Forever Expat

“The harsh reality is that you are forever going to feel like you don’t belong,” says Robin Pascoe in her book Homeward Bound, speaking about the tradeoffs we make for the many benefits of expatriate life.  That blunt statement hit me right between the eyes with the certainty of an undisputed truth.

In the Afterword of the same book, Dr Kirsten Thogersen, a clinical psychologist, agrees, “There is no way you will every again be assimilated with a group of people who have not been travelling like yourself.” 

For the past 14 years I’ve lived as an outsider and been very happy, so why should I expect it be any different now that I’m home?  I believe it’s an acceptable price to pay for all the amazing experiences I’ve had as an expat.  Although it’s tempting to think those who haven’t travelled must be boring, many of the people I met in other countries hadn’t travelled either and I found them fascinating.   I may never fully assimilate, but people at home lead interesting lives just as the locals I met overseas did. 

And yes, I guess I am still trying to convince myself, but reading Robin’s book has certainly helped me a great deal and I strongly recommend it to any expatriate, even those who don’t go home, as eventually everyone settles somewhere and will go through the whole expatriate-withdrawal process.

Since returning to Canada 6 months ago I have started this blog, connected with many involved in the expat world through social media and starting volunteering with Families in Global Transition.  I had thought these were a temporary means to “hang on” to the expat life I’d left behind and perhaps I was being a bit desperate and sad.  But reading Robin’s book has made me realize that’s not the case.  Even though a chapter of my life may have ended, expatriate life will always be a part of me.  I am a forever expat.

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8 thoughts on “Forever Expat

  1. Yup. I was in the states several years between Belize and Europe. And it’s never quite the same. I tried to fit in…a little too hard. But the traveling is too much a part of me. This Europe – Canada- Europe experience has been further life-changing, and I will never be the same again.

    And when you try to talk to people in your “home” country: At first, people are like, ooh, you’ve been there? But after a while it wears off and they get bored with it. No one cares.

    Our best friends and “family” that we have collected all over the world are made up of older people who have traveled. Many are expats themselves. And I feel closer to them than my real extended family, though they’re far away.

  2. I’m battling, really battling to adjust to living in my home country again. Right now, all me & hubby do is remind ourselves it’s only 72wks until we can book our flights & take off for at least a year! (The Plan of Attack is to leave here in April 2012 & tour the USA on a Harley for 12mths)
    I don’t think we’ll truly settle down again until retirement age & even then I reckon we’ll both get ‘cabin fever’ from living in one spot for too long🙂
    It’s a bugger being an expat sometimes🙂

    • Jayne, the trip should be amazing! That’ll be a blog to follow😉 And I can’t wait for your own, shall I say “unique?” comments on American culture! I don’t know any expat who hasn’t struggled with repatriation. Most don’t want to talk about it – it seems to be a taboo subject. I do recommend reading Robin’s book. It won’t cure the problem, but just realizing you’re not alone, helps. I’m finding that within the online expat community there is a sizeable group of ex-expats and being able to connect with them is also helpful. So many were repatriated this last year, due to the meltdown, that it’s a growing and increasingly vocal group.

  3. I didn’t want to be a forever expat, hence why I was so happy to become a Canadian citizen this summer. I know it’s psychological but it helped a lot.

  4. Wow. I can really relate to all this. I’ve had so many problems in repatriation. My plan, once my daughter is safely off to college, is to put all my stuff (including all my stuff I “inherited” from my living parents who were globe trotters and expats) in storage and leave the US , at least for awhile. I need to feel “normal” again. That need is something that never leaves you. For years, I thought I was supposed to put my TCK childhood in a shoe box, and somehow forget it, and blend in. This was the message I received. (Whether it was intended to be “sent” is another matter entirely, and I don’t “blame” anybody).

    I can tell you that the struggle is worse when you are constantly comparing your current life to xyz country/station. I also think that people should avoid “mono-cultured” people for awhile. This may sound harsh but the bare naked truth is: they don’t get it and never will.

    Surroud yourself with “foriegners”. This will offer comfort to your soul when you feel restless and “miss” the adopted country/travel in general. Also, it comforts THEM, to know they have a “Canadian” who “gets it”. It’s a two way street there.

    and also it has helped me to repeat this several times a day when I need to:
    “Now” is not “forever”. 🙂

    Scarlett O’Hara was a shallow b__ch but she was right: There is always tomorrow. Your circumstances in the future will be different than they are today and there is always hope that you will find some new adventure to occupy that “hole in your soul”.

    I get it. I really do!
    Much peace and “love” to you this Christmas and New Year, though we’ve never met — we have to stick together, us “nomads”. 🙂

  5. Pingback: 4 Things I’ve learned about repatriating well | ExpatriateLife

  6. Pingback: Ex-Pat Living: Forever Expat, Forever Grateful | Life Lessons

  7. Pingback: four Issues I’ve discovered about repatriating nicely | Posts

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