It’s not as glamours as it sounds; moving around, travelling and living in different countries. I lived in Australia for four years, returning ‘home’ to Fiji multiple times a year. Each time I returned ‘home’ the country, people and my family became stranger and stranger to me. And I to them, I suppose. Fiji was very firmly rooted in my being as ‘home’ but people grew up while I was away. My friends’ changed, new groups formed and I was not part of the process, and I certainly wasn’t part of what resulted. While I maintained my ‘home’ and my roots in my life, regardless of where I was, there was no mechanism to ensure that home remembered me. It is here that the reality of expatriate lives lie. It demonstrates the importance of embracing your new environment and welcoming the unfamiliar geography. Regardless of whether I spend eight months in a new place, or four years, I open myself up to the area, and eagerly wait for the new environment to open itself up to me.Like a romantic relationship, I don’t force my courtship with the new place. I let it envelope me in it’s orbit, this happens slowly, over a period of time, and simultaneously I leave the orbit of my ‘home’. The only difference is this ‘new’ place might be the third or fourth in a string of ‘new’ places but ‘home’ – I’ve been circling out of that orbit for a while. It’s taken me years to realise this – that even though home hasn’t changed in my heart, it has changed in reality, and it’s not entirely clear if there’s a space for me in it any more. Perhaps one day it will allow me into its orbit again, until then, like any ‘new’ place, I’m getting reacquainted, we’re courting each other again.

As I step out of the air plane, I close my eyes, take a deep breath…exhale…and say, “Hi Fiji, I’m Vanisha, maybe we can be friends again.”

Where is home for you? Is it the place you were born, somewhere you lived for a while or a place in your head and heart – perhaps one you haven’t yet visited? 


5 comments on “The Truth About Expatriate Life: A Stranger At Home”

  • For me home is St Lucia although I've lived in the US more than half my life. I just feel so relaxed and at peace when I visit, which is not often enough.

  • Steph says:

    I love reading about the idea of home and how it changes through the eyes of expats. For me, home was always upstate new york but I've lived in London for 8 years. Is it home? In a way, but not really. Is New York still home? In a way but not really.. I feel like expats have to create an idea of home rather than attach to a physical place in the same way we do as we're growing up.

  • Rajkot says:

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  • Oh wow! What a great post.

    Vanisha, I've been an expat for….18 years now! I'm in year #3 in Hong Kong, and I love it!! I spent the 3 years before that in Beijing–meh. It's a stupendous city with such rich history and culture, but man, that pollution drove us out! Before that I was 5 years in Bombay; I loved living in India. I like to say it's where my heart is. We were in Venezuela for three years prior, and that's where my two kiddos were born. Before that, 2 years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia! Whoa!! And we started in San Salvador, El Salvador where we started this whole international teaching shindig five days after we got married in 1997!

    Ok, there's a little history on Annie as you get to know me. I also met and fell in love with my husband in Italy while studying in Florence during our junior year in college. But that's a whole 'nother story!

    At any rate, I just wanted to say I really appreciate this post. After 18 years overseas, I feel like people back home don't really know me. And as a result I think my blog helps me with this absence. It's like a reach out to peeps around the world. Who knows if anyone reads it (well, I have a few readers), but it just makes me feel that what I do and what I love gets shared somehow. I'm not sure if that makes sense. But blogging has definitely become a coping mechanism for the vacancy of secure family and friend connections.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm still close to all my brothers and sisters, and I have friends all over the world. Sometimes, though, I don't feel like they know me.

    (I wonder what they would say to this comment if the read it. The big questions there is if.)

    I'm really liking you Sweetie;D

    Ann from Kremb de la Kremb

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