Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Living Abroad

Mamiko's friend Kumiko recently returned to Japan after a year in the UK and is apparently now desparate to come back; she plans to spend a while working and saving before jumping on a plane back to Heathrow.

My first reaction when I was told this was to think "The madness gets to us all." Then I thought about an old friend G, who spent a year with us in Canterbury and, upon returning to New York immediately started pining for Olde Englande. Or Carly, the Australian rugby fiend I used to know who just can't stay away from this place, and consequently spends her life flitting from country to country but somehow always ending up back in Brighton. And I realised, hey, maybe Britain isn't all that bad.

At the same time I realised something a bit more profound, which is that, no matter where you live, you'll find something to miss about it when you leave. More importantly, the wrench of forcing yourself out of your comfort zone can be so painful that it makes you want to do anything to reverse the decision: I definitely experienced that when I first got home after three and a half years in Japan, and it's no exaggeration that you approach it with a sense of mourning, as if you've lost a close friend - there's a grieving process you go through for the life you used to lead.

And you should never underestimate the power of reverse culture shock to discombobulate and confound. I'll never forget the night I arrived back in England, stepped off the plane, asked the woman at the information desk where to go to catch a bus, and recieved only a sigh and a sour look and a muttered grunt in reply - as if I was a petulant child being indulged with great reluctance. A Japanese person would have bent over backwards to help, and
there could not have been a more pithy summary of the difference between the two countries. But I suppose Japanese people returning to Japan must see similar failings that they've never really noticed before. Such is the nature of living abroad, and why it's worth it.

1 comment:

Amanda said...


When I am in Palembang, I yearn to be here in Brisbane. Now that I'm in Brisbane, I'm missing the tempeh in Palembang.