Where is home? An expat transition that took me by surprise

EXPAT LIFE: We’ve just returned from another home visit to Australia. It was short but still very enjoyable. As with other visits, we saw our friends and family and looked at our house in Sydney’s Inner West. Nothing seems to have changed much except for one big exception.

Somewhere, somehow between this year and last year, I have made a transition.

Not a conscious one but a very significant one. When my Aussie friends back home asked me once again how I liked it here in the US, I suddenly realized that I was missing my home. No, not the Australian one as previously but my New Jersey home, where we have lived for the last three years. Something happened that I assumed never would. I had switched over to thinking of the US as my home without realizing.

When you miss your friends but still miss being at your home overseas more, you know that that you’ve crossed that invisible line. After two initial years of hard emotional yakka (Australian for ‘work’), it shocked me very much to feel this way without seeing it coming.

How and why this has come about are questions I can’t really explain clearly but I will try.

It seems to be the result of a whole lot of attitudinal shifts that have been happening over time which have an accumulated effect.

First of all, on this home trip there was a slight strangeness about Australia that I hadn’t felt before. Normally, I get a thrill revisiting my favourite places around Sydney. These visits help to top-up my previously much needed ‘Australiana’ dose. Passing by the Australian Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge this time though didn’t elicit the patriotic urges they have on previous occasions.

Australian flag by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Australian flag by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I must have also grown fonder of my expat home in New Jersey over time. It is after all a very pretty place. More importantly, the things about US life that irked me personally at the beginning have faded into the background much more.

As an expat couple, it has been some of the compromises we have been forced to accept as part of our relocation that have been so problematic. But strangely these too are losing their significance over time. There are now strong bonds with some US friends that weren’t quite as obvious previously. The kids being settled at their schools and doing well has also helped.

Perhaps the biggest single factor for me though has been creating this blog, which personally provided me with a professional and social outlet in the US that wasn’t there before. Not being able to get a job here has been the worst aspect of US expat life for me. It’s almost a personal acceptance now that I haven’t been able to work in my chosen career of pharmaceutical marketing. Another attitudinal shift that I’m surprised about.

Thank goodness though I have moved on. It can’t be healthy staying in the half-empty mindset for extended periods. But it is something that every individual can only do in their own time. I have certainly had that opportunity.

While It’s great to feel that you can still learn new approaches to life as part of the overseas relocation experience, it’s equally as good not to feel you have been an ‘expat failure’.

I still don’t feel that I’m similar to local Americans but somehow I do fit in.

NB: This blog post is part of a blog linkup with other expat bloggers hosted at Windmill Fields. You can visit here to read how other expats feel about the expat transition to seeing your relocated country as home.


13 thoughts on “Where is home? An expat transition that took me by surprise

  1. Hi there,

    Just wanted to let you know what a great help your blog has been to me over the last few months. We have recently arrived in America from Sydney for an expat adventure, and are now settling in to life in Yardley PA. Particularly enjoy your posts with school info. We haven three kids all of whom are starting school next week.

    Thanks again,

    • Hi Megan,
      Thanks so much for your lovely compliment! Very much appreciated. Good luck with settling into your new home. Buck’s County is very pretty and seems to have quite a lot of history associated with it. Sounds very nice. Hope you’ll keep reading and please add in your own experiences as an Aussie expat, as they’re bound to be at least a bit different to my own and that will make the information useful for other new expats who are thinking of coming over.

      Thanks again:)

  2. A very important topic in expat life. A central one. It makes the difference between happiness and misery.
    As for us, we are in the middle of the transition, I guess.

    • Thanks again for your comment. This is a really hard topic. I am probably still in transition too truth be known. I seem to have swings back and forth sometimes very unexpectedly. Not always sure what it is that makes me feel suddenly homesick but sometimes it wells up for a short while then disappears. Not sure if I’ll ever feel like a real New Jerseyan.

  3. Very nice article and I have to agree. At some point your new country or city of choice becomes your new home. For me this goes very fast, because I feel home where my wife and daugther and all my stuff is.

    • Thanks for your comment too:) I think my family being here and our stuff definitely has a lot to do with me swinging away from home to NJ. As I said in another comment, I do still feel a little mixed at times. Not sure if that is ever going to go. That’s the hardest part for me is having swings. Then again it could just be menopause lol:)

  4. windmillfields says:

    Thanks for joining in, funny how we bith experienced this recently, i realised it too on a hol to the UK. It just creeps up ans then suddenly hits you doesnt it.
    Hope to see you bck joining in again soon and great that i have found another expat blog to read f

    • Thanks so much! Appreciate your comments and I too feel like have got another great blog to read. It seems the transition thing is a really individual experience that can be quite different depending on who you are and what you left behind in your last home. I am surprised though, most of all, that I would even feel this way because I have always loved Australia very much, and had rose-coloured glasses for the most part about things at home.

  5. I stumbled onto you blog by accident.. I was looking for an Aussie tree guy in NJ :/ I’ve been in Jersey for the last 4 1/2 yrs…..The weather takes a bit of getting used to after living in Melb, then Adelaide.


    • Thanks so much for joining in and commenting. Thinking about the weather again today as it’s 31 and humid. I was hoping for a quicker move to fall weather without any hangovers from summer but that was being very optimistic! Definitely over the hot weather so com on Fall!!

  6. I have really enjoyed reading your Blog. It has helped me settle in a bit as I have just gotten the news that we will be relocating to the US from Germany. We need to be in Bergen County and of course I know nothing about life there. Schools, communities etc. I’d love to hear your opinion on nice communities in Bergen County if you have any knowledge of them. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Marian! So glad my written meanderings are helpful! I can tell you quite a bit about Bergen County. There are a large number of very nice towns. Just like other counties here, they do vary a bit in their personality due to demographic makeup, history, etc. I will email you separately to talk about this more.

  7. Thanks for your blog! Yeah it’s funny how it sneaks up on you. We have been in Singapore for 6 years after Sydney and Brisbane and the same thing happened to us after about 2-3 years.

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