It has been over three year years since we have been in the USA. But this week we are going home. Going home. What does that really mean now? Is it still home? I know that it isn’t home anymore for my eight year old daughter, who has been in England since she was five, and moved to Germany when she was four. Is Los Angeles still home for me? I haven’t lived there for over seven years, and I spent 10 years of my youth in the Philippines. I think it is home for Jeff and me, but in a different way than it used to be.
I expect that Los Angeles will feel strange and familiar at the same time. Comfortable, and also not quite the right fit.
Recently, I was talking to a fellow expat about going home. She has lived here for a long time, and goes back to the US every year or two, I think. She said it’s always a shock. That it can be overwhelming, and that compared to England, it’s very overstimulating. I can see that. I’m dreading the billboards already.
I wonder what it will feel like for Amelia. I think she has memories of living in the USA (all of those memories are in Oregon) but it’s pretty vague for her. She is longing to see where she was born– this feels very important to her. She is also going to Disneyland, which feels pretty important, too!
The thing that I am looking forward to the most is spending Thanksgiving with family. I have written about this before– how Thanksgiving is the hardest part of being an expat for me. We have spent our holidays on our own for four years now, and I have learned that it’s too many years in a row to not go home and spend them with family. Going forward, I hope we can go back every one or two years.
Time with people we love both in the Midwest and Southern California is the main attraction for us in the next two weeks. But there are some other things that I am super excited about, too. I often wonder what the “home comforts” lists are for other expats– here’s mine.
- Shopping at Trader Joe’s. That will make me feel like I’m really at home. I am going to squeeze as many of these treats and these sponges as I can into my suitcase. I know it’s random, but it’s what I like.
- Eating out. There are no words that could do justice to the intense longing I have for great food. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry. I want to eat and eat and eat and eat. And I’m afraid the list of restaurants I want to visit is just way too long (and our bank balance too small) to be able to fulfill those fantasies, but we’ll gratefully take all that we can get. I have a special connection to restaurants, and end up missing them like you might miss your own grandma’s kitchen.
- Eating in. It struck me the other day that I just don’t even know anyone here who gets really excited about food. Good food is one of those things that you have to share and talk about. I guess that’s one reason why I write this blog. But that is still lonely. I have always been around people and in places where good food was a regular topic of conversation, and where the food around me was really stimulating. I can’t wait to share meals with family and friends.
- Visiting special places. We look forward to reliving meaningful experiences from a previous chapter in our lives. For Jeff, it’s going to be taking Amelia to the park by his Grandma’s house. For me, it’s visiting spots in Uptown Whittier and going to 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica (a weekly spot for me in my pre-married years.) I look forward to visiting a couple of favorite museums. But most of all, just being in a place that feels so familiar, that we know so well, that we have years and years of memories stored up in.
- The ease of shopping– I know it may sound shallow, materialistic, or whatever… But I am really looking forward to going to Target, World Market, and Marshalls. The prices! The pretty things! The predictability of finding what I’m looking for! In nicer stores, it’s the feeling that the people who work there want to help you. It’s a comfort thing. On my list: 100% cotton sheets, spanx, silicon spatulas, and some new makeup.
- Social norms. I look forward to eye contact with strangers, smiles, and a certain social ease. There’s something really wonderful about knowing what the social norms are, and slipping easily into those patterns. I wonder if it will feel strange at first, or if I will come off as cold, after years of learning to avert my eyes and give people more than a reasonable amount of space on the sidewalk.
I wonder how we will feel about living overseas, once we’ve had the chance to be “at home” for a couple of weeks. Will these comforts and the times with our families change things for us? How hard or easy will it be to leave, when the time comes? There is so much to think about, and then to wait and find out about.
For now, we are just incredibly thankful to be going home.
I’d love to hear your experiences of going home from my fellow expats! What was on your home comforts list?
To explore a little more of this, you might like to watch this video: Why We’re Expats, & How Long We’ll Keep up this Nomadic Lifestyle.