Naomi is an old friend from my University days (like Ellie – somehow I picked friends who were up for embracing expat life!). We would meet up and have deep and meaningful conversations over hot cups of coffee on freezing cold days (most St Andrews days were freezing cold) and I’m so thrillec she said she’d share her experience of coming home here with us today…
So first, where were you an expat and how long for? Why did you leave and where are you now?
I was an expat in Singapore for two years, from July 2008 – July 2010. My then boyfriend (now husband) and I had been trying to work out a way to live in the same town, with him working away in Frankfurt and Dublin. Then, out of the blue, he was offered a job in Singapore and asked how I would feel about going. I leapt at the chance to have an adventure together.
We left for several reasons, but the main one was that Singapore was a frustrating and difficult place for me to launch a career. There was protectionism, meaning that jobs for ‘trailing spouses’ were limited and so I applied to do teacher training back in the UK. Matt put feelers out for a posting back in the UK and here we now are: living and working in London.
What was the hardest thing about going “home”?
My amazing husband was really supportive of my career and my need to come home to start it. I worried so much, though, that it would be damaging his career to be so keen to transfer back to London. We both knew that we would miss the amazing trips that we could do from Singapore, as well as the freedom and anonymity we were able to have out there – being there enabled us to get to know each other and be so extravagant with our time for each other.
We both (still!) miss the feeling of ‘doing something different’ – of being on the road less travelled and continually being a little bit out of our comfort zone.
What the the best thing about going “home”?
Being so close to our family and friends, being able to arrange to see people at the last minute and call in on the way home from work.
The seasons – the weather turning colder and the need to wear a jumper.
The deli counter at the supermarket! Proper sausages and inexpensive beer.
Was there anything that really surprised you about your transition back?
The strangeness of having two lives that you flit between was so central to my expat experience. Having a life in London, then stepping into a metal tube and travelling for 14 hours to pick up your life on the other side of the world… then periodically coming home for a few weeks to pick back up the london life for a while. It was such a strange surprise to suddenly realise that my life in Singapore didn’t exist any more, and that I went back a year later most of my friends had left and it felt like a really foreign town.
It surprised me how quickly the whole experience came to feel like a dream. Looking back, there were so many days that were HARD, but now it feels like we were playing house and that it wasn’t real life.
What one tip would you give to expats preparing to move back?
Record the last minute minutiae of your life. The big trips, the touristy things, the wild adventures are covered by your memory, your ticket stubs and, often, your smart phone. When you’re back you’ll want to be able to remember the name of your favourite park, what you had for breakfast and how it felt to walk to work. Record these details in your last few days and weeks there.
If you could summarise your expat experience in three words, what would they be?
Stretching, life-altering, maturing. (Not sure that last word is the right word, but in essence I want to say that it caused me to grow up as a person and to grow together as a couple)
We’re talking about going home after an expat experience today, part of my current blog series: 31 days to embrace expat life. Read the original post about going home here, or click here to see all posts in this series so far. Oh and if you’re wanting to stay up to date on all new posts, you can always subscribe, like me on facebook or follow me on twitter (I’m all about options!)…