Expat repatriated (temporarily)

Landing at Heathrow last week felt really strange. As the clouds parted and I saw green fields, trees and the neat rows of terraced houses on the approach to west London it dawned on me that England no longer feels like home.

Of course, in one respect England will always be home. I have family, friends and even two cats in England. I grew up here and have spent periods of my adult life here. But at the moment I live in Australia and have commitments there like my job, daft things like my car and of course, the life I share with my partner.

A few months ago my cousin told me he was marrying his long time girlfriend, presenting me with the perfect excuse to make the journey and catch up with friends and family on this side of the world. It was an opportunity I could not resist. This trip is a holiday even though I have long associated holidays with escaping England. I don’t feel as though I have ‘come home’ probably because my current daily life is in Australia. I also have no base of my own that I can just turn up to in England.

The fact that my cousin’s wedding coincided with the Jubilee celebrations is something I am glad about. Not because I have strong royalist feeling (who doesn’t like to see Lizzie rocking a frock though?) but because even though Australians are relatively unconcerned about the global financial crisis, I remember the incessant gloom before I left 15 months ago. However I have been really surprised by the cheer and generally positive atmosphere whilst I have been here. Britain seems determined to make the most of things in the face of adversity. Of course, that is not the only change I have noticed. There are a few new shops in my old neighbourhood and obviously Transport for London has increased their prices. On a more personal note, one of my friends underwent a life-changing event.

When an expat leaves their country their last impressions of it are the snapshot that remains in their mind until they return. That snapshot includes the people in your life that you leave behind. One of my friends had a baby nine months ago and meeting her child last week was absolute proof, gurgling in front of me and grabbing at my hair, that the expat snapshot memory does not remain current for long.

They say home is where the heart is and that it is the people who make the place. I currently find myself in a situation where a lot of the most significant people in my life are on one side of the world but the daily life I have chosen is on another. There is a pull in each direction.

Expat life is certainly confusing at times.


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