When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. -Samuel Johnson
Repatriation has a reputation of being challenging. For this reason I knew resettling in London was never going to be easy. It’s been just over 6 months since we have arrived back in London and I find myself in a different state of mine than I was in the last few months. Three months ago I was excited to be here (read here for my first impressions), grateful to be here and surprised at the ease at which we had settled. In fact things had gone so smoothly I was nervous for what was around the corner. As a well-seasoned expat I certainly didn’t take for granted the settled mood the Northerner and I were experiencing. And I knew it would be about at the 6 month mark when we would truly be able to stop and evaluate the repercussions of our move back home. Most people feel unsettled, lost, frustrated and perhaps a bit lonely when they repatriate. And I certainly haven’t been immune to any of those feelings, despite the positive vibes I was feeling three months ago.
Tired of London …
I’ll be honest. I was tired of London before I left the first time. And so I’m not surprised that these feelings have re-emerged upon resettling in London. Why am I tired of life in London? Well, London is a very fast-paced city that is densely populated. As a result, everything is a bit of a … shall we say… s**tfight? Getting to work is a s**tfight as you push or get pushed on to a train. I’ve given up on trains as the delays are atrocious. But traffic on buses makes for unreliable transport as well. Don’t get me wrong, it is still amazing but it wears on you.
…. Tired of Life
On top of that, cutbacks across many industries means many people are doing the job of many. Meaning they are working longer hours for the same money. And so commuting plus long work hours have left both the Northerner and I exhausted. I used to see people at least once during the week and then on the weekends. But since coming back I’ve just been too tired to reach out and be social. Some of you may have noticed I don’t write as much either and that again is a result of the long hours. I’m too tired to sit at a laptop after putting in a full day of teaching. And while we left with that ‘expat’ation of wanting a work-life balance, I think we have returned with a wish for just any sort of balance. And so while the nuts and bolts of resettling in London have been smooth, repatriation has caused some bumps along the road.
Lost in London
Resettling in London has left me feeling a bit lost. While we were away I always missed London and I know I will miss it if we leave again. But we just aren’t enjoying the city as we should for people who live in London. I can’t remember the last time we went into the city and enjoyed it for what it offers. And so, there have been whispers of Life beyond London, as we certainly aren’t moving overseas any time soon. A conversation started on an expat group asked if anyone knew where they would settle if they had to go back home. Some had a clear idea but many thought they would still be expats and not settle. I said there needed to be a new property show called ‘Escape from London’ as I seem to spend way too much time studying the train maps of Southern, SouthWestern and South Eastern railways to google commute times into London and property prices. I haven’t gotten very far in terms of a conclusion despite the numerous episodes of Location, Location, Location I have binge-watched for inspiration.
Some of you maybe saying- well forget London then. Look elsewhere. But sadly when it comes to jobs, London holds many more. And so job prospects are far better in London than out.
A Labour of Love
Despite not being entirely thrilled about the daily grind of life in London there is an added layer to resettling in London that I didn’t anticipate yet feared nonetheless. I have returned feeling lost with concepts I have always felt so sure about. My career drive has been completely drained. I left London filled with ambition and drive for my career. But after the long hours and stressful days I have put in since returning, I have questioned how long I will be in this career for based on sheer energy and endurance. What’s more, I have found myself green with envy as I look at people jogging or walking their dog leisurely at 8 am while I hustle it to work.
Lonely in London
The long working hours have also left me little energy to socialise with friends and I’ve noticed I have seen less and less of people as the months have gone on. This is also partly due to London life in general. Everyone is too busy or lives too far away. But I also hardly see the The Northerner in the evenings as he falls victim to long London hours. We’ve actually tried to schedule in date night to make sure we spend some quality time with each other. That didn’t last long as we were ( you’ve guessed it…) just too tired to keep it up on a weekly basis. I have found myself lonely in London. Something I never thought I would feel.
Missing Expat life
Needless to say I’ve been missing my Expat life. Despite having a smaller social circle (and I mean I could count all my friends on one hand), I felt more connected when I was away than back home. I have come to despise google’s insensitive reminders to ‘rediscover’ my day a year ago, as I know full well what I was doing this time last year. My heart sinks when I see pictures of Singapore and more often than not, the Northerner and I comment that it all feels a bit like a dream. Like it never really happened. That has made resettling back in London hard as well.
Resettling in London
Resettling in London was never going to be easy as repatriation is just as tough (if not tougher) than expatriation. But just as with expatriation, this is a phase and there are things I can do to ease myself through this phase.
Luckily, as a seasoned expat, I know full well what I need to do to get out of this repatriation funk.
- The first thing I need to do is give it time. In another six months, I will probably have some answers or more direction on where we want our new life back in the UK to go.
- The second thing I need to do is build a new community. I need to follow my own interests and meet new people in my ‘new me’ form. Basically, I need to approach building a community the same way I did our expat life.
- The third thing I need to do is get out there and explore my home. It may be old but it’s still new to me. New because London always changes. New because I haven’t enjoyed much of it in the last 3 years. London is an amazing city to live in and I am always a proud Londoner. And so getting out to enjoy this city I call home is a must.
It was never going to be easy
Resettling was always going to be hard on a level that is difficult for most around me understand. It is a strange feeling when you feel like you don’t belong somewhere that has always felt so familiar. I knew resettling would be difficult because I had changed. I just didn’t know how I had changed until now. Going through this process is helping me learn and understand how my experiences overseas has changed the person I was and has shifted the goals I once had.
I’ll post again in six months to see how well I’ve followed my own advice and if it worked. If you’re an expat that has recently repatriated, I would love to hear how you experienced the resettling phase.
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