Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The expat dilemma: Staying or going home?

When you're at a crossroads...and don't know where to go

At some point in their experience abroad, every expat will have that thought: "Should I stay or should I go back home?". It happened to me many times, at different moments and for different reasons.

The first time was probably about 2 years into my expatriation. I just got married and felt it was time to go home. I already acquired the experience I needed to find a job in France and I missed my family and friends more than ever. Yet, there was something I couldn't really pinpoint that was confusing. Somehow there was no novelty anymore and the routine was getting the best of me. On top of that, many friends I had from the beginning were also starting to go home. On the other hand, I still liked Ireland, the way of life, my job, my neighbourhood...

So we decided to stay a bit more. I got promoted at work, I met new people, and the blues eventually passed. I think what made us stay over the years was the fact that we always had a short term goal to look for: a holiday abroad, buying a car, a friend's visit... Then the bliss came back, and we were ready to buy a house. Once that was done, I changed job, we spent a year enjoying our new home and then it was time for babies.

Even though we had that life plan, at the back of my mind I always had the idea of going home at some point. This was especially true when recession hit and we were literally trapped in our apartment because of negative equity. At that time (about 7 years in Ireland), I felt I didn't have a choice anymore and that staying in Ireland was something imposed on me.

When we had the kids, I thought we could always go back home before they went to school, but I also wanted them to be bilingual, another dilemma... So we decided to stay, again.

After 13 years we're still here. And I still think about going home regularly. But there's always something that makes our life here worthwhile. At the moment, I can see the benefits of speaking two languages to my kids, the fact that Irish people are less judgemental when it comes to special needs children, the help and support we're getting from the school, the Irish sense of humour that's getting me through most days, my job that I really like...

Life in Ireland is not always easy when you have no family around, when childcare fees are extortionate, when your mortgage is costing you an arm and leg... But come to think of it, if I was in France, would it be that different? I'd probably have to live in a big enough city to land a decent job, and so would my husband. My parents wouldn't be around either to mind the children so I would have to pay for childcare as well. We would have to pay for rent or a mortgage... Of course we would avail of a better social security, but every country has its positives and negatives.

If you're in that state of mind at the moment, take some time to think about your decision, and evaluate your priorities. Trust me, you always have the option to go home because if you really want to, you'll find a way.