Every expat visits their home turf at some point. Well, up to now. I suppose that the people who end up on Mars will find it a bit harder to nip home for a weekend. But in general some form of homecoming, usually once a year, is expected. Note the word ‘expected’ – this is a very one-sided word, as all the expectations are clearly on the side of the people you left behind.
These homecomings change over the years and the longer you stay overseas, the more likely you are to enjoy a number of different experiences. For ease we can break it down into three phases, which I refer to as The Exhaustion, The Frustration and The Perfection.
Timeframe: 1 – 3 years
Characteristics: You are so excited to go home and reconnect with all your family and old friends. Months before your trip, all of your social media platforms are positively awash with planning messages and emails. You probably know more about public transport connections and driving routes to family, friends and acquaintances than the local council. At arrivals, a big group of your friends are waiting with hand-made signs, welcoming you back and carrying your luggage.
Once there, a whirl of dinners, drinks and parties. Hugs, tears, stories and laughter. Staying over at friends’ houses and sleeping on the couch is just such fun!
You head home two weeks later, exhausted but happy, arriving back at work needing another holiday. You start planning your next trip a month after your return.
Notes: The longer your flights, the greater your exhaustion
Timeframe: 4 – 6 years
Characteristics: About two weeks before your departure you send a group message outlining your plans and telling them where you will be – two locations maximum. About 10 people respond. 50% of those ask you if you can change your plans.
You arrive, get the shuttle bus to your hotel and collapse. Slow days, great dinners at night with a few friends and family. 60% of your plans have to change at short notice as people contact you and say they can’t make it: they are too tired after work/Little Johnny has been sick in the car/they forgot they were picking up the in-laws from the care home.
Fun times hanging out in all your old haunts, no matter how bad they have now become. Friends will raise an eyebrow and suggest newer, more trendy places that you have never heard of, but will humour you nevertheless.
You head home having had a busy, but good break. You then receive The Email from at least one person asking why you didn’t pop 25kms up the road to visit them. You respond politely saying they must have missed your original email telling people where you would be*
Notes: You are surprised at the people who are staying in touch – a few people you expected to didn’t and a few you didn’t expect to did.
* By year 6 you will respond pointing out to the f*****s that you flew half way round the world and if they couldn’t be bothered moving their arse a measly 25kms it is not your problem.
Timeframe: 7 years plus
Characteristics: You book your holiday – somewhere exotic (but suitably close to home) with a pool and a great cocktail bar. You send an email to your family and remaining friends telling them what a great holiday you will be having. You call your two closest friends and arrange to meet them there.
Lots of people send you The Email asking how you could possibly be so close and not visit. You refer them to your social media sites and gloat about the amazing time you are having.
Your close family joins you for three days.
You have a perfect holiday and return to work relaxed and rejuvenated.
Notes: You finally have your holiday time back for yourself.
I suspect that there is a fourth and final phase – you only go on holiday with friends from your adopted homeland. I haven’t got there yet, so best that I don’t try and explain the temptations. My family and friends back in the UK may be reading this blog…
Welcome to life as a long-term expat!
PS: The pictures were taken on a great holiday on an Indonesian island called Pangkil