I recently read a quote somewhere saying ‘the hardest thing about living abroad is returning home’. There have never been words more true.
I may have been back ‘home’ for over 7 weeks now, but adapting to life back in the UK is not easy. After researching, I found out that what I am experiencing is not just me being silly, it’s something that is real, something that others experience too. Reverse culture shock.
We’ve all heard of culture shock, I sure experienced that too when I first moved to Turkey. Moving thousands of miles away and being thrown in at the deep end, oceans away from all my family and friends and the life I had known for 19 years. No more ready meals, no wearing shoes inside, the fact it’s not uncommon to meet someone in the bus stop, instantly learn where he’s from, how old he is, and be invited to some random family occassion they’re holding soon. Adapting to ‘Turkish time’ and accepting that nothing will ever be done quickly. Learning to sleep through the call to prayer at 5am. The infamous Turkish toilets, and not being able to put paper down the normal toilets. Haggling in every shop you come across. Not being able to walk down the street without being called over by everyone you might have met once upon a time. Not hearing any English conversations… none of these are bad things, just very different. I adapted quickly and ended up living 99% like a local
minus the village baggy flowery trousers.
Culture shock, you expect. But reverse culture shock is different. On return to your ‘home country’ you don’t expect to feel like a foreigner, which is exactly how I still feel. The two and a half years I lived in Turkey I lost my connections to ‘home’, I felt less and less like an English girl, whilst obviously not being Turkish either. It’s a strange feeling, one that I can’t explain. It hits me at the most random times, sat on a bus and hearing English conversations all around, seeing English sign posts, seeing all the food in the English supermarket, it’s all quite overwhelming.
I suppose one of the main things which is difficult to adapt to is the fact that the lives of the people I love and care about at ‘home’ have moved on. Family and friends have new lives, some have attended and graduated university, others are married and have children, my mum has found a boyfriend and is engaged and my little sister who was a 3 week old baby when I left, is now over two and a half years old. Whilst I was not naive enough to expect everything to remain the same, it’s still hard to cope with things being so different to when I left them. Everyone else has moved on, and I’m back starting from the beginning, having to find a new job, adapting to life back with my family, and trying to find time to see friends who are all busy with their own lives. I don’t feel as close to my friends or family anymore, I left my own ‘family’ back in Turkey. I do feel like a foreigner in my own ‘home’.
Living back with my family is hard, after living alone with Berkay for two years. I miss the peace. Quiet evenings without a moody teenager and excitable toddler running around. Selfishly, I miss not having to worry about anyone else and just doing my own thing, washing up when I want, eating when I want, having control of the tv ;) I feel less independent. I love my family but it’s still such an odd feeling being back, I feel like I’m intruding, this is their home, and not mine.
Another thing hard to adjust and adapt to is the whole ‘want it-get it’ attitude that is common here (I’m not saying every English person lives this way, please no nasty comments!) If someone wants something, they go out and buy it. Food, clothes, a phone.. whatever. While in Turkey I lived on the bare necessities, I had no luxuries. My dad has been bugging me for weeks to go out and buy a coat, or a pair of tights without a hole in the toe. He took out a new phone contract for me last week, despite me telling him I was happy with my ancient LG phone with a black and white screen and no internet capability that belongs in the stone ages. To me, that’s not the normal thing to do, If I were back in Turkey I’d just deal with it and carry on, make do and focus on the more important things like paying bills. I find that people’s priorities here are so backwards. I am starting to fall into that trap now too, especially where food is concerned!
I’m much more judgmental of the UK now I have lived somewhere else, perhaps wrongly, perhaps not. I have seen a different side of life that some have not, people assume I lived like a tourist, had what I wanted when I wanted it and had a life of luxury and a two year holiday. That’s so wrong.
People can’t understand what’s so difficult about returning to their own culture, customs, and language, they say ‘just move on get over it’. It’s really not that easy. The ‘just move on’ attitude doesn’t help, it only makes me feel more isolated, more like I don’t fit in. People not understanding has led to arguments. I was reluctant to do this post as I know any family reading will still be annoyed and upset about the things I say. Having read fellow ex-expat’s blogs about this subject, I decided to post it anyway, it’s important to know these feelings are real and if just one person reads and feels less alone and isolated, then it’s done it’s job.