Every year the expat hubs around the world begin to leak foreigners who flood back to the homeland. Like birds, the migratory pattern is seasonal and routine.
We have lived in two of the world’s biggest global expat hubs, Dubai and Singapore, and the phenomenon is similar in both places.
After school breaks up in June, families depart for the Western world, the husbands only staying a week or two in order to protect their annual leave.
But why do we make this annual trip, at great expense and inconvenience? After all, the husband complains he misses the kids (and occasionally his wife), the children complain that they miss their toys and friends, and the wife is pulling her hair out carting children around single-handedly.
[As an aside, I’ve often heard expat wives complain about hair loss issues. This happens in both Dubai and Singapore. I once put this down to desalinated water (Dubai) and humidity (Singapore). Now I put it down to stress of the Expat Exodus. I’ve just returned from the UK after a four-week trip. One week in Singapore and the plughole looks like the Yeti has fallen down it.]
So back to the subject. There are several reasons why the summer Expat Exodus is a necessary one. Most importantly it is about your identity and place in the world:
1. We’re expats. We haven’t emigrated. This means we still feel the pull of the homeland. We understand that circumstances and jobs change all the time, and while we may feel that we’re here to stay, we could be gone tomorrow. We are part of a transient society.
2. The homeland offers us stability in a global economic market that has had its ups and downs. We understand how the homeland ticks. We haven’t had to learn it, unlike our temporary expats homes. There is something comforting and effortless about that.
3. Culture is important. What is the world without it? And so we ensure our children know what they need to know about bring British, or American, or Australian, or Kiwi.
4. Family is really where the home is. We make fantastic friends in our expat homes, supporting each other with knowledge and a tissue when our mother is too far away. We all need support, and there is a certain magnetism about being with your own tribe.
5. Friends also fit into the support category. We are the ones who have moved away and we need to make every effort to stay in touch with homeland friends. Forget about them and your risk feeling like an expat when you return home, starting your network from scratch.
6. Getting out of the heat. Of course we love the weather where we live, most of the time. But everyone needs a break from 50C heat and 99% humidity.
We all miss different things about our homeland. For some it’s a postal system that runs smoothly (Dubai doesn't have a door to door system). For others it’s the freedom of having a car (Singapore, where the cost is astronomical).
For me, apart from friends and family, it has been the British countryside, gastro pubs and historical houses. Oh, and strawberries that taste like strawberries, and don’t cost $20 and have a guilty-inducing 10,000 air miles attached to them.
What do you miss and why do you go home? We'd love to know.