’m used to my life being an interesting mixture of English and German.  To lose the German half of my life would be like losing part of my identity. Although admittedly to be able to watch English language TV would be a indescribable joy. No, my time here in Germany has forever changed who I am and my life will go on being affected by that change.

Those of you who are expats, do you feel the same?  Do you feel that whilst you might return to your country of origin that you can never return to your old life?  Do you want to return to your old life or are you happy with the changes that have taken place within you during your expat experience?

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14 thoughts on “There’s No Going Back Home

  1. Oh my, did you say a mouthful! I feel EXACTLY the same way. There is no going home. For me, I have two homes now. Even though I often think about returning to Germany one day, I know I will miss my other home as much as I miss Germany now.

    To experience the expat life is an experience of a lifetime… And it’s also a blessing and a curse. I don’t ever wanna miss everything I learned by living in a different country but I wouldn’t mind feeling so “torn” between places sometimes.

    Great post!

  2. Hi – or should that be “g’day” from a fellow Aussie expat. Great post. I’ve upped-sticks and moved to the UK, taking up British nationality, so I don’t have the language aspect but there are cultural differences. Often subtle, but they are there.

    I know I’ll never go back to live in Australia, and for many of the same reasons you articulate. And, like you, it’s not that I love Australia any less. It’s just not home any more. Not like the UK is for me.

  3. I’m not an expat, but I fully understand, what you mean. I left my hometown in Germany 25 years ago and I can’t imagine to move back. I love to visit my family, but not more than 2 days. They live their lifes and I live mine here. Sometimes I think it’s nice to have a bigger family round the corner. But this thinking disappears one minute later.
    B.

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  5. What a wonderful post. I couldn’t have said it any other way. I have been able to experience living the expat life twice. The first time was as a child from age 5 to 11 in Alabama, USA. I always wanted to return to the States and finally had the wonderful opportunity in 2008 when my husband and I took our daughter and pup and moved all the way to Chicago with all of our belongings. 3 years later it was time to return to Germany and the life we once had, just like you described it, is not there anymore. We are not the same. We have changed so much. We are so homesick for the US. People don’t understand, they went on with their lives, lives we do not belong to any longer, just like you said. And even though it is our second year back, we long to return home to the US very soon – forever!
    Thank you for this wonderful post!
    Hugs xxx

  6. I know what you mean. I left Germany 15 years ago to live in the US…..and actually have almost no homesickness for Germany. I don’t love visiting Germany really either. I have to because of my family. But now I just moved from the US to the UK and I am embracing as much as I can, but wow do I miss home (the US)….so, I will try to enjoy the years here and then head back to the land of crazy insanities that I miss so much.

  7. “To lose the German half of my life would be like losing part of my identity. Although admittedly to be able to watch English language TV would be a indescribable joy.”
    I think this sums up a lot of when you really, truly become an ex-pat. The first time I lived in Germany I think I was far more focused on becoming German than on realising I was an ex-pat. I really hated it when people would try to speak English to me because I had spent time learning German, we were in Germany and oh my God your English is so crap it’s just painful for me to try and figure out what you’re saying anyway so how dare you imply that this is a better way to communicate!
    This time round I just wasn’t that bothered about all of that. I’m more secure in my ability to speak German and don’t perceive that kind of behaviour as an insult to my capabilities anymore. I made contact with some ex-pats when I first arrived and now have a circle of ex-pat friends and a good part of my social life is conducted in English. Thanks to the internet I can keep up with a lot of the same crappy television shows I used to watch,and thanks to blogging I was already in touch with people from all over the world that I was never ever going to meet anyway. I think when you reach a place where you’re happy to put the cost and effort (if necessary) in to incorporating a few of the things from home you miss into your live abroad, then you’ve really hit ex-pat life, I think. (And this is very different from those who never do get immersed in the German life at all – it’s more like you’ve done that, come out the other side and are now ready to combine the best of both worlds as far as you can.)

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