If you asked how I felt about moving back home to the UK this time last week, I’d say I was pretty miserable about it. It was about 7 degrees in May, the wind was howling and of course grey clouds were looming with only the occasional peaks of blue to remind me that somewhere the sun was up there shining. On days like that I really miss my expat life. There was a reason I left this country after all. Not just to move anywhere. But specifically, to countries that just so happened to sit on the equator (or near enough to it). Thus resulting in me enjoying 365 days of sunshine and warmth! I was in bliss. And now I’ve come to the UK. And with the exception of one rather glorious week in April where temperatures sky-rocketed to 28 degrees, and a sun-filled bank holiday weekend, it’s been cold, grey and miserable here since I arrived. That should have been enough to have me packing or at at least in streams of tears on the daily. But surprisingly it did not.
I never thought we would return from our expat adventure so soon but perhaps timing is everything, despite it being out of our control. I also never thought I would return back to the exact same place that we lived before. However, perhaps given all the change we had experienced of recent, returning to our home was a blessing.
Moving back home
Before returning to the UK permanently I was nervous. Nervous about the R-word and everything that came with it. I had read the stories of people experiencing culture shock returning home, feeling isolated, not fitting in and eventually just packing up and leaving again because that was more familiar to them than home. Perhaps it was because we hadn’t been away for all that long (2 years in the expat world is just dipping your toes in really). Or perhaps we were just ready to come home. But regardless of the reason, it felt good to be home.
Instead of feeling the culture shock, I beamed with pride as I saw people queue up in an orderly fashion for things. My favourite sighting of this truly British stereotype was on one of those hot days where everyone gathered into the nearest beer garden. I looked in to the pub to see one very orderly queue had formed in the centre of the pub and people naturally went to next available bartender. Now usually queuing at a bar is like that in any country. At least three rows deep with everyone eagerly and anxiously waiting their turn for service. But witnessing this made me smile. I was home.
Setting up home
True to our style, most things in terms of repatriation happened rather quickly. I secured a job prior to returning to London (thank you teacher shortage!) and my husband followed suit a few weeks after. Setting up shop back home was made all the more easier as we knew what to expect and where to go for our needs. We were no longer getting Uber taxis to IKEA or the nearest supermarket for supplies. Public transport was readily available literally on our doorstep. I think that alone made resettling that much more mentally manageable.
And of course for the first month or so, everything was quite the novelty. Alcohol was cheap again! The pub was alive and well (we made sure to check this frequently over the Christmas period). Sainsbury’s was a like a day out for us, checking out the new goodies. I remember standing in front of the prepped food section for a good 15 mins in awe of all the sweet potato products. There’s sweet potato noodles, sweet potato fries, sweet potato crinkled slices…. The list goes on! There was no need for my spiralizer now. Sainsbury’s had replaced its job.
Having our home comforts on hand was certainly a positive to returning home. Home was also starting to feel more comfortable as we were able to make it our own. With more surface area for photos and more reason to invest on things we really wanted, we have begun to make our space feel more homely. I know most people are able to achieve this overseas. But for us the lack of stability prevented us from truly doing this.
This is a topic I never really speak about on the blog. Partly because I have some amazing, supportive friends who I keep such regular contact with that I barely notice we don’t live in the same country. Also, I think having grown up an expat child, moving around frequently, I feel the most confident in making friends and maintaining the good ones. But… I probably should dedicate a post on this topic…. Some day.
So… friendships. As I said, we’re quite fortunate to have a great group of friends who keep in touch. They also (probably more importantly) seek us out when we are back in London or if they are going to be “in the neighbourhood” of whatever country we were living in. It is always lovely to see them and the ease at which we all get along is credit to how long we have known each other. Yet I’ve never really thought about how they all felt when we left. And I cannot tell you how heart-warming it was to hear them all (on separate occasions) welcome us back and say how much they missed us. I hate to say it surprised me but it did.
People’s lives in London are so fast lived, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be missed during the monthly catch ups. Yet we were. And I have to say the feeling was mutual. We had missed having a group of friends that knew us through and through. That were conscientious, considerate and caring but most importantly a good laugh. And so unsurprisingly and with hardly any effort, our social calendar has filled up since we’ve arrived back. On most weekends there is usually something we could be doing with friends and we have to actually seek out time to get on with our ‘life admin and errands’. It’s a nice feeling.
So have there been any changes to our lives since returning back to the UK. Well the answer to that is most definitely! Living abroad is always going to change you. Our experiences overseas has certainly had a more lasting impact on our daily life than I would have expected. However I think those experiences will have to wait for another blog post. For now, one of the biggest changes I will mention is the work-life balance continues to be a battle living in London.
As some of you probably have noticed, I haven’t been publishing as much as I would like and mainly comes down to time. The work-life balance issue was something we both were aware of before we left the UK but it was also something I worried about upon returning. I’m not sure if it is just me but since returning it also seems like more and more people in London are expected to work more hours for less compensation. For example, even if you are on a permanent contract, your overtime won’t be compensated with time in lieu etc. It is one thing I’m not happy about since returning to London. The Northerner and I certainly do miss our expat life for this.
Our Expat Future
Being back in the UK has been welcomed change by us. However, we know that it is more than likely that expat life will be in our future. We still talk about places we want to live and explore. Moreover, we really enjoyed our time overseas. But for now, there are certain things we want to achieve in our life. And home is the place for us to do that. I will still continue to write about our expat experiences as I continue to have reflections on our time abroad. So if you are an expat and are enjoying this blog for that side of things, stick around! And as always there will be plenty more blog posts on our travels. But as I am back in London, you can expect a few more London-centric ones too!
If you are an expat and have repatriated I would love to hear how you have found the settling back process.
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