I’m back! My time in Taiwan came to an end and I travelled halfway across the world to see my favourite hubby again. Only ten days later, we were back on a plane and heading to the motherland. It had been two years since I had stepped foot in Canada. I have to admit that I almost cried when we landed in St-John’s (which was not even my final destination). It was absolutely wonderful to see my friends and family again. But…
When you move abroad, you learn and grow so much, but you forget that the friends you leave behind do the same. When I went back to Canada, I wrongly assumed that everything and everyone would be the same. Everyone changes and develops over the years, not just the ones who move somewhere new. It was hard to realise that the place that I once had amongst my friends had changed. It had not disappeared, simply changed. As I did, they made new friends, developed new habits and hobbies. I think this was hard to come to terms with because I didn’t have a stable group of friends elsewhere. My friends from Taiwan and London were from all over the world and went back to their respective countries once their studies ended. I had friends in Oxford, but I had never really lived there. I was therefore looking forward to going back to good ole’ Canada. I cannot stress enough that my friends back home did everything to make me feel as though no time had passed since we had last seen each other. It was not their fault, but mine. My expectations were misplaced. Of course they would not understand all of the references that I had picked up over two years, why should I expect to understand all of theirs?
I was welcomed with open arms, but having recently moved again, it made me realise that I didn’t have a place that was my own. At the end of my trip to Canada, I felt that I needed to get back to Oxford for the blank slate that it offered. Friends that I have here are more recent. Changes in their habits are difficult to notice after being away for a year. A lot of them have new girlfriends/boyfriends, but I barely notice the difference from when they were single. I don’t already have a space amongst the friends here that is “my own”. There is only the one that I’m carving out now.
I used to coach my students coming back from an international exchange to expect a level of return culture shock after six months to a year abroad. You always think that these kinds of things happen to other people, but they happen to everyone, even you. After moving to three different cities in two years, it most definitely happens to you. It’s hard to write about this topic without stressing enough that it is all about the headset of the traveller. The expat life does not end when you leave your host country, and that is something we often forget.