I’ve recently received a message asking if I have ever felt like a “foreigner in my own country.” Yes I do, often…
Honestly, I don’t think I will ever lose my roots. That’s where I come from, my first language, where the holidays make more sense, the place I know how to behave in every setting, where the rules feel more normal… it is the culture I was born and raised.
But after living abroad for several years, there is always a weird feeling when going back. Things have changed, and you have missed them all. You don’t know what is trending anymore, what’s on TV, or where to go get the best Pizza in town. Your friends and family are still there, you love them, but you’ve changed and sometimes they don’t realize it.
I have friends on the road who say they feel guilty about “feeling a foreigner at home,” or not considering their birthplace as their home. There is nothing to feel guilty about, or ashamed of. The decisions you made in life took you on a different kind of journey, so embrace it. It is your life and your decisions, and if you pick a different country to make your own, or decide to go abroad to find who you are and your place in the world, that’s what you have to do. Think about it as your life and relationships. The place you were born is your family. You love them, and want to spend as much time as possible with them. But the country you pick to spend your life is your husband/wife/partner in life. Among many people in the world you pick one person to share your life with, among many countries around the world you pick one to make your own.
I am sure each person that like me ‘feels a foreigner at your own country’ will face different issues, and it is normal. From all the issues that come with feeling a foreigner at home, the most annoying things are the assumptions people make about your lifestyle, questions about your decisions, and the statements that you don’t understand your own country anymore. This often happens when you are talking about serious issues in politics, ideas, concepts, human rights… you are either perceived as “too open minded with questionable opinions” or “you don’t live here anymore, so you shouldn’t have an opinion.” This can be upsetting and sometimes infuriating… it is your country, and you want the best for it, you want to continue involved somehow even if you adopt another country as your own. Further, I come from a sexist country where people ask direct personal questions (personal space is very very low), and countless times I had to deal with jokes that “I am getting too old and I will not get married,” “That the most important thing is build a family and if you keep moving around this will never happen.” This is the moment I most feel like a foreigner in my country. That’s when I have a “reverse cultural shock.” As a woman, I am expected to make a family, and so my decisions raise questions and sometimes [offensive] comments. As when I am abroad and I don’t agree with something, I just deal with it.
After a while, the world becomes your country and it does not matter where you come from anymore, the only thing that matters is to enjoy every part of every country you had the opportunity live in. Sometimes it is a weird feeling of “not belonging anywhere,” but the feeling of freedom to explore and owning a little bit of every country and every culture is just amazing. So enjoy the journey!