Here is a piece I wrote for a school newsletter …
We all have expectations. Our move back home to Melbourne was a premeditated move allowing us plenty of time to think through what life in Australia would look like. For myself, I did research. Having worked in a relocation company during our first posting in Singapore, I had encountered the idea of repatriation. I knew the term and knew that I needed to become familiar with some of its concepts. People were writing books about this, there must be something to it.
So I did. At the end of my reading I felt good. Not anxious at all. I had it all worked out. As we were now a family and we had never lived in Melbourne (or Australia) as a family, I would not be moving back with a series of expectations that would leave me in a state of reverse culture shock. It was going to be a piece of cake. No shocks, no surprises. It would be no different to moving to Singapore, Shanghai, New Jersey or Denmark.
It should come as no shock that I soon found myself proved wrong. I was wrong to think that I came home with no expectations.
It was no shock to realise that finding friends in the school yard was going to be difficult. This I had anticipated. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I would throw a little tantrum and decide that I had put myself out there enough times in my life. It was time for people to come over and make friends with me. Fortunately, I did know one other parent at the school and she helped me meet a few people who I deigned to talk to. Otherwise I would still be sitting in the pagoda wondering why no one was coming over to introduce themselves.
Another shock was the way the children took to being Aussie’s. I knew that they were excited to be living closer to family and having the chance to immerse themselves in a culture that they had been told about but never understood. I had not expected the running through the gates, no turning back mentality that they embraced as soon as they set foot in their new school. The chief aim in the last twelve months has been to slot themselves in as if they had always been here.
Initially the aim was to throw off their foreignness. This proved tricky. They both sport accents, don’t understand any of the cultural references and, horror of horrors, their mother was watching the wrong reality cooking show. In the last twelve months, my daughter has come to terms with being different, embraced it, and decided to speak only in Danish when people annoy her. My son has found that an obsession with AFL footy, a club membership and a footy cards to swap will mask the foreignness. He now argues footy stats with his Dad, Uncle, grandparents and mother. I think he is trying to educate me and he still holds out hope that I will be converted.
The hubby moved home with the same company who had funded all of our travels to date. As far as I was concerned, his life had not changed at all. In fact, it now came with additional perks. He could now utilise his sporting memberships and he has proceeded to try and make up for lost time. What we had not anticipated was how far away he would feel from the rest of the world. His regional centre, Singapore, was seven hours away. Thanks to a project in India, he manages to satisfy his need for travel and connect with other networks. Add to this package a home of your own to tinker with, a garden to cultivate and a deck to sit on at the end of the day … life is sweet.
By the time Christmas rolled around, we were exhausted. Was it the international move, the buying of a house and cars, the new job or new school that had taken its toll? No! It was the family get togethers. In retrospect, we should have moved in January rather than the end of June. That would have given us four months to settle before the birthdays in our family began. Arriving in July allowed us celebrate my son’s birthday almost straight away. Then there was mine in August. Two in two months was easily doable.
In September we had both our dad’s birthdays and Father’s Day to contend with. Being grown men, they were okay with joint birthday/Father’s Day celebrations. Three birthdays in October, two in November, and M’s in December followed ever so quickly by Christmas. The new year bought a slow down on the birthday front. However, I hardly seemed to draw breathe before April was upon us with it’s three birthdays. Followed by May which brings two and Mother’s Days galore. We’re back in hiatus until my son’s birthday starts us off again in July.
While the birthdays can at times be overwhelming, that was not the shock. Birthdays are easy to predict as they occur every year with alarming regularity. What I had not predicted was how I would feel within my family.
Every year when we came home, it was an event. I had thought, as I often do, of how it was an event for me. It involved the packing, the traveling, the visiting, the repacking, more traveling ending in the unpacking. However, it was an event for everyone here as well. Our family looked forward to our arrival and spending time with us. There was a certain amount of excitement and fanfare attached to the event.
Not any more.
Now we are as exciting as everyone else. We are part of the furniture of our families every day lives. Much loved, of course, but not missed to the degree that an impending visit is accompanied by a sense of excitement and anticipation. Where people want to know what you’ve been up to and what you’re future plans are. You’re home now. Your future plans have been fulfilled.
While I never expected fanfare, recognising the sudden lack was a return to earth that I had not anticipated and I am still trying to deal with its loss.
And it’s not only family that feels this way. Friends who I had known overseas and now live in proximity again, although not in same suburban network, are keen to catch up. Our plans these days lack the urgency so prominent in our past life. Lacking any urgency, months go by and you still haven’t seen each other as work, renovations, kids sport and life in general take up so much time.
Rereading this, I seem a little maudlin. I’m not.
This new life is still unfolding and I am still adjusting. Life no longer holds the same uncertainties and predictability’s that accompany expat life. I am now working full time which I never really thought I would do again. There are now horizons in my future that I can explore without the limitations of time frames as my life is now independent from my husbands career.