This February marks 6 consecutive years since I’ve been living abroad. In those 6 years I’ve managed to go ‘home’ to Vancouver once or twice each year. Usually I get the homesick itch every 9 months or so (and it’s usually because I miss my favorite food or restaurants) and a short 2 week visit curbs the feeling.
But what happens when it doesn’t feel like home anymore?
Ah, the inevitable lost feeling. If you’re an expat living abroad or have ever lived abroad for a period of time you’ll know what I’m talking about. The feeling that no where yet everywhere is home, but you no longer feel like your home is home.
We went back to Vancouver this past summer for our annual trip, but mainly to introduce O to our family and friends there, and Canada to O. I was so excited to have everyone meet our son and to get my fill of ‘home’.
The first two or three days was great, filled with guests, family, friends and a wonderful baby shower my best friend and mom planned for us. We were over the Jetlag quickly and really settled within a few days. But after the weekend I felt awkward, I wasn’t sure what I was feeling but I found myself aggitated, uncomfortable and out of my element. My husband noticed it too and kept asking what was wrong but I couldn’t explain it, I didn’t even know what I was feeling.
We took a day to ourselves and went on a family adventure downtown and did some shopping and went for lunch. This was when it hit me..
I was standing in line at my favorite store which I dream about shopping at once a year (if you’re from Canada you’ll already know I’m talking about Aritzia.) The woman in front of me was paying and the cashier complimented her bag and the cute outfit she was buying, and I thought to myself “how annoying that must be, all the woman wants to do is buy her outfit and probably run over to Starbucks. She doesn’t want to have a conversation with a complete stranger.” Then the woman started talking back and telling her about her recent trip and her reason for buying the outfit. Oh my god, I couldn’t believe it, I had lost my Canadian-ness.
In Germany, you rush through line ups, don’t make small talk (barely say hi to people walking down the street) and mind your own. So after my thought in the line up I realized I had adapted to German standards (expected after living here for so long).
I was sad. I was hurt. I felt betrayed, upset at myself and most of all lost.
You see, in Germany I’m a foreigner, yes I speak German fluently but I don’t think like a German, I don’t act like a German and my name stands out like a sore thumb! But in Canada I’m a foreigner too, I don’t act Canadian in social settings anymore, I speak English, obviously, but everyone always tells me that I speak with an accent and I don’t feel like it’s home anymore. I’m stuck between being a foreigner anywhere I am and it sucks!
In the end, home is where my husband and son are. Whether it’s in Germany or Canada or Africa, I’m happiest with them. Regardless of my nationality, they get me and my mix of actions. I won’t be so caught up on where I am in the world anymore and more focused on the memories we’re making.
Part of me will always be Canadian and part of me will always feel at home in Germany, once the next chapter of our lives comes in sure part of me will be stuck in that place as well. That is after all, the joy of being an expat, isn’t it?
Thanks for reading! Xo