What Is This Place I Call Home?

Welcome to June’s #TrailingSpouseStories.  This month we explore our national identity and how it shows in our day-to-day expat life.  We also reflect on how our itinerant life has influenced the expression of our national identity and how we feel about it.

I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve only lived abroad for three and a half years, but I don’t feel that my identity has changed since leaving the UK. I have changed as a person, but I still feel British and don’t think I have sacrificed any part of my cultural identity. What has changed substantially is my view of my home country, especially since having a child. So what has altered since I was so desperate to leave nearly four years ago?

Image from http://cristianaziraldo.altervista.org/
Image from http://cristianaziraldo.altervista.org/

Part of my homesickness is due to the ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome; when you are away from a place for a while you start to view it through rose-tinted glasses and forget what it was that drove you to distraction. But it is more than that. I miss many things about the UK: I miss the temperate climate, that never gets too hot or cold; I miss being able to walk outside; I miss the safety of the roads (compared to Brunei, at least); I miss the medical care that is free to all (despite all the complaining I did about it when I lived there); I miss the fact that there are no poisonous creatures; I miss the standards of food hygiene… The longer I am away, the more I appreciate how good some aspects of British life were.

One of the things I miss the most is the culture. Since living in Brunei I have seen hardly any live music, visited only a few museums, and seen no theatre apart from on holiday. Britain abounds with these things, almost to the other extreme where every little village seems to have it’s own festivals and curiosities. You can’t go very far without coming across a custom or placard detailing some historical event, and no matter how miserable the weather is there is always somewhere to go or something to do.

In Brunei, Ramadan is fast approaching – a time when the country shuts down and it is forbidden to eat or drink in public during daylight hours. In reality, this means that I can never go far from home as living in a tropical climate and breastfeeding require plenty of fluids, and our entertainment options are fewer than normal – my son will be in bed by the time the fast is broken so we will not be able to eat out as a family for the entire month. It is the time of year when everything shuts down and it makes life that little bit harder, but I will try to reign in my British tendency to complain – after all I don’t have to face the difficult challenge of fasting for a month.

By the time this is published I may have found out that I am returning home, I could be relocating elsewhere or staying put for another six months. Either way, I will be making plans to return in the near future – either as a move or on holiday – and I am looking forward to being reunited with my home country, even if it is only temporarily. It is where I fit in, and will always be a huge part of my identity.

Check out other #TrailingSpouseStories in this month’s blog crawl:

Clara of The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide says that although she has travelled extensively all her life and lived in many different countries, she has never felt anything but British through and through in Why I Have Always Felt British All My Expat Life.

Didi of D for Delicious discovered that when she lived outside the Philippines, she learned to embrace the entirety of her Filipino-ness – the good, the bad and the ugly in #TrailingSpouseStories: Embracing Filipino version 2.0.

Liz of Secrets of a Trailing Spouse shares how her view of her home country has changed in the four years since she left in What Is This Place I Call Home?

Tala interviews her BFF The Diplomatic Wife in Freedom To Be Our Own Filipinas.

Tala reflects on her own rediscovery of being a Filipino abroad in The Personal is the National.

Yuliya of Tiny Expats shares that sometimes, what your national identity represents is not exactly what you would like to represent in At War With National Identity.


14 thoughts on “What Is This Place I Call Home?

  1. I really liked living in UK, even with all those rainy days, so your story evoked some warm feeling in me 🙂 Wishing you to have a clearer picture about next expat destination in the near future!

  2. I also feel the same way with every assignment. There are things that you really miss about your home country. Being away also makes you appreciate your country more. However the longer I stay in a country, the more I feel at home and miss these familiarity when I’m back home for a vacation!

    Wow Liz I can imagine the uncertainty! Was in the same situation just a few months/weeks ago. But now it’s clearer 🙂 But doesn’t necessarily make it easier 😉 Ah the life of a trailing spouse right?

  3. Yes I SO agree about this! I get so fed up with people moaning about the UK – try living somewhere else for a while. There are so many good things about our country and the NHS is certainly up there. I really struggled in St Lucia with lack of things to do with the children – but I think this was because we were so spoiled in England, with indoor play centres, endless playgrounds and parks, baby groups, children’s theatre. children’s tv channels, sports activities….and on and on.

    Have you heard yet if/where you will be moving???? Very exciting!

  4. I wonder if Ramadan not drinking / eating in pubic rules are the same as Dubai’s. Pregnant women and children are excused, but I am not so sure about breastfeeding women. It wouldn’t hurt to ask noh? In Dubai, there are certain restaurants that have gotten permits to serve food and drink, but, of course hidden from the public eye in respect of the season

    Oh how exciting / stressful time! Goodluck and hope clarity comes sooner than later.

    1. I was reading about Dubai’s rules on another blog, and they are more strict here – even pregnant women are not allowed to eat or drink in public (I gave birth during Ramadan last year and I remember crouching down in the car drinking water on the way back from the hospital when I was heavily pregnant). You’re not allowed to eat or drink anywhere apart from your own home here.

  5. Blimey you have it tough in Brunei! In Australia I too miss the NHS. We have to pay for everything here although we get some of the expense back, it’s still not the same.

    We have been living in Australia for nearly ten years and although I was terribly homesick – it’s like learning to live with a living bereavement of sorts – immersing myself in Aussie life was a great way of overcoming all the things I missed. My husband still reads the UK newspapers online and I stopped doing that years ago!

  6. Moving to the U.K. has, in an odd way, made me more American–even though I feel at home in the U.K. and have adapted in a lot of ways. But elements of myself that were invisible to me now stand out and strike me as American.

    Good post.

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