I have just spent a glorious month with my family in Cape Town. A month of family meals, trips to the beach, cousins messing about in the pool, enjoying the delicious food and wine and various tourist trips.
It’s been heavenly. It’s also been hot. (Over 30deg C most days.) So it was a huge contrast to be catching up with my Saffa friends (South African- to non SA folks) at Starbucks in Tokyo, our first school day back with the ground being white outside.
We 3 ladies chatted amongst other things the state of the country and whether we would go back. Africa beats in our blood, it will never leave us. We all agreed that we felt unsettled, since coming back to Tokyo. My Mum commented that regularly hit a wobbly in my marriage whenever I return to South Africa. So what is it that causes the unsettled feeling? The ‘wobbles’?
1: It’s our home country.
As I said before- Africa beats in our blood. My parents have moved 3 times since I moved to the UK 17years ago, yet it’s still home. I arrive back and everything feels right. Whether it’s returning from the UK or returning from Tokyo- I’m home. I understand the people. I speak the language. My language (or accent when I moved to the UK) is understood.
2: We have family who live there.
Family is important to South Africans. Socialising with friends is great. But with family we have a history, common memories. Getting together with family is common. It’s the family who get invited first to go with to the beach for the day, or a hike in the mountains, or round to watch the rugby match (or a disastrous cricket match.) The primary source of ‘play dates ‘ for the kids are their cousins.
Family or friends. When things get tough- they’re the ones that you call. When you’ve received good news- they’re the ones you crack open the champagne with. The transient nature of expat lives, means that you haven’t built the deep friendships that have stood the test of time. The friendships that have seen both your good days and manic days.
4: We understand the culture.
One of the biggest learning curves I had when I moved to England was the difference in our two cultures. I naively thought that because we spoke English that we would understand each other. Truth is, it was only once I had children starting school (8 years after moving to the UK) that I started to develop good friends, that I could relate to. People were wary of my forthright nature and slowly that changed as I got used to becoming more reserved like the English.
Japan is an even more different kettle of fish when it comes to understanding the culture!!
5: We live a transient lifestyle.
Some expats contracts are a defined two years, three years or four years. Others have a rolling contract. But we all share a common denominator, we aren’t 100% sure how long we are going to be here. Expat jobs are less secure than non-expat jobs due to the expensive nature of expat living, so their jobs are the first to disappear when the tightening of the belts start to happen.
Wikipedia defines homesickness as a blend between depression and anxiety and Post holiday blues is a known syndrome with depression and its symptoms, all being signs of post holiday blues. So, with all my wonderful medical knowledge (not), I diagnose my friends and I as suffering from Post Home Visit Blues.
We have just experienced an amazing holiday. We have just been home to our family, our friends and the culture that is deep in our roots. We are suffering from both, Post holiday blues AND homesickness.
Now we just need to work out how to deal with it…