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Nostalgia for What We Left Behind

Emily By Emily Published on November 5, 2015

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When we leave home for the first time to embark on a new adventure in a new country, we’re so excited that we forget everything we’ve left behind and gape and gawk at all the new products and services. Going to the supermarket is on a par with going to an amusement park. We want to try everything.

We see only the positive aspects. Why didn’t our government think of this? Why don’t we make our bread this way? What an awesome way to run the healthcare system! Even the tax system is a novelty!

We are those people who go “back home” and boast about how much better everything is where we’re living now and how we could never come back.

It may last a month, it may last a year, it could even last 10 years. But at some point we find ourselves going “back home” and feeling excited about a stop at our old bank, reminiscing over the snack foods in the supermarket aisle or wishing we could pay a visit to that kind and attentive family doctor we grew up with.

Then the yearning starts. It’s no longer excitement, but a need. We find online stores that stock the real deal, we look forward to receiving comfort packages by mail, and we start telling people how “our” system works and why it’s better. The phenomenon may vary for each individual, but if you’re an expat, you’ll surely empathize with at least one of these scenarios.

Could it make us move back? Probably not, but it does happen. Experts for Expats conducted a survey in 2014 and concluded that 72 percent of British expats are unhappy where they currently live and one third of them would move back home.

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Interestingly enough, though, the time spent away and the energy put into adapting to a new country, system and lifestyle deter us from packing up and leaving. Also, the idea of moving back can actually trigger negative thoughts about where we came from and bring back all the reasons for moving away in the first place. According to the OECD, the United Kingdom ranks first among developed countries for its number of expatriates. The reasons for moving are many, including work and a better quality of life.

However, the older and more sentimental we become, the distance we’ve created exacerbates the nostalgic feelings for those things we left behind. Something as simple as a bad day can bring them on.

Obviously, no country is perfect. Each one has its positive elements, which attract people, and its negative aspects, which deter them from living or working there. And we mustn’t forget that everyone is different: what works for some may not work for others.

If we question this yearning more critically, we can see that it’s all centered on people, not things or systems. Memories of having that meal with the family, seeing the family doctor with siblings and receiving that chocolate bar if we behaved ourselves, opening our first bank accounts with a parent and choosing our first piggy banks ...

So would it be fair to say that we’re not nostalgic for what we left behind, but for who we left behind?

With 10 years in the publishing industry and 35 years of enjoying all types of books, I can safely say that I am a certified book lover. Language, linguistics and education is the domain I am ... Show More

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