As a repatriate, what strange thing do you suddenly find yourself missing from your ex-expat country?
— Expat Archive Centre (@xpatarchive)
Many expats know how it feels to miss something from their “home” country, but what about once you move on from an expat assignment? When you go to another country, or return as a repatriate, are there things that you miss from your previous posting?
We posed this question on Facebook and Twitter and it proved a popular topic:
“I’m a Dutch Australian and when i went from NL back to Australia (though I’m now back in NL!) I missed the convenience of being able to cycle everywhere.” – Renée Veldman-Tentori
“From Netherlands – Flowers easily and beautiful at cheap prices, decent connected train network at decent price, cycling and cycle paths, gezilligness, chocomel, poffertjes, Sint time of year, some items from AH!!? From California – the views and mountains, the swimming pool in my garden, the ability to go to so many different types of countryside so easily, the ability to meet with many likeminded people.” – Nicola McCall
“Every time this topic comes up I think of the people of Gouda (where I was born) waiting at the tunnel. It’s SO DIFFERENT from the way we’re all inside our cars, when held up on the M5, here in Sydney. It’s almost like when you suddenly find yourself in a crowded lift, with strangers. It’s so “up-close-and-personal”!” – Oz Cloggie
“When I will return to NL from the USA in a few years as planned, I already know I will miss the free refills, parking spaces everywhere and the wonderful Winter weather of Florida. What I miss from NL here is too much to mention but cycling is certainly high on the list, besides the bread, milk (and many other food items), the beautiful cities and the Dutch language.” – Sophia de Ruiter
“Proper Dutch cheese, the stuff they sell here is plastic, and the flowers….., from Brunei the beef rending and the weather and outdoor lifestyle – but it’s good to be home after 35 years too!” – Hanneke Wood
“What I miss most now I’m back in Canada from Dubai are the many British food products I could buy there, which aren’t available here. Weird or what?” – Judy Rickatson
“Sunlight! Good salsa!” – @SwedeMuses
“Food I didn’t eat when I lived there!” – @maddyhatfield
Popular choices were the “simple things” as one person put it, often food or sunny weather. But what about cultural differences? Here is an excerpt from our archive about how a stint in Shanghai changed an expat child’s perception of their home country,
“After five years of China, being back in Holland meant that I was just as normal as the other people. In China, being a foreigner meant that the Chinese looked up to you, yet in Holland things are way more aggressive and violent. It was difficult to express those feelings to people in the boarding house.”
– MdJ; Singapore; 2000
Another lady tells of her reverse culture shock and how she could not help comparing her home country to the one she had just left,
“All that was bad about Scotland (the drink culture, the small mindedness, the long dark winters) seemed to be accentuated. I missed New Zealand so much and I yearned to go back… Once I had dropped my children off at school I spent my days in the local café where I could listen to the comforting voice of the waitress Wanda, a New Zealander”
– SY; Aberdeen, UK; 2006
And finally, a lovely quote from our collection about the things that are really important to us,
“The more we move, the more we wish we could put all the things we miss in a big grocery cart and take it with us, but we never voice the things we really long for: family, friends, familiar places.”
– DW, The Hague, NL, 2006
Excerpts taken from The Source Book, An Expatriate Social History 1927-2007 which is available from our library.