Time passes quickly these days. I have been away from the UK, my family and most of my friends, for a year now and here share the emotional journey of my expat year.
Firstly I ought to explain that I was not unhappy in the UK. Despite a fairly vagabondish life I am familiar with things there and surrounded by people I know in the UK. I was however, sick of London commuting, the endlessly grim news reports about the recession and I was definitely over the weather and the perpetual greyness. My partner is Australian and so we planned to see what Australia could offer us. Whilst we were escaping some of the boring bits about Britain, we were not running away from anything, but rather, off to explore.
The first emotional pull in my year was when a close friend had a baby. We have known each other since we were in nappies ourselves and I was maid of honour at her wedding. I would have loved to be able to be more supportive during her pregnancy and with a newborn, but the 8,000 miles between us put pay to that. I resigned myself to this by remembering that there was little I could actually do to help when it came to the worst part anyway.
|My friend's baby Lola with the Christmas present I sent for her|
The most feared event of all for expats far and wide is losing someone back home and not being able to be there. Fortunately in my case it was the family pet rather than a relative. My mother had bestowed love and prawns upon the most cantankerous cat you were ever likely to meet for 22 years, so my feelings were not for the cat per se, but for my mother, now without her daily companion.
The first anniversary of my father’s death was a normal day for everyone around me but of course, poignant for me. Dad was in my thoughts most of the day, as he often is, but the new people in my daily life here never knew him. I can’t decide if it is easier to get through such days without others observing it. I received several sympathetic emails, each and every one of which I appreciated.
This was not my first Christmas away from home but it still feels like I’m in the wrong place whenever I’m not in Yorkshire (where Grandma lives and we, as a family, migrate to each year for the festive season). For some people it is very difficult to be away from family at this time of year. For us, being in Western Australia, the hardest bit was scheduling the skype calls with my partner’s family in Queensland, who were three hours ahead and my family in the UK who were eight hours behind (and not appearing drunk in front of Grandma by the time the UK call came around).
When you tell people you are moving abroad you frequently face a barrage of comments about how jealous people are and how they can’t wait to come and visit you. When you move to Australia it is a bloody long way away from EVERYWHERE and the visitors are few and far between. I believe there are three factors that influence whether or not people visit. They must have all three of the following:
- Time – because from Europe it takes a day to get here and there is also the time difference to overcome
- Money – because however miserable those long flights are they are never cheap
- and a good reason to come – (that’s you, or maybe an interest in your new country, or both).
With the best will in the world, unless people have all three, in my experience, they do not come. My brother managed a visit. He had the time and enough money saved that he could afford it. I believe his motivation to come had more to do with escaping a cold Christmas than seeing me, but who knows?
|My brother and a koala - not sure who looks more scared!|
I spent five years living in the UK before arriving in Australia so frankly, to my mind at least, it is outrageous that my cousin and his girlfriend declare they are getting married this year. Still, it gives me an excuse to make a trip over to Europe and I am really looking forward to seeing everyone again.
Are you an expat? Which events were most significant for you in your first year away?