I’ve been in Ohio just over one week, and after living oversees for roughly a year, it is the first time I’ve ever been “homesick”. I’m not talking about homesick for the States, as I’ve experienced that all year long, but I feel homesick for my little spot in the world, straddling the border of France and Switzerland. It’s funny how you start to change when you don’t even know you are changing. Granted, I miss my husband, Dragan, and the routines we were getting into and the fun places we get to visit, but it’s more than that. I miss the scenery (I suppose living in the Swiss Alps spoils you), I miss my home, and weirdly, I miss the struggles I was facing. How bizarre. So, I thought I would create a little list of things you experience as an expat on the Swiss French border when you go back home to your country. This could obviously apply to expats everywhere but as I’m living in one of the most stunning places on Earth, some of my experiences I’ve learned are charmed.
1. No one back “home” really understands what you have been going through.
When you are an expat living overseas, you are surrounded by people who experience the same “out of the comfort zone” struggle you face daily. They understand how stupid and silly you feel at times, and the hilarity of those stories, but they also understand how exhilarating the experience is to face those fears and to become a stronger person. It’s encouraging to be around people who choose so different a path, as you do. Often, when around people who have known you all your life, it’s hard to show how much you’ve changed;how different you really are. I am not just this little girl!
2. You start to feel like a snob.
Perhaps “snob” is not the right word, and I’ve always tried to make sure I never forget where I come from, but I feel I have experienced so many new and different worlds, I’m always wanting to tell people, and feel I may come across as a know-it-all or worse. I find myself saying, “Actually, did you know…” so many times I could spit! The other thing for me is that I live in a place where you can get amazing wine everyday, and having learned about wine alot, I find myself turning my nose to things I now know are not good. That may not refer to food either…….I’m spoiled living where I live as I get incredible fresh food and wine and coffee and chocolate, that I find myself not liking things I’ve enjoyed my whole life. I never want to become someone who is a snob, as we are all human beings and I believe, go through many of the same emotions, but it is difficult. Also, to my great dismay, after a year of complaining about not having American coffee in Europe, I have become a snob. Granted, there is unbelievable drip coffee here, but I don’t think I can any longer stomach Dunkin Donuts (I know, I hate MYSELF for this) and needing stronger coffee, I feel I want to ask for an espresso shot to throw in. I AM glad though to be enjoying normal size coffees again! The To-go culture here has not really caught on, and there is nothing I love more than getting a coffee and taking a walk in the Fall, I can DEFINITELY come home to that!
This is the difference between a To-Go Coffee from an American establishment and the largest To-Go coffee available at a gas station in France. America wins on this one, even if the quality is not as great! You need coffee to slowly sip on a road trip!!!
Amazing Coffee Quality in Europe…….definitely beats Dunkin. Sorry!
Weeknight wine in France:
Weeknight Wine in America. 🙂
3. The American way of life and the concept of service is disconcerting.
My biggest struggle in Europe has been the loss of service in ordinary things. For example, where I live, I’ve learned to weigh my own produce and bag my own groceries (Much to my dismay!), so my first day back at Kroger, I wandered around looking for the place to weigh my own groceries before I realized where I was and then actually started to do my own bagging, before I remembered the luxury of someone doing it for me. On top of that, I believe I felt a little bad, thinking, “that poor guy has enough work, he shouldn’t have to do that!”. What???? I guess all the times of the cashier looking at me in France as though her life is so rough she could not POSSIBLY handle going the extra mile HAVE affected me! Also, I walked around the store, MOUTH AGAPE, in true awe of the variety of food at my disposal, anything I want (!), but a little put back at the cost of eating healthy. I have gotten used to the inexpensive cost of fresh veggies and water! I find myself unable to make decisions at restaurants and coffee shops and especially stores with decorations………there are so many choices……..ahhh!!!!…..what do I choose????
4. Other people have changed too.
Anytime you don’t see someone regularly, it’s often a gargantuan, ginormous shock when you see them again. The good and the bad. People are enhanced or diminished and when you see someone regularly the changes become gradual in your eyes, but when you come back, it’s harder. It takes it’s toll. Because, even though you are getting on with your life and consumed with THAT, it’s hard to realize others are getting on with THEIR lives too. Suddenly, interests have shifted, in both directions, and that can be challenging. When you live far away, you idealize people in your memories; they are perfect(!) and every memory is perfect, but in reality everyone is flawed and busy with their own lives…………they don’t have time to spend all day with you when you are around. When you come back and you realize this, it can make you feel a little like this.
5. The News
When you live overseas and come back to America, you realize how consumed the news is with…….well, America. I hate to even write this, as I’m as patriotic as they come, and really hope to move back someday, but I find myself shaking my head on the lack of any mention about other aspects of the world on the regular news. Is this just me??? Maybe it’s because I’m here during election time, and this election WAS important, but can we not just touch base on the rest of the world (other than ISIS)? I get it though, and argue the reverse when I’m away. We are segregated from the world here……an ocean away…….but maybe it would do us some good to learn where other countries are in the world…..to pay attention to History, and not just our own. America is really not racist (we are the most politically correct and racially aware place I’ve ever known), go visit places where it really IS a problem, and if I have to hear anymore about people winning elections b/c they are black or white, I’m going to scream! Just stop talking about it and bringing it to everyones mind all the time! Maybe it is an issue, but I just feel there are also OTHER things going on in the world. I’m sure I’m stepping on some toes here, so take it with a grain of salt. 🙂
All this being said, I’m sure some of these things apply anytime you leave home. It’s wonderful yet challenging to go home again. A part of that is simply realizing, when returning to your country after moving away…….this place, this home, this country, this life that you love and cherish, which holds so many people and memories you adore, is no longer in fact your home. It’s your past and that you have changed. It’s beautiful if not a bit sorrowful that life moves on and we must move and grow with it.