As an expat, do I long for my home country ?

Reader Question - Compensation InsiderThis instance of Reader Question will give you a very personal interpretation of the answer.

I hope to encourage you to think about the meaning of home, origins/roots and sense of belonging, as we are nearing a time of the year where many of us reconnect (or long to) with our families for Christmas and year-end celebrations.

The question is an old LinkedIn one :

When does a migrant family yearns to return to their roots or to their homeland?

Millions of people become migrant due to various reasons. They eventually acquire the resources or courage or liberated to come back to their root. When actually they start thinking or planning to return to the place of their root?

Some of the people I know say that when they reach their retirement age, some say when their children reach marriageable age, and some still say that they yearn to return to their homeland within one year of their migration.

Please let me know about your experiences as a migrant or with migrant families you know.

So – here is my view.

I have spent a little over half of my career so far outside of my home country (France), and relocated back to the UAE for the second time, 2 years ago. This was a massive relief for me as I felt rather “suffocated” back home.

I’ve always been a migrant by choice, not due to economic or political conditions at home – this probably influences my perception heavily.

Every time I went back to my home country, I experienced a massive struggle :

1- The country never seems to be like I believed it was – despite having grown and studied in France, when I go back I am always appalled at some the reactions and ways of thinking of my fellow countrymen. I feel especially conflicted when I see people who have never travelled and don’t speak a word of a foreign language, make assertions about other cultures and countries in a derogatory manner. How can they judge when they never even ventured out of their country – and comfort zone ?

2 – I feel that I have personally grown a lot during the expatriations, while the majority of people around me in France have mostly remained in the same situation. So our experiences vary widely and that makes it difficult to relate. Of course, this does not apply to my closest friends, with whom I maintain a lively and very regular contact (thank you cellphones, email and Skype !)

3 – I get “bored” easily when I’m back home, because I don’t learn as much as when I live abroad. I’m not saying that life is perfect when I am abroad – I sometimes struggle on the job or off, just like I would in Paris – but at least when I’m outside of my country, I am exposed to other ways of thinking, new words, unexpected cultural aspects or even simply something surprises me and I discover I was making assumptions and taking things for granted when they should not be.

All in all, as much as I enjoy returning home for short periods of time (not even all my vacations), I don’t yearn to return to my roots. Maybe this will change when my parents age and need medical support ? But even then I’m not sure I’ll settle down back in France “for good”… the world is out there, ready to be explored !

Some people comment that economy always wins over freedom. That may be true of families who are originally from countries where political, social or religious freedoms are not easily granted. But in my case, it would be the opposite.

Even if I was offered triple or 10 times my current package, there are a number of countries where I would not relocate, because I don’t agree with their approach to freedom in society. I respect their culture, but why would I want to live in it if I don’t engage with it ? As a working, single woman for example, I would never relocate to Afghanistan as I would suffer too much from the restrictions (of work, of movement, of simply socialising and being friends with men, of religion and even of clothing) imposed to my gender… I guess we all see the world differently…

So – for those of you who will go back home for the end-of-year holidays, enjoy your time ! And for those of us who will stay here and think of home, I hope you will find some opportunities to enjoy yourself nevertheless in the coming weeks. Home is where the heart is, and I hope that your heart will be content 🙂

 

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