BBC contributor Laura Clarke identified an important but often overlooked problem of being a long-term expat: how a foreign posting can affect your sense of identity, belonging and home. It prompted many of you to share your own enlightening and often surprising experiences of moving around the globe.
The sense of never being at home anywhere is very real
In fact, so many of you identified with our writer’s dilemma that we thought we would both share your experiences and highlight your best tips when it comes to fitting in once you return “home” after a long stint abroad.
No place like home
In a Facebook comment, Wendy Skroch dubbed the phenomenon “reverse culture shock”. “There is a form of homelessness that goes with all this,” she wrote. “The sense of never being at home anywhere is very real.”
Many people identified with the disheartening struggle to plant roots again upon returning home. Pete Jones, who left the UK in 2000 for a life in Denmark, Holland and Switzerland, wrote: “I do enjoy visiting Blighty for a few days and then feel the need to leave. It is not home anymore!”
Honestly, I don’t know where home is anymore
“I don’t think I’ll ever feel Swiss but I do enjoy life here,” he continued. “Honestly, I don’t know where home is anymore.”
For some, it was the reaction from the people who were supposedly closest to them that made returning a lonely and difficult experience. “Returning home to the US after 26 years in Australia was quite a shock, wrote Bruce Felix. “Being the new guy in what was supposedly ‘home’ has been difficult at times.”
Having picked up new words and phrases but not an accent, he noted, communication in his homeland proved a challenge. “Without the accent, people just think you’re odd.”
After 20 years in America, Mary Sue Connolly felt she was treated as an outsider upon returning to Ireland. “I have changed and I feel labelled as a result.”
Without the accent, people just think you’re odd
“Reintegration is easier by not talking about your past [as] you could be considered as pretentious,” commented Denis Gravel.
Allison Lee can identify. She has been back in Australia for three years following six years in Latin America and London. “It takes so much longer to make friends now… and no one wants to hear your stories.”
Eunice Tsz Wa Ma, originally from Hong Kong, still experiences culture shock even though she returns to the city every summer. “Every time I go back I just feel as if I’m left behind by time [and] the only one still living in the past.”