I always hope that somebody will care every year I go home, but every year most of them don’t. (Ha ha!)
It is not because they really don’t care though, it is mostly because they just don’t fully understand or connect to the international/expat life you are living. When visiting family and friends in my home country, very rarely do the conversations relate to my life living abroad. Hardly do we even talk about the amazing trips that I have been on the past year! (Oh, the things I have seen!) It is hard to talk about your trips without giving an impression of bragging though.
International school teachers indeed live a life that is a foreign world to our old friends, so different from where we were born and raised. Additionally, so many people in this world still just stay living close to where they were raised. When I look at my home-country friends and relatives, most are living in the same city they grew up in or in the city just next to that one. (Side note: Why do we feel the need to escape our hometowns?)
And of course, quite a large percentage of people in the United States are without a passport (is that true for the Americans YOU know??). Being that these friends and family that you know maybe haven’t had so much experience living abroad or even traveling abroad, you would think that would make them even more interested in your international life…but that isn’t always the case.
I guess when you go home, you spend most of your time just reminiscing about the good times of the past, of when you used to live there maybe. Most of the conversations you have also are just normal ones, talking about day-to-day things (e.g. the weather, etc.).
Sometimes your friends and family dominate the conversation with updates from their life, which of course you are curious about as well. You want to get the lowdown on their lives being that you are only there visiting with them for typically such a short time. I mean they haven’t seen you in a while as well, and they are excited to see you and catch you up on their lives.
Though it is truly so nice to go back home and catch up with everyone, little do your friends and family realize or understand the reverse culture shock you may be experiencing when you go back home, even if it is the 8th time you have come home in 10 years (let’s say) that you’ve been abroad.
International school teachers live a dual life basically. The fact is…that we live most of the year in our host country; eating our host country food, hanging out with our host country friends, being surrounded by a foreign language and culture, living in our host country apartment, using and thinking in a foreign currency, etc. When you visit your home country, you really want to tell people in your host country about those things! Some will listen though when it comes up naturally in the conversation, but it is usually a fleeting moment…not giving you enough time to share as much as you would like.
This article is not meant to make fun of or hate on our home country friends and family, but it is meant to express our feelings about how an expat teacher might feel and how they might think in their head as they go home for the summer. When you are living abroad for so long, it is so nice (and important) to see and catch up with your family and old friends.
How do you feel when you go home to your host country? Are you able to have conversations with your friends and family about your life living abroad?
This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.