Spending some time back home after living abroad for nearly two years (and hardly visiting London) has made me realise that life abroad doesn’t always feel foreign. At some point the tables start to turn…
It wasn’t Christmas, it wasn’t my birthday, it was just the first ‘normal’ week I’d spent working in London since I moved to Frankfurt in August 2016. I quickly adapted to easily meeting up with friends and family, jumping on the tube and grabbing a sandwich from Pret A Manger as and when I wanted to, but there was still a part of me that didn’t feel like I was fully ‘home’. I knew that this was only temporary and little things like using a different currency and keeping receipts for your travel expenses are a big reminder that you have somewhere else, another home, to return to.
I have 25 years of friendships in London, so my life in London is very busy. I am constantly on the go and always have something to do next, especially now that time is limited when I am there. To compare, I can count my good friends in Frankfurt on one hand, meaning life is a lot more laid back, especially in a small city, and there are definitely aspects of this that I missed whilst I was away.
I’ve read and heard that expats often feel as though they no longer belong and/or fit in when they go back home. But I didn’t feel like this. For me, it was more the feeling that I also belong somewhere else now too. I see this as a positive because if after nearly two years of living in Frankfurt I had absolutely no desire to return after two weeks in Cuba followed directly by one week in London, then there’d definitely be a problem.
I was fully emerged into my ‘old life’ for just over a week and me and my friends were saying how much of a shame it is that we no longer have good times like these together on a weekly basis. Although it’s been very hard at times, you almost (note almost) get used to it. I guess it’s sad, but it’s also life. Looking back, my ‘old life’ in London has only made me remember how much fun I had discovering the city during the first few years of my career. They were some of the best times.
As expats I think that at some point it becomes hard for us to just have one ‘home’. We build our lives in different locations around the world, and develop different attachments to different places for different reasons. I used to find it odd when people at home (London) would ask me when I’m going back ‘home’ (to Frankfurt). I would think “God, I’ve only been gone a year, I haven’t disowned London as my home and I don’t even feel fully settled in Frankfurt.” But as I approach two years in this welcoming city, I’ve realised that I don’t feel that as much anymore. So yes, I can finally call Frankfurt ‘home’ too.