Is there really such thing as an ex expat? Having moved home to Washington D.C after four years based in different cities in Europe, it’s a question that has me browsing the web, online shopping and contemplating signing up for a half marathon rather than put fingers to the keyboard and try to answer it. That’s the long way of saying, yes and no. My trans-Atlantic move wasn’t motivated by any nostalgia or burning desire to return to the United States. My U.K student visa expired, and I didn’t want to take a soulless graduate job in order to stay, so I flew home. Since, I’ve been able to seek out more creative freelance and blogging work and start a new full time career in fundraising, which is rather like marketing and sales but for a good cause. I’m content, but there’s a little whisper in the back of my head. My own personal sense of gravity, pointed east, towards Europe and the life I left behind there. So, while I’m no longer an expat by the proper definition, six months stateside have come and gone, and I still feel like an expat.
A recent trip back across the pond renewed the love affair. I celebrated New Year’s in London with friends and dashed across to Paris for a whirlwind overnight as well. I adored every second of that trip, though strangely it’s also good to be back home, sleeping in my own bed and having my morning tea in my quirky mugs. There’s a lot to love about being back in my hometown, seeing it all as a twenty-something rather than a kid focused on friends, school and sports. There’s enough to keep me here for a year or two, rent an apartment in the city, explore the foodie and art scenes and family dinner on Sundays. There are road trips to Nashville, weekends in New York, flying out to California to see the coast where I was born for the first time in over a decade. One day, that little ember will spark, and I’ll pack up my things and book a plane ticket to my next home. But in the meantime, I thought I would share with you some little moments of being a former Expat.
- Complaining that the coffee/tea is better over there.
- Early Sunday morning video calls from hungover friends who have forgotten that a) you’re in America b) there is a five hour time difference between London and Washington DC.
- Randomly checking flights to see how much it would cost you to go back tomorrow.
- Finding new restaurants and bars that remind you of your old neighborhood haunts.
- Deep diving on the internet to find out how to get your hands on the local brand you fell in love with (the answer is always Amazon, and shipping costs enough to make you say never mind).
- Comparing dating culture and realizing everyone is just making it up as they go along.
- Using the wrong spelling in your work emails, switching s for z and adding u’s that make you look pretentious.
- Binge watching foreign shows and films on Netflix, somehow even the trashy reality TV makes you feel nostalgic.
- Battling your sudden interest in interior design and homeware with the knowledge that if you want to move again, that giant brass mirror isn’t going to magically teleport itself.
- That sense of déjà vu when you visit, retracing your past steps, the hugs and smiles that have the same warmth despite the months and miles in between.