Redefining Perceptions of Home
There comes a point when you move abroad when you have to redefine your perception of home. For me, that point came this weekend.
For the first time since moving to Denmark, I landed in the UK late on Thursday night and found myself back in the place I have always called ‘home’. I’ve spent numerous periods of my life abroad, but only ever periods that I knew were finite. 6 months here, 9 months there, I’ve always known that at some point I’d be going back to the UK, it was never forever.
But this time it was different. When I landed on the 23rd, it was following almost 2 months of having started the process of building a new life overseas. From going on friend dates, through to scouting out every conceivable supermarket within 3 miles of my flat (I’m a picky shopper…) I’d unconsciously gone through the motions of making this new place my home.
Despite having lived away from my childhood town for almost a decade, it had always been the place that my mind had associated with permanency and comfort. Now, without even meaning to, after moving abroad with no plan of when or if it will end, I realised that my perception of where home is in the world had shifted.
It got me thinking that there’s lots of things that nobody can prep you for before you move abroad. Some stuff is so visceral, it almost defies logic. But, far from being scary or unsettling, it actually felt kind of nice. For the first time in 26 years I felt that I had my first, adult, permanent place.
But, sadly, it wasn’t all rosy existentialism and dreamy coming of age.
If you’ve been reading this blog or following me on social media, you’ll understand just how devastated I was to wake up on Friday morning to the news that the country I had known and loved all my life had changed, perhaps forever, when it voted to leave the EU. I won't go into my reflections on the referendum in this post, other than to say that all of a sudden I felt as though the UK didn’t belong to me anymore. It was truly awful to be in the UK during the aftermath of the referendum, to be faced with the reality of a totally divided nation and everything that entails.
Funnily enough though, despite feeling totally disenfranchised, I’d never felt more British than in those first days after the results.
I was there as the chaos was unfurling, I watched as the pound plummeted, government disintegrated and everyone was like a sitting duck not knowing what was going to happen. And there I was, about to jump on a plane and get back to my life in Denmark. It didn’t feel right. I felt a duty to stay and be part of the fallout.
I think that's the closest feeling I have ever (and probably will ever) have to true patriotism. Not the St George flag, bulldog-wielding kind - but instead the kind that just desperately cares about the future of the country, even if I myself won't reap the rewards. And in those moments I realised that no matter where in the world I make my home, I'll always be passionately committed to being part of the future of Britain, through the good and the bad.
And so, get back on the plane I did, determined to do my bit to help shape the future of Britain from afar. As horror stories of xenophobic attacks and divided communities hit the news with alarming frequency, I left the UK committed to spreading the most positive Britishness in my new life overseas. I was once so proud to be British, I want to be again. I don’t want anybody in Denmark or anywhere to have any doubt that the thugs on the news are the anomaly in a nation of tolerant, welcoming, kind-hearted people.
Last week the country made a decision I couldn’t oppose more strongly, but now comes the job of trying to place myself in this new order, as I’m sure many other Brits living abroad will be doing too.
My personal journey to create a new home here is well underway and enriching my life in ways I can’t even quantify. But the collective journey I’m on with Brits across Europe to shape the future of the country is just beginning. I think we’re going to be in for a long and rocky ride, but what greater motivation that building a better, brighter and more stable future for the Britain of tomorrow.