For 1½ years now, I’ve been an expat (expatriate = person living abroad). In retrospect, it doesn’t feel that long. Despite the C-crisis, time went by very quickly. And it doesn’t feel very much like expat life, because of the C-crisis, as lately, I have spent a lot more time in Switzerland than originally planned. But maybe it’s more because I never intended to leave Switzerland for good, so I didn’t feel like abandoning everything, but just like working abroad for a certain time. The Raja4Divers adventure was always going to be a few wonderful years of my life, but not the rest of it.
Recently, I read an article about a Swiss woman living in San Francisco. She wrote about how she became very patriotic while in the US, much more than she was when she still lived in Switzerland. I noticed the same with my sister living in California. She and her family are part of the Swiss club and have been participating actively in its activities for over 20 years now. They are usually not the type to be members of clubs or sports teams, but it seems that living abroad (which for my sister and her family is home now - actually, they’re not expats anymore, as they’ve had the US citizenship for many years) makes people remember their roots and want to be with their compatriots. Maybe, when you’re away from home, you like to meet people who were brought up more or less the same way as you, who have similar values and who will just understand you without a lot of explanations. As much as we sometimes feel different from our compatriots when living in our home country, we somehow feel close when we are abroad for a longer period of time.
Life on Pulau Pef is different from «normal» expat life, if there is any such thing. My boss being Swiss as well, it feels very much like home. Luckily, my Indonesian colleagues add some foreign flavor to my life on Pef. And, of course, the island itself and the beauty surrounding me remind me every day that I am almost on another planet. It is mostly when I go to Sorong that I really feel like a foreigner because life there is so different. I usually want to go back «home» to the island as soon as possible.
Funny enough, when the pandemic started and the borders closed down, I had this urge to go home to Switzerland to be with my family. I can’t say why, because I knew that I could not have done much for them and that I was much better off on the island. But, as the woman from San Francisco put it, «We are like children longing to rest on their mother’s lap after a tough day at school.» When times get rough, we want to feel safe at home. During the second half of the year, I ended up spending a lot of time in Switzerland. And I’m glad, even though life on the island was much easier, less restricted and a lot more fun. But in Switzerland, everything feels so familiar and I know my way around, even though everything is different at the moment for obvious reasons.
For now, I don’t know yet how much longer I will be an expat. But I know that one day, I’ll want to go back to Switzerland. I think, it’s the place I want to grow old in. It’s where my roots are and where I feel most comfortable. Oh dear, I’m getting older! I never would have felt like that at the age of 20. I always wanted to travel the world and hopefully live and work abroad one day. It took a while to happen, but now I’m doing it and thoroughly enjoying this experience. I consider myself very lucky and don’t want to give the impression of being ungrateful for my life, especially in times like these. But a statement I read in another article about expat life sums it up pretty well: «In heaven, but missing home».
And then, soon after I’m back in Switzerland, I start missing Pulau Pef and its people.
First world problems, I know…
Funny how different we all are! I've moved to the Yukon (Canada) in 1996 and never had the slightest desire to live in Switzerland again. I go back for visits every couple of years to see my friends and stock up on goodies that I miss here (e.g. Migros Branchli, Vermicelles, Biberli, Schabziger).
Thank you, Chrige!
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