to re-identify with your patriotic roots. On the other hand, I have never
been so aware of being an American than when living overseas. You are an
instant ambassador, and often expected to speak intelligently on a wide
range of subjects related to your home land. I was surprised to find myself
judged not only for myself, but for the actions of my country.
Iím not talking
extradition or crime-fighting aliases, but going to a new country where
virtually no one knows you is terribly liberating. You can reinvent
yourself into whoever you wish to be. Going home sometimes means
facing yourself and your past. If you like who you are overseas,
try making a conscious decision to work the new you into the old surroundings.
Bring Back to the US
tell you how many of my ex-pat friends, faced with the prospect of
going back home to get 'real jobs,' felt they had nothing to offer.
They tortured themselves with all sorts of paranoid visions of recruiters
scoffing at their resume gaps, and became apologists for their free-loving,
backpacking English-teaching ways.
It seems that
the longer you stay away from your native country, the more you distort
and deify their market. My colleague from Ireland, currently working in
the States, faces the same factless fears about having lost her bloody-knuckled
Irish work ethic.
NO! Pshaw, I say! You have followed a dream. You have demonstrated
initiative, research, project planning, budgeting, preparation, problem-solving,
and flexibility, combined with an ability to adjust to new environments
and some particularly peptic local dishes. Not to mention, youíve probably
picked up some linguistic skills and cultural awareness often bereft in
the average American, bless our egocentric hearts.
youíve been having fun doesnít mean you havenít been growing and learning.
Your experience is invaluable and extraordinary, and makes you interesting.
Most importantly, people - youíve done what your boss wishes he or she
had done 15 years before, and you will never ever regret it.
go home with your tail between your legs. Raise your head as
high as the rest as you ex-expatriate to the motherland Ė sheís glad to
have you back!
Get by Going Home
who have known us since infancy, the spouses yet to meet, the grammas and
pawpaws we were praying would hang on until the next visit. These
are the ties that bind, and if youíre lucky enough to have them, youíll
count yourself even luckier to have them near. Chances are, absence
has made the heart grow fonder.
One of my
friends in the States who lived overseas for several years says this; ďSometimes
I think Iíd give my right arm to get back, but you know, I can walk a block
from my house and thereís a Baskin Robbins there, and they make these milkshakes.
Thick. Like theyíre supposed to be.Ē Itís the difference
between working your schedule around the grocery merchantís naptime to
picking up a box of cereal and a head of lettuce at 3am. CDís at
non-import rates. Dairy products you recognize and know what to do
with. Getting the talk show hostís jokes. Credit vs. cash.
Movies with no subtitles. Driverís license vs. passport... Know what
I still havenít
figured this one out, but itís pretty nice to apply for a job and check
the Resident-Yes! box. Feeling your days are numbered because your visaís
restrictive or about to run out, or whoops, you donít have one? Youíre
a citizen again, not a visitor on probation. Makes getting a decent
job, and even a career in what you actually want to do much easier... and
donít forget the favorable exchange rate for your paycheckís buying power
elsewhere, at least for the moment!
So Iím back
now, and I get teary-eyed at Almodovar films and envious when I hear
about othersí vacations to the place I used to call home.
On the other
hand, I actually have comprehensive health insurance, a growing career
and, would you believe it, a retirement fund. I get my paycheck direct
deposited into my Money Market Account as opposed to getting an envelope
of cash for my shoebox. I may actually be able to afford a home and 2.5
kids someday... Whoops, just got laid off!
I live in a
pretty cool place and do some backroads weekend excursions to places that
are new and charming, if not worldly and exotic. I miss the outdoor flamenco
guitar concerts, but I just saw
and the rest of the Dead last night and thereís just no beating those wonderful
ole self-proclaimed geezers.
I forget that there are ex-patriots from other countries, probably
the one youíre in right now, living in the States. The INS reports that
more than 30.1 million non-immigrants were granted entry into the US in
1998, and they gave out over 88,000 non-immigrant specialty working visas
in the year 2000. There must be something pretty cool about this country.
Life does not
end when you come back. You just have to try harder, rage against the known,
and mix it up a little. And you can always go back...
Know Itís Time to go Away Again
To be honest,
Iím still searching for the holy grail, that elusive chalice called the
perfect job that allows me to watch my best friendís and brotherís children
grow up, take care of my parents when they need me, and still allow me
to be a well-traveled multilingual sophisticate.
If anyone knows
how I can do this, let me know!
In the meantime,
Iíll be living vicariously through you...