“How are you adjusting?” is something I am being asked a lot at the moment. I’m four months into my re-entry in England and approaching the psychologically critical six-month point expats talk of. Tales of repatriation meltdowns always tend to begin, “Well, she was fine for the first six months and then she…”
a) Realised she had changed too much to ever be able to live in England again,
b) Realised England hadn’t changed at all
c) Remembered she had left the gas on.
I tell people that I was lucky I started a new job two days after I came back. I tell them I am loving the job and that I am enjoying the simple pleasure of not having to miss my oldest friends and my family.
Oddly, I have felt the most vindicated in my decision to return home when moments come around that are now everyday.
When I was in Shanghai last summer on a warm evening sitting on my balcony 25 storeys up chatting to my friends about my reasons for leaving, I never could have pinpointed the moments that would truly reward my decision.
I knew that Shanghai and I had reached the type of juncture that you come to with a man when you have to decide to either get married or break up. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with Shanghai, but I still love it.
I knew that I wanted to put down roots for a while in England, be near my loved ones and move on to better career prospects.
But since I have been home, I have been made acutely aware of what I was missing. When you have a one-hour Skype call home each week, you miss spending a few post-dinner hours chatting about what your grandparents did during the war or your mother’s first boyfriend. You miss teaching your sister how to perform a London emergency three-point turn ahead of her driving test. You miss the afternoon you spend trying on hats for a wedding you will actually be able to attend. And you weren’t even aware these moments were there to be missed.
There are things I miss about Shanghai but they are not serious enough for me to feel that I will need to run away in two months’ time. Perhaps your first few months home are the most precious, when you have a unique new perspective on things you previously took for granted. Perhaps I’m just still blinkered by the range of lunch options I now have and the fact that shoes in England actually fit me. Who knows? But at the moment I may be the only person in London who can safely say they feel well-adjusted.