No going back
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By Rebecca Hilliard
During my two-decades away from the UK, I became all too familiar with the difficulties other expats experienced when they finally went ‘back home’. Not only had home changed, they had too. By my reckoning, anyone who had been out of their home country for more than 5 years took at least a year to settle back. I know one person who is still struggling after 3!
So when work requirements (as a Senior Internal Communications contractor) pointed me to the UK to find my next role, I was determined not to look at it as going back but as going to.
Unlike expats going back who tend to sit and wait for it all to return to how it was, expats going to a new country, typically do a number of things: they join groups, societies and classes – often ones they might not join at home. They also haven’t established their ‘social radar’ in the early days – things are new and they don’t have any real ways to judge if an event or group is or isn’t for them, meaning they are more open to ‘trying things out’. And they accept any and all invitations!
So, while I knew I needed to be based in London, I determined not to go back to the North London I came from. Instead I have opted to go to South West London. Somewhere I am completely unfamiliar with. Yes, the language is the same, I know the city and largely how it works in terms of transport, phone companies etc., but it is just about different enough that I can fool myself in to believing it’s a new adventure in my life.
On day two, I was at an Internations expat event (admittedly, I felt a fraud for being the only native born Londoner in the room!). A week later at a local MENSA book club. And I have signed up to more Meet-Up groups than you can shake a stick at.
Most days I take a walk in a different direction from my home to discover what is around me. I’ve also taken to trawling the web like a new arrival to find out recommendations on ‘things to do in London’.
And, I am currently accepting any and all invitations!