Going home as an expat: like an old slipper

Rangitoto from Takapuna beach

Going home for a holiday is a terrifying experience for any expat. Of course you want to hug your family and stock up on all the treats of your dark London dreams, but there is always that thought at the back of your mind wondering if you will like it. You will always get moments of home sickness, but you know there are reasons you are living on the other side of the world, that you are happy on the other side of the world. But what if, what if when you go home you like it more? What if its easy? What if you enjoy it too much? What if you want to move home?

It’s a scary prospect. There are not many times a holiday can change your life (excluding of course éclairs in Paris which are a religious experience), but as an expat there is a chance that going home could change everything. If you go home and discover that the grass is really greener you may end up altering the course of your life entirely and moving home. It’s a scary unknown mixed in with all that joy of seeing your family again and relief that everyone understands your accent.

Thankfully (I don’t think thankfully is the right word, but I can’t think of a better one) I didn’t feel the desire to move home. For me it was like stepping back into an old slipper, yes comfortable, warm and familiar but just not quite how you remember. I just didn’t quite fit.

This is such a hard post to write because it is such an undefinable feeling. Its not that New Zealand sucks and London is awesome. London is a really hard city to live in, and it is a place where you have to consciously forge your life because if you passively sit back you will just get carried away and feel alone. Its just that for right now New Zealand isn’t right for me.

I know that if I moved home and lived with my parents for a while my huge life dream of buying a house might be possible (its never going to happen in London). But living with my parents would be comfortable but not what I need. I need that challenge and to have to fend for myself (although right now I am close to actually hiring a hooker just for someone to make me a cup of tea after a hard days work).

View from the top of Mt Eden

The old slipper feeling became more evident the longer I was there. Friends back home are at a different pace, a different part of their lives. In London a casual conversation will cover everything from your next travel destination, the situation in Syria to matcha lattes. I found back home it was mostly about babies and houses. Not that there is anything wrong with that, its just that for where I am right  now it feels like a small world view.

See hard post right? Its hard to say you don’t want to live somewhere without offending someone. When you first become an expat you are leaving for adventure and new horisons, but the longer you stay the more it is an active decision based on your previous home not being right for you.

As much as I feel some relief that I know my heart is in London, in a way it makes everything so much harder. I miss my parents and sister so much its like I’m missing a limb. And I know its going to be even harder than normal this year as my sister is getting married, such an important thing that I am going to miss all the fun planning and family times.

But the old slipper can’t be changed. Yes I could take the seriously easy decision to move back home and get my family back, but I know that it is not the way to happiness. London is.

Mt Eden

7 Comments

  1. March 19, 2015 / 7:43 pm

    I know the feeling! Though I loved going home this time, it didn’t exactly feel like it was the right time for me to return. Everything there feels so timeless, nothing has changed so much and my life here in Slovenia has a lot to offer. But well, you never know with these journeys of ours where we will end up, when, and most importantly, why?

  2. March 19, 2015 / 8:16 pm

    This is so true! I feel exactly the same way, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I hope one day the time comes that I do feel the need to go home but for now London is just too much fun.

  3. March 21, 2015 / 2:33 pm

    I havent been back home since I moved to London….in that time my parents moved to Sydney so….where is my home anyway? I feel like if I go back It would be like going backwards, I left for a number of reasons. I need to go forward not backwards and right now that means staying in London! xx

  4. March 24, 2015 / 1:18 pm

    You know it might not be quite the same given I only moved to the other end of the country not the other side of the world but I feel exactly the same when I go home to Aberdeen. Back home it’s all weddings and babies whereas I’m all about the next adventure whether it’s here in London or beyond! x

  5. Emma
    March 24, 2015 / 11:40 pm

    Wow, this is a pretty powerful, and refreshingly honest post. My husband and I are moving to the UK in a few months, and I can agree with you on so many levels. I really want to move forward with life, try new things, have an adventure and just generally grow – but it’s so hard sometimes when I spend time with my family, or see friends who have now bought a house, are having kids and just generally happy with the “small world” view. On one hand I’m thinking “Why are you not travelling? How can you be happy with all of this right now?” and then sometimes I feel sad about leaving it all behind.

  6. March 25, 2015 / 6:12 am

    Well you just summarised exactly how I feel after getting back from NZ. It’s kind of scary – I hope NZ will be the right fit one day – but also exciting that London is the best place for me right now.

  7. March 31, 2015 / 4:13 pm

    It’s funny and ironic to hear you say that buying a house back here is possible because the huge housing bubble right now makes it much less possible than it used to be. Of course, it’s still way more likely to happen here than in London.

    Whilst I haven’t managed to move anywhere (yet) to qualify as an expat, I feel like I’m definitely going to cross this same bridge as you some day. Probably a lot sooner than my family would like. Having recently spent most of the NZ summer overseas in the Northern Hemisphere, I just didn’t want to come home. And not just because I was “on holiday” the whole time — I would just rather join the daily grind elsewhere than here. Most of my friends get it and that’s great, but the ones who don’t… well I guess they’re the ones getting hitched right now, and that just isn’t what I want to do, nor talk about, for quite some time yet either.