Monday, 22 September 2014

7 Things That Happen Upon Homecoming from Living Abroad

When my sister came home permanently after living in Melbourne, Australia, for around 4 years, she went through a whole emotional crisis back home. At the moment, not having experienced the crisis myself, I thought she was being overdramatic. It turns out, she wasn't entirely wrong. So we both listed these things that will definitely happen when you come home after having a life abroad. It might help some of you go through this phase or help you see that you're not the only one with these problems. It might be fun to see, for those of you who've never lived abroad. Either way, here they are.

1. BITTERSWEET CHANGE
My sister's story: I was contemplating on going home or staying in Melbourne when Dad told me to go home. I already leaned towards staying but the chances are tough there, and here...here I have opportunities as well. But I was still torn because my friends are still there, my way of life was different and the environment I already got used to. I felt lost when I had to go home. I also had to get used to my life here, which wasn't easy.

Okay, so you will be going home. It's a good thing! There are people waiting in your home country for you, such as your family and friends. You had a whole life there before you moved out which you are ready to get back into. But, wait! You realise that a part of your life was lived abroad and going back home means you had to say goodbye to that, just like you had to part from your old life when you left. Personally, when I was packing, I didn't feel sad at all. The last part of my life there was lived unhappily; I was happy to end it. Happy to finally go home and be with the familiar. Later on, however, I understood that there is a huge chunk of my life left in Germany, where I used to live. There is also a great chance that I will never go back and return to that life anymore. Realising this, obviously I was torn. But, at the same time, I eased back into the life that I once knew so well.

2. REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK
My sister's story: This one's a huge shocker for me, especially when I started my job. Mainly, because new places and new people start popping up. When my friends talk about this place or that person - or even the new slangs! - I could scarcely understand. I was completely lost. Not to mention the traffic, what with the abundant amount of motorcycles and the chaotic way of driving. Don't even get me started about getting used to the transport system out here. It's a complete chaos!

As much as you knew your own culture so well, you had to learn to live with the culture of your destination country. And, if you've been living there so long, it starts to get into your blood. You start to get used to it, so much so that you experience a culture shock in your own backyard. All of a sudden, you just don't recognise the culture that was once a part of veins anymore. People go to live abroad and promise they won't change. But that's impossible! Of course you'll change. That's the hope! And your culture will change too. It's only natural. You just need to adjust the new 'you' with the new culture. It won't be easy but it's doable.

3. ROUTINE SEARCHING
My sister's story: Coming home was like being sidetracked; I was still confused of what I was going to do next. But people seem to expect something different and awesome from me since I studied abroad even though I'm still not sure what I'm going to bring to the table. The pressure is unbearable. 

Unless you're coming home after accepting a local job, people will start expecting you to find a new routine. Be it finding a job/an internship or starting school all over again, they will ask you to move out of the house at least a few hours a day. Not just your parents, everyone will suddenly be super curious about your next move. Aside from your parents and your friends, other people will start to get nosey about what you did abroad and why you came home. These two questions will probably be the first ones to be raised the first time they see you again. Then the third will be "What are you going to do now?" I know, it's annoying. I usually give out different answers to different people just to shake it up a little.

4. CULTURAL REFLEXES
My sister's story: When I first arrived home, I sometimes forgot that public toilets have water sprays, I stand at the left side when I am on an escalator, and queueing at the side of the public toilets (while people here usually queue in front of the individual stalls). Eventually, I got used to the water spray in the public toilet (or got used to it again). But sometimes my friends asked why I am standing behind them while there are still space beside them, and I just shrugged it off. But the most annoying one is I often got cut when I am queueing in the bathroom because people simply thought I am queueing "the wrong way".

Like I said, having lived in one place for so long, you start to feel accustomed to the ways of things in that place. Not only the language, which you will surely get so used to you will have reflexes upon it, but also the policies and habits. For instance, even now, I still feel the need to put away the tray after eating at a restaurant like I always had to do in Germany. In Indonesia, there are people who get paid to clean it up. But I still feel bad if I just leave the trays be. You would know that these reflexes just happen without your intention. However, people who have never lived abroad might not. They will think you are stuck up for still speaking in the language you used abroad and for having foreign habits. You might end up being despised for your reflexes. That's okay, because if they are your true friends - experience abroad or lack thereof notwithstanding - they will accept your 'quirks.'

5. HOME DUALITY
My sister's story: I actually wrote a story about this for my assignment, how the idea of a 'home' seems jaded after living a few years overseas. There are times when I struggle between staying and leaving, not really sure where 'home' is anymore. But as I determined that Melbourne was my home, going back to Indonesia gave me a heartbreak because I have to leave a sanctuary that I'd build for the past 4 years.

What many people don't understand about living abroad is that it's not much different from living in your own home country. Sure, the culture is different, the people are different and the way of life is obviously different as well. However, in the end you have to eat, breathe and do normal everyday things to survive. Basically, people who live abroad have to create a home elsewhere. And, when they go back to their home countries, they have to leave the 'home' they created abroad. But having lived so long in wherever they lived, it has become a home to them. Later on, the idea of 'home' will no longer be as clear as before. Their 'home' will become two places at once, which, sadly, cannot co-exist. And their life and their soul will forever be torn between these two places. And, unless you've lived with them out there, you will never understand the longing they feel for another man's land.

6. THE COLLISION OF THE TWO LIVES
My sister's story: One thing that I cannot let go when I moved back home is probably all my uni textbooks, readings and my old assignments. I see it as a 'treasure' that I bring back from Melbourne. It may sound silly, and when I tidy up my room with my mom and sister, my mom even asked "why do you need to keep all this?"

Yes, I did say that the two lives we have in our homeland and in our destination country cannot co-exist. It is mostly because you can't bring all the people you know from one place to meet the people you know from the other. But by going home, you're forcing a part of your new life to collide with your old life. And sometimes, the two don't fit together. For instance, you buy new things because you need them in your new life. But, chances are, you already had them in your old life but it just wasn't possible to bring them into your new life. When you detached yourself from your old life, either the sentimental value of these things or for whatever reasons, you decide to bring them back to your home country, causing the two lives to collide. Or you change in your new life and, as you reunite with your old friends, your new thoughts and principles will collide with that of your friends and the 'old you.' They don't always fit in with each other and this is when all the cutting out begins. A little sad, a little harsh, but that's how it is.

7. EVERYTHING IS FAMILIAR
My sister's story: Despite it all, there are a lot of positive things in my home country compared to Melbourne. For instance, I don't have to worry about food because my mom cooks it for me, I have a driver that will help me go to places I want to visit, and most importantly, I don't have to worry about my residency to stay because I am basically a local resident with a legal ID.

Although you have culture shocks and home duality as you come home, you still can't deny that being back home is so much easier. For one, you don't need to look for a new place to live. Your parents will most likely accommodate your homecoming. You already know the language and the culture so you will most likely know how things work in your homeland. You're already familiar with the environment. And, though new places and new systems might start popping up, you will at least know the old ones. If you don't, you know people to ask about whatever you're looking for. You don't need to hold on to your passports for dear life because you have IDs. Chances are, if you lose those, you can just apply for another one. You've got to admit, life is much simpler where you come from.


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