I am an Ex-Expat

Repatriation isn’t getting the U.S. stamp in your passport and a “Welcome home” from the customs agent.  It doesn’t end when you find a new house in your chosen (for you) new hometown.  It’s not even over when you’ve settled in that new house, the kids are in school and the pantry has been restocked.  After four months back in the states, having left Belgium behind, we’re still working on the process.


The subject has come up repeatedly recently.  E hit me with, “School is so different here,” on the car ride in this morning, then launched into the myriad of changes he’s had to endure.  L has been skipping breakfast recently, something that never happened when Côte d’Or chocolate spread on a baguette was put in front of her, and yesterday I caught her singing, “Bob l’eponge carre” over the English theme song to SpongeBob Squarepants.

The repat process might be most confusing for Ben since both the U.S. and Belgium are home countries for him.  He moved most easily into Belgium to begin with so was quicker to adapt back to their ways, making moving again a chore.  Just yesterday I fielded the questions, “Can you mow on Sundays in this country?” and, “Are expiration dates day-month-year or month-day-year here?”.  Small, but important differences between the two countries.

For me, the change has been much easier.  Coming back felt as if I could finally unclench.  Day to day living over there was not easy for me.  The language barrier was my top problem and made me uncomfortable from day one.  Travel opportunities?  Awesome.  Brocante shopping?  My favorite.  But!  Groceries and shoe shopping and watching tv and communicating with neighbors and reading highway signs?  Total stress.  So being “back home” for me has been pure joy on the daily level.  However…


Will I ever remember that I can turn right on red?  Will my Diet Coke habit return because sparking water isn’t as readily available as flat?  Should I still get that jolt of excitement when I remember that I can shop on Sundays?  Will I ever stop confusing the cashiers by trying to bag my own groceries?  (Will I ever stop being mortified that that man is running for president of my beloved United States?)


Will I ever be fully comfortable anywhere, knowing that there are things in other places that I prefer to wherever I am now?

While I’m sure the answer is yes, it comes with an asterisk.  And that asterisk will stand for… *only if I get to continue to travel.  Because having new experiences, in new places, has been one of the best ways to figure out what I really enjoy, need and want.  Plus, I haven’t yet exhausted all the brocante-shopping opportunities out there.



4 thoughts on “I am an Ex-Expat

  1. Good perspective! We are still smack dab in the middle of our expatriation here in Copenhagen. And the contemplation of a repatriation brings up new doubts – but I love your statement “Coming back felt as if I could finally unclench.” I can understand that. Good luck with the transition and keep traveling! Copenhagen is nice! Cheers.

  2. I was/ am (?) an Australian who after living in Ireland returned to Australia, 8 years on I have just moved back to Ireland… I think it depends on the person but after leaving Australia the first time, on returning it never really felt like home for me. Admittedly I have only been back in Ireland a bit over a month, and as much as some things irritate the hell out of me it feels like home.

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