What do you miss?
Finding an answer to what we miss about home is more difficult than you'd think, but it's also a question tied up with why we choose to stay away.
First, my thanks to all those who wrote in last week with their thoughts and sympathies for the recent troubles facing my family back at 'home'. Such email is always welcome.
One of the emails I received questioned what I miss most about Australia, where I spent my youth and early adulthood.
But giving an answer to the question was more difficult than I thought. The first thought that did spring to mind - other than family and friends - was the weather.
True, I haven't had much to complain about with the recent hot, hot, hot weather here, but the long European winters drag on longer than wanted. However, this part of life abroad is more than bearable.
So the question remains, what is it that I miss and what do you miss about your home country?
On the surface, I can immediately think of Vegemite and the difficulty of buying what is now an indispensable spread on my expat son's sandwiches. Brits might have the same with HP sauce and I know Expatica's US expat blogger misses her bagels.
There is, of course, more to the equation though.
Every expat will complain about bureaucracy: residency, registering with municipal authorities, insurance, banking, etc. There's red tape waiting like a mugger on every corner, ready to leap out, tie you up and rob you of time.
While frustrating, this too is bearable.
But maybe you miss the familiarity, the ease of knowing where to go, who to talk to or where to search for information. Back at 'home', I had permanently operating sub-conscious knowledge of how my country worked.
Six years and settled in Europe, there are still elements to expat life that catch me off guard: my local soccer mates will recall with great mirth my occasional misinterpretation of rules: 'Who says I can't stop a certain goal with my hands?'
And then I can list attitudes or mentality, language, culture, geography, etc in what is essentially a personal but also exhaustive list.
There are thus superficial and deep-rooted reasons of why we miss 'home', but another reader reminded me last week of why expats leave the certainty of familiarity: opportunities.
Yes, many of us became expats to broaden our horizons, to take that next step in our career and personal life or to simply see the world.
And at times when we question what we're doing and where we're doing it, it's good to remember why we left and what is propelling us to stay.
It's not so easy to 'go home if you don't like it' (as some people might suggest), but it is also important to remember that we're capable of changing our life if desired.
You just have to be prepared to take that plunge once again - but having done it once, I'm sure we're all experts at it now.
Aaron Gray-Block / Expatica
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