The Pros and Cons of Moving Home after Years Abroad
Moving home after travelling or living abroad is often called a 'reverse culture shock'
As someone who's been there, here are some of the pros & cons:
Pro: The familiar
You've dreamt of proper cups of tea, lazing on an actual sofa and your mum's home cooking. That first night in your own bed is literally magical. The next day you start digging out gems from the wardrobe you'd forgotten about and inhale Jaffa Cakes like there's no tomorrow. You even catch an episode of You've Been Framed. This is the UK you've missed.
Con: The familiar
Nothing has changed. At all. Was it all a dream? I swear I hopped on a plane outta here 21 months ago and yet suddenly it feels like I never left. After all the incredible highs, coming home just feels like a massive step backwards.
Pro: The people
How much you've missed your friends and family! You've made other friends, sure, but there's something so great about the oldest relationships. Reuniting with long-time friends, catching up with all the relatives and actually being there for Christmas, birthdays and all the in-betweens. This was what you missed most.
Con: The people
Something seems misplaced now. Friendships have changed while you've been gone and suddenly you're slightly out of the loop. There's new private jokes, new memories you weren't there for. You've changed too and yet no one seems to notice. You don't want to go on about the experiences you've had, no one likes that person but ... doesn't anyone want to talk about it?
Pro: Having Mum & Dad to fall back on
You've spent all your money on a 6 month trip around the world. You've slept in the worst hostels; eaten the cheapest, most questionable street food and yet still, you've spent every last penny. Having mum and dad at home with free rent, free food and free working wifi is pretty much the world's best luxury right now.
Con: Having Mum & Dad to fall back on
You've just spent months/years abroad leading the most independent life you've known. You've gone weeks without speaking to your family, let alone had to consult them on any sort of decision. Now someone wants to know what time you'll be home. Someone wants to remind you to take a coat with you when you leave the house! The comfort of mum and dad's house means you're taking advantage of a rent-free time but if they weren't here to fall back on, wouldn't you have found a job and flat in London by now because you'd have had no choice?
Pro: The food
Having lived in Australia and Canada, I just have to say that nobody does supermarkets quite like the UK. Our options are endless! Our meat is good quality, our bakery selections are immense and our prices are generally low. We've got supermarkets down. Meal deals? Other countries don't even come close. How hard is it to find a fresh sandwich, packet of crisps and water? And while British cuisine does take a knocking around the world, I've yet to find a better Sunday roast or proper pub grub.
Con: The food
The general British idea of going for breakfast means a greasy fry-up and builders tea. This is just not acceptable after a year of Sydney brunching of fresh avocado, perfectly poached eggs, ricotta, sourdough and insanely good coffee. Vancouver turned me into a sushi addict with unbelievably fresh and delicious seafood on offer everyday. YoSushi doesn't even belong in the same genre. Before you travel, you think you're quite well-rounded because you have a Chinese or Indian every now and then. When you return, aside from the bigger cities, you quickly realise how far the UK has to go.
Pro: Being stationary
After months of travelling, sleeping in a different place every night and living out of a backpack; being in one place is heaven. The actual travelling part of travelling is really wearing. You can't face another bus, another hostel, another day of wearing the same clothes you've been in for the last eight months. Being stationary is suddenly so desirable.
Con: Being stationary
Desirable and yet rapidly unsettling. Am I boring now? Is this it? You quickly miss the adventure. All the negatives of travelling are instantly forgotten and you just long to be back on a beach. The travel bug is not "out of your system" as everyone jokes. If anything, it's burning more strongly than ever.
Pro: You can buy things
When you're living abroad on a working visa, you know it's temporary. And yet, it's home. You want to buy all the things that make a home, but can't because it's temporary. Being back home means you're here, you're settled (you can always leave it at mum & dad's if you fly off again). Go mad in the homeware department; realise your wildest Pinterest dreams - you've earned it.
Con: You can buy things
You've realised how little you really need when all your worldly goods recently fit into two suitcases. You return home and are shocked to see how much you've hoarded over the years that you didn't miss and don't need. And as your savings quickly dwindle on yet another catch-up dinner, you soon face the fact that you haven't actually got much money to buy things with after all.
Pro: You can finally look for your dream job
After months of selling Christmas hampers, cleaning a hostel, handing out flyers and just generally wanting to shoot yourself ... temporary jobs are finally behind you! You've taken on roles because of work visa limitations or location limitations. Now that you're home, you can finally pursue your passion.
Con: You can finally look for your dream job
The pressure's on. There was an odd comfort in applying for temporary jobs. Now you're back and applying for your dream job; putting your heart and soul into every cover letter and slowly dying a little with each day that passes. Perhaps you actually had your dream job while living abroad and now that you're back in the UK, the demand for a scuba instructor/ski teacher suddenly isn't quite so high. Whichever one it is, job hunting is never fun.
Whatever phase you're in, whether you've just moved back or will be facing this reality in a couple of months; prepare yourself for the pros and cons. Moving home after travelling or living abroad is one of the strangest times and you can't really understand until you've experienced it. You've changed and you quickly realise, home hasn't. Not fundamentally. You don't feel like you belong anymore and wonder if you've made a mistake coming back. This is natural. A friend once told me it takes two years to settle somewhere, even if that somewhere was once familiar. Remember all of the reasons you chose to come back and focus on that. The adventure does wear off eventually and missing big moments with your friends and family never gets easier. There are pros and cons to everything, you just have to weigh up which one comes out on top.