I came across an interesting article last week from the perspective of an 'expat' who wrote 4 Ways Living Abroad Changes You...Forever. While the author generally advocates the benefits of travel, it was his perspective as an 'expat' that got me thinking. Suddenly I realized that I, too, was an 'expat' while I lived in Australia. And in spite of nodding my head in agreement to most of the article coupled with my recent move home, I found I strongly disagreed with one of the author's key points.
to Wikipedia, 'an expatriate (or expat for short) is a person
temporarily or permanently living in a country other than of the
person's upbringing'. So I guess the 12yrs that I spent living in
Melbourne qualifies me! Interestingly, until now I've never thought of
myself that way, tending to think of expats more in terms of people from
English, Western countries who live in non-English speaking places.
But in the article, the author states: 'You can never go back home'. As you may recall from my recent post,
I have done just that. After being away from Vancouver, the place
where I was brought up, my family and I have just
relocated here. And what do I think of coming home?
I had no expectations that things were going to be the same. How could
they be? Although I have been back for a few months at a time over the
the years, I'd been gone for 16yrs! I fully expected things to change,
people to change, and relationships to change. But the reality was, I
still have my closest friends and family here and they have been great
upon my return. Yes, I am not entirely the same person that I was
before I left due to my experiences, but then again, neither are they.
But in the end, deep down, we haven't changed and neither have our core
I had greatly underestimated how the values of a society can differ from one another and thus affect one's sense of belonging in the long run.
for the first 8yrs or so while I lived in Australia, I still referred
to 'home' as Vancouver. But 4yrs ago or so, I had unconsciously started
to regard Melbourne as 'home'. So moving back was actually a bit
difficult psychologically and now, I catch myself still referring to
Melbourne that way! While in some ways I feel caught somewhere in the
middle, I have still experienced a sense of belonging here where I grew
up that I never quite realised that I missed. There is something to be
said about being able to connect with people who share a similar
upbringing as you. When I first went abroad, I accepted being
'different' as a necessary part of travel whether it be on a short term
basis like on holidays, or on an ongoing long term basis as an expat. I
know that I can adapt quite easily to my environment.
adapting doesn't erase that fact you don't really ever fit in entirely
and at at first, that was ok.
get me wrong, I never consciously felt like an outsider while living in
Australia--at least not all the time. But now upon my return to
Canada, I finally realize that the feeling was always there and it's
been a pleasant surprise to find that gone now. I feel like people
understand me more, and vice versa. It's just more 'comfortable' being
I think the answer to the question whether you can go home again or not lies within yourself and your expectations. It's much like when you re-visit a destination that you had previously loved. Why are you going back? Is it based expecting that you will find things are they were the last time you were there? If so, there is a good chance that you will be disappointed as things change. But if you approach the return wanting to find a good experience within the existing framework which you had previously experienced, then you might be successful.
We've been here for 6 months now, and maybe we've just been one of the lucky ones. It's still early days yet but so far, I think we have settled in nicely. Returning home has made me realise that I am truly a Canadian at heart. And how does that saying go? Home is where the heart is. Yes, expats, you CAN go home (if you want).
So what do you think? Have you thought about going home or have you done it? Leave us a comment below!