As an ex-pat you have many homes in different countries – from the past, present and future… And then there’s the home [country] which will always be home, you might never live there permanently again but you will (hopefully) always return to visit. It is where your parents, siblings, friends and memories live. I usually call it my “home home”, while my “home” is where I currently live. My past homes are all the places where I have lived before; they all have a special place in my heart and I need to visit them every now and then for old times’ sake and for that special nostalgia (and usually also because I still have friends there).
View from Rue de la Loi on the European Parliament (big glass building in the background) in Brussels
This summer I visited three different homes – past (Brussels), and probably future (Zaragoza) and my “home home” (Sweden), but now I have returned to my present home (Puerto Rico) and it feels very good to be back with O and our vie quotidienne as the French would say (daily life). This is where I have my relationship, my things, my habits and life… – at the moment.
I didn’t write about the trip to Brussels yet, but it was a visit to a past home that actually is even more special than any of the other past homes I have, because of two reasons: 1) I lived there for 5,5 years* and 2) because I met O there…
My breakfast at Pulp, Schuman – great caffè latte, apple muffin and a long to-do list… I did read the paper as well, La Libération with the news of Ingrid Betancourt having been freed in Colombia…
I arrived to Brussels one day before O, and when we finally met up on my 2nd day in Belgium, we both had the same feeling… of bittersweet nostalgia! O first said it, but I had already been thinking it: Maybe we should move back… Well, I think that maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea after all, I think that deep inside we both know that Brussels is a finished chapter for us – it was great while it lasted but we need to settle down somewhere else. Somewhere more permanent, where life is more permanent and where we can feel more part of everyday life – a place such as Spain (or Sweden). Family is important for both of us and it would be easier and more practical to live in one of our two countries, closer to one of our families and to be able to focus holidays on the other family / country. Maybe it might have been different if we came from only one country and lived abroad, or at least came from two countries that you could visit in one go – such as Spain & Portugal, or Sweden & Denmark / Norway… The more countries you involve in the relationship, the more time of your precious holidays is spent travelling (read stressing) around and not relaxing!
My world in Brussels – the European headquarters, Berlaymont (I didn’t work in this particular building) seen from the round-about Schuman… Bitter-sweet memories!
Coming back to Europe after ~ 9 months living west of the Atlantic made me realise that I am so European and that Europe is home! I could actually live anywhere in Europe and probably be happy (I am not saying that I am not happy in Puerto Rico, quite the contrary but I am thinking in a long-term perspective). Especially as the distances are so short that I could go to Sweden, Spain or Belgium (or any other country for that matter) for just a weekend.
The classical meeting-point at Schuman – the flower stand!
One evening in Brussels was spent in the company of two couples – a Greek-French and a Greek-Belgian, we were speaking French and English in a wonderful mix, drinking Italian wine and talking about where we want to live (and the Swedish & Belgian royal families but that’s another story!). I was asked why I don’t want to move back to Sweden and I was trying to explain it without sounding like I don’t like my home country (I love Sweden and always will).
Meeting friends in Brussels – French, Spanish and Swedish feet (O was the silly photographer)…
My reasoning went something like this: I am afraid that if I move back to Sweden, I would get bored… And that is not some kind of snobbish way of saying that I would get bored of Sweden or the Swedes as such. It is rather that I feel that I need that extra mental challenge of living in another culture, using my language skills, and learning every day something new about myself and the place where I live as well as about where I come from. Does it make sense? The guys seemed just a little puzzled while my French friend S totally agreed with me. Maybe it is a feminine notion? It seems that it is very often the men that want to move back to their home country? Or maybe it is just the ex-pat drug that you get addicted to, the longer you stay abroad???
Having coffee in Galerie de la Reine – a typical Bruxellois coffee-tray
I also know that O really wants to move back to Spain to be closer to his family and I am very supportive as our deal is that if we move to Spain, we will spend the summer holidays in Sweden. A perfect solution for everybody, including my parents who would love to come to Spain in the spring and autumn**! Well, come back to me in 10 years and I might be completely fed up with the mental challenges of living in Spain and having the family-in-law too close to home 😉
And speaking of family, O’s mother, sister and niece are arriving on Sunday for 10 days with us! 😀 I am really happy that they finally decided to come and visit us, for both O’s sake and mine. Hopefully this intense course in Spanish will be great for me and I hope to get to know them better under more relaxed forms (I have already met them several times but it is always a little rushed when we come to Spain).
Yummy crêpes for lunch in Maison des Crêpes, Rue du Midi, Brussels
*) I have only lived in one other place for longer and that was Veberöd where I grew up…
**) The winter in Zaragoza is not much warmer than the south of Sweden, however the colder season is much shorter!