Friday, September 3, 2010

Displacement

Having just returned from a trip to the US for a week, I cannot help but feel a bit displaced. I know the US is "home" and there is no question that we will return there someday to live permanently. However during this visit back to America, flying into Chicago did not feel like we were coming home, it felt more like we were visiting the city for a while. Right now, it feels like our home is in England - and I feel a bit of comfort when we land here and drive home surrounded by fields of cows and sheep on either side of the motorway.

I think part of this displacement is a function of time. We have now lived in England for just over two years. We are settled. We have established friendships, routines, work relationships, know where to eat out - we are vested into a life here. The things I once moaned and complained to no end about, have now come to be part of the charm of life over here.....some of the things I realized when we were back in the US last week.

When we first moved over here, I longed for more convenience....A store to be open past 5:30pm, a proper mall nearby, or even a store semi-resembling a Target. Unfortunately none were found. However, while I was back in the US, I had all of these things (plus more!) at my disposal. My mom, sister and I were at the mall shopping until 9 o'clock at night, made multiple Target runs and could even do that until 10pm if I wanted to! While it was great to have these conveniences back for the week, it made me realize how nice and quiet our evenings are here in England. Scott & I spend more time together here because neither of us are running around, late at night, after a long day of work - because there is no opportunity to do so. While it still does frustrate me at times with the lack of convenience here, it has made me realize how much I value the time for families in this culture.

Further, I noticed other things while I was home this time. Usually when I walk into a store here and the shop keeper asks me if I need any help, I respond politely, and the shop keeper notices that I am not from this country. My accent makes me an outsider or different in England. I had to readjust to the fact that back at home, I was easily able to go unnoticed and no one asked me why I was in the country, did I live here, and what brought me here? I sounded like everyone else and therefore of course I fit in there.

So, while we do not sound like we fit in here in England, we have adapted to more parts of the culture here than I ever thought we would. We have become somewhat woven into the fabric of life here and quite enjoy it for now. We know we want to eventually return "home" to the US, but I now am starting to wonder if we will have to re-adjust to life back in the US when we return? And will it ever be the same for us as it was before we moved overseas?

4 comments:

andrea said...

The move back is definitely an adjustment! Once you have been an expat I think it is hard to fit right back in when you return to the US. But those late night runs to Target do help :)

Iota said...

You end with some interesting questions, that I, too, have wondered.

It was only in the mid or late 1980s that shops were open on Sundays. Before then, a few "corner shops" would be open, if you needed a pint of milk or a newspaper, but otherwise, everything was closed. I liked it - looking back. It meant that you had to occupy yourself in ways other than shopping. Most people looked on Sunday as a family day. Honestly, there's very little shopping that can't wait for 24 hours.

notfromaroundhere said...

Brilliant post. I can assure you that this just gets worse the longer you're in the UK; I've been away four years next month and I find that the confusion just grows deeper the longer I've been away.

nappy valley girl said...

Thanks for commenting on mine.

I feel the same about our recent trip to the UK; you see it with new eyes. Life in the US is definitely more 'convenient' (although, actually in London there is a similar 24 hour culture); while in principle I disapporve of driving everywhere, it is much easier if you can always park when you have two small whiny children to take with you!

I grew up an expat (in Hong Kong) and I think it does give you a different perspective, which you will never fully lose. You might always feel a little bit of an outsider when you return - but at the same time, you can be more objective.