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?
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.