I am following the example of Anne in Oregon and Victoria in Florida today as their blog posts on the issue of home for an expat were so interesting. As an expat you often get the question from family and friends; when are you going to move back home? I usually answer that I don’t think that I will move back to Sweden, and to be honest, my family doesn’t ask me that question!
My parents told me a few years ago that they had decided that I was not allowed to move back to Sweden but could I please move to a warmer country… that was at the end of March after a long and cold winter! So, what can I do – only obey my parents and find myself a Spanish boyfriend! Well, of course my parents wouldn’t mind if I moved home but fortunately they have always been very supportive of me living abroad and they always come to visit several times a year.
I discussed the subject with two Swedish expats over lunch, my friend E and her Swedish colleague. E has been in Brussels for 12 years and is married to a Swede, the other woman has been in Brussels back and forth since 1999 and is married to a Londoner. So, do they want to move home? No, definitely not at the moment and they both agreed that it would be very very hard to return to Sweden. You change so much when living abroad and countries also change – and all of a sudden you might not be compatible with your country anymore!
So, where is home? I always say that I go home when I go to Sweden, but I also go home when I return to Brussels. My Swedish home is where my family lives, and home in Brussels (not for much longer) is where I have my things, my apartment, my job, and a lot of my friends (and a boyfriend until recently). I feel happy when I come back to Sweden, a warm feeling of nostalgia and belonging, at the same time as I sometimes feel as a total stranger when I don’t understand why everybody wears leggings under their skirts, why everybody loves Timbuktu, why everybody watches Ernst on TV or why everybody eats GI-food…
When returning to Brussels, I feel happy too to be back. I feel that I have conquered this place – I have made my home here; communicating in French every day and making great friends. I never thought that I would be able to work in French – now I have done that for 5 whole years. It’s a good feeling of accomplishment!
Nevertheless, now I’m leaving Belgium for another challenge and it’s exciting even if I will miss Brussels. I know that it won’t be the last challenge on my way, maybe in a year’s time I’ll be looking forward to moving to Spain, who knows!?
An Egyptian friend told me when I lived in Geneva, had just finished an unpaid internship and was desperate for any kind of job anywhere, that it doesn’t really matter where you are, as long as you have friends. Isn’t that so true? I have only twice moved with somebody: to England with my family at the age of 13 and to Italy to do a master’s with my best friend. However, I have very quickly made friends in the new places (Geneva, Linköping, Annecy, Brussels) and that has made me feel at home. They might not have become close friends that I have kept in contact with but they served a purpose (it sounds terrible but it’s true) at the time. This time I will be moving with my boyfriend, and that already makes me feel sure that I will have a home there.
Of course there have been days when I have just wanted to go home [to Sweden] and stop making all the extra efforts that you need to do in a foreign country, to be close to the support of my family and not always try to be so bloody different and independent. But, it probably wouldn’t work for too long, because I am different thanks to my experience of having lived abroad for so many years and I’m happy that I have that experience.