With a Little Help From My Friends

“I know,” I wrote to my old friend Ruth, “that you will all have moved on when we get back, and that we will have to squeeze ourselves back into your lives.”

It’s a common theme among ex-pats who have moved back to Britain, this having to fit back in to a world that has moved on. A little bit like trying to put in an earring after the piercing has healed.

So many people move home because of friends and family but once in England, many find themselves on the outside looking in. Family members don’t seem all that interested in having them back. Friends have other friends now. Everyone is busy with the routines they’ve established during the ex-pat’s absence, and with the best will in the world, they can’t make much time for the returning wanderer.

It’s not like that for everyone of course. There are people who slip easily back into their circle of friends, and who are welcomed enthusiastically by family members. But when you’re thinking about a move as big as this one, you have to entertain the possibility that you might not be one of those people. Especially when you’ve been away for 25 years.

Take Ruth – we have been long distance friends far longer than we were in-person friends. I first met Ruth in college and within 5 years I was on a plane bound for Canada and my new life. We wrote letters for quite a long time, and she came over on holiday a few times, but as the years went by, we were in touch less frequently. We still keep in touch on Facebook, and I hope she knows I’d always be there if she needed me, but we haven’t shared the big events in each other’s lives for a long, long time. And it’s the same for most other people we know in England. In every single case, we have been friends from a distance (occasional holidays together, emails, phone calls etc) far longer than we were physically close.

So I’m mentally prepared to be the one who makes an extra effort. I won’t expect everyone to have lots of time for us at first. I will understand when we’re not included in things. I accept that we’ll have to fit ourselves around other events. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t pleased to get this reply from Ruth:

“You will not ‘squeeze’ into our lives but will slot into the place you occupied before!”

Squeezing or slotting – either is fine with me. I’m just glad we’re going home.


2 thoughts on “With a Little Help From My Friends

  1. I’m glad you thought this all through, though not surprised. It may be a little like going to a 25th class reunion and realizing you no longer have a lot in common with these folks anymore. Something else. Having lived in the same town all my life, I can imagine someone who had traveled the world and come back looking at me and thinking I was stuck in a time warp. You’ll have to remember these people are probably very happy in their time warp. Are you worried at all that it won’t be the England you remember? I love your friend’s response!

    • You know, I don’t think that way at all about our friends in the UK. But I do have one friend who prefaces every email with ‘you must think my life is very boring but …’ I suppose she thinks my life is one big party filled with excitement. The reality is that a) I envy many things about her life and b) I don’t think she’s ever written a single boring word to me.

      As for England – the country isn’t the reason I’m going back, so I can’t say I worry about being disappointed. But I suppose I do worry about having to fit in all over again. Any ex-pat knows that you wind up in a kind of no-man’s land, not really fitting in anywhere 100%. I feel a little bit old to be learning things all over again, and yet that’s what we’ll need to do. Then again, another part of me is excited about that. I like new experiences and I’ll try to keep that outlook – even though maybe it will be hard when I find myself getting on a bus but having no idea how to pay for a ticket!

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