March 21, 2013

You can never go back - even if you return

There is no way back


Gothenburg canals, with the Fish market in the background
Gothenburg canal, with the fish market
Once you have pulled up that anchor, you can never go back, even if you move back, your experience abroad will change you for life. And that is good, because if you didn't change with your experience, if your experience didn't make you grow, and if growth didn't make you change, why would you do it.

But it is not easy, not because it is difficult in the new location even if there will always be challenges, but because of the understanding, or lack thereof, from people you have near, or people you used to call your friends. In some cases you grow apart, but the trouble with being away is that you are not there to watch it happen, it happens gradually and might have happened even if you stayed, but when you are away it becomes to apparent when you meet again - life does go on also for those who stayed, and they develop too, but perhaps in different directions and in different ways, and just like you expect everything to remain the same as when you left, they expect you to be the same as when YOU left - because they may not be aware that they change too (and to be fair, not all do, I meet people who remain the same as they were when they were just out of school, but luckily that is very rare.)

I read an interesting article about this recently, see the link below:
http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/what-happens-when-you-live-abroad/

It is true what the article says; 
But there are the fears. And yes, life has gone on without you. And the longer you stay in your new home, the more profound those changes will become. 
Tram reaching the tram stop, surrounded by trees
Beautiful Gothenburg in the spring
Also when I now plan to leave Düsseldorf, I know that even if I return it will never be the same - my friends here will also keep on changing, and many of them, because it is an expat community to a great degree, will also move on, new constellations will form and people will go to new locations. That is the nature of it all. But with Düsseldorf it bothers me less, because here we have all been through it, and we don't expect to be the same - we go in with this with a different view on things. With Gothenburg it does though, because also today when I go back to visit, I realise just how much it has changed. It is not just the city itself that changed, new shops, new tram lines, new buildings, but the attitude in Sweden, the climate (and I don't mean the weather) and yes, the people. Its not about growing up and some friends starting families, but we carry different experiences, and have different expectations on life itself. It is not better or worse - but it is different.


Gothenburg canal from one of the bridges
Gothenburg, a green city with lots of water
And it is not just Gothenburg, it is Sweden in general. Sweden that was once my home doesn't exist anymore. It is a stunning country, and it is a good place to be, but it is not for me; Sweden and I have continued to develop, but we have developed in different ways and we don't know each other anymore.  One of the reasons I can never go back is that: We have developed in different ways and we don't know each other. When I come as a visitor it is OK, because it is for such a short time, and I can chose to ignore it and think only about the good times and the old memories, just like you do when you meet a person from the past, someone you haven't seen in a long time. I am not,  like the article suggests, two distinct people, but rather, the person I was in Sweden is now gone. It is possibly a bit unique, as I never meant to move back, before I even took the decision to move to Germany, I had mentally moved away, and I knew when I deregistrered and drove onto that ferry the last time that it was going to be for good, and never have I regretted it.

When I am in Gothenburg, or in Sweden in general, I am expected to fit in, and I simply don't. Not that I fit in in Germany either, but the difference is that I am not German, so I am not expected to fit in, just like I am not Taiwanese, so I am not expected to fit in there either. In Sweden I am Swedish and expected to fit in, to know all the social rules and to follow the path that everybody else does. It just doesn't suit me. I am not sad about it, I am not upset about it, I am just stating the obvious. When I am elsewhere in the world I don't fit in, I am not expected to fit in, I don't have to fit in, and I don't feel the pressure. I like to not fit in, and that I can do better elsewhere. 

But Sweden will always have a place in my heart, I will always love the country, and I will always be proud to be Swedish. I just don't want to live there. I just can't live there.

And unlike the author of the article above I never ever lay awake and think about things I miss at home, nor do I wait to live in full colour back where I belong - because where I belong is here, out in the world. It may be that I will feel it when I am in Taiwan, that I will long back to Germany, or to Europe; But Sweden, Sweden is not where I belong. I stopped belonging in Sweden years ago. 



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