The point that our blog posts day after day probably drive home is the fact that relocating to London is full of challenges, be it the logistics of finding employment in the UK, applying for a UK visa, moving to London with a family or as an unemployed student, deciding what to pack and how to actually ship it over, understanding the London property market, finding and renting a London apartment, making friends, or getting adjusted to differences in language and culture, etc. There’s yet another one that dawned on me during my recent visit home, and that’s the dilemma we expats living in London can sometimes encounter both abroad and on our home soil.
The predicament is as such: In the UK (as in any other country you could relocate to) you find yourself wanting to meld in with the locals—not strolling into a pub with a hearty, “‘Allo, Guvna’!” per se, but demonstrating an interest in understanding the colloquialisms and customs, get new fashion ideas, watch their TV shows, listen to their music and generally show a willing enthusiasm for your new environs, its cultural makeup, history and the like. You’re immersed in a global milieu that introduces you to a broader scope of perspectives, and while you should certainly still show pride in your home country, well, quite frankly if you’re American you’ll sense a stigma that might make you feel like you’re supposed to be ashamed. (Don’t be, by the way. First of all, it’s not everyone’s sentiment here that Amercia is the Devil. Second, if I may ascend my soapbox, being apologetic isn’t necessary unless you really do mean it, and when you don’t mean it, even if it still commands respect from others, it likely won’t from yourself. *Descends soapbox*) At any rate, the risk might be that you’ll downplay your origins all for the sake of fitting in, as if it’s junior high school again.
Then, when you do go home, whether you’ve conciously tried to let your new expat existence alter you or not, it will have in some way. This you’ll notice for certain when you’re back in the familiar environment from which you came. It’s not so drastic as you’ve become a square peg trying to fit into a round whole, it’s just the inevitable growth moving abroad brings about from within. Your beloved family and friends will mostly be excited for you and eager to hear your tales, but you’ll find that some won’t inquire at all…deliberately, it seems. Or they’ll call you out on minor changes in your inflections or use of British terminology…usually with a smile, but a rather smug one if I may be so bold. It’s something that my expat friends and I seem to notice grow with every visit home, in fact; the longer we’re away, the more some people seem to try to ignore the fact that we’re having new experiences that could be as interesting to add to conversation as their kid’s soccer game. You might notice less effort put into meeting up with you, as you’ll become terribly inconvenient to people’s everyday schedules (because an overseas roundtrip is so easy for you to pencil in, isn’t it?). Luckily, this will not be the case with those who truly love you, but I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, to some extent, you might feel like you have to play down your new London life as an expat…all for the sake of fitting in…as if it’s junior high school again.
Is this one of my more cynical posts? Yes. Is it warranted? I believe so, yes. It’s nothing to dwell on overly much, but that’s not to say it won’t sometimes hurt a little if not just piss you off (especially if it’s coming from that old friend that always did cater to drama *shaking fist at sky*). My advice here is simply to let it roll off your shoulder as best as you can. It’s one thing to waltz home and expect everyone else’s world to stop spinning as they drop at your feet and kiss your well-traveled toes as you boast of your adventures—but if this isn’t your expectation and you maintain a modesty about it, then you know the problem isn’t with you, it’s them and an inability to reconcile their own happiness perhaps. So stay humble, yet still proud of both where you came from and where you are now—don’t apologize for anything after your London move, just embrace your fabulous patriot/expatriot self and don’t worry about what others think! You’re not in junior high school anymore!