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Posted by Admin
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Cross-National Relationships by Expat
One of the difficult elements in maintaining a cross-national relationship is that one partner always plays the role of the immigrant and is plagued by homesickness.
I recently received an email inquiring into the feasibility of a unique solution to this problem - living five years in one country and then five years in the other. Not having any experience with this myself, I was hoping that someone here could help the author of the email and give her some of the pros and cons of that particular situation.
When I initially moved to the United States, I thought that it was just going to be for a short period of time and then my husband and I would return to Canada. In the few years that I have lived here, however, we have put down roots and now the very prospect of having to file immigration paperwork on my husband's behalf, sell our house, find jobs in Canada, and start our lives over seems overwhelming. That is not to say that we will not do it, just that it is more complicated than what we had first assumed. Then, when I am completely honest with myself, I wonder if "who I have become" will fit into the "Canada that I remember" and a sense of dread overcomes me as I wonder if I will ever truly feel at home anywhere anymore. In all honesty, it may be time for me to shift my thinking and identify myself as a citizen of the world, rather than as a Canadian in the United States.
Out of curiousity, how do other cross-cultural couples deal with this situation and do other expats go through a phase of feeling like they no longer belong anywhere?
Thanks in advance and enjoy what is left of the weekend!
I am a geek replying to my own post, but I just thought of a major con - immigration bureaucracy.
I could not imagine having to deal with that every five years. Of course, if you both could get dual citizenship that might be easier. My main thought though, is that relationships are hard enough even when both partners are from the same country, add on top of that the stress of immigration and homesickness and then couple that with moving and starting over every few years and you may have a recipe for disaster.
Once again, I have never been in that situation so I could be wrong. There may be someone who is in that exact situation right now and is happy as a clam. :)
Hi from one expat to another , I can tell you that this dilemma does not get any easier the longer you're away from Canada and if you have children and eventually grandchildren, it becomes almost impossible to solve.
I have now lived longer outside Canada that I have in Canada, Canadian born and bred and proud of it, but I always feel slightly out of it when I return to Canada. In fact, I used to suffer from a slight culture shock . Needless to say, this has become less of a consideration since the internet and blogs such as yours; being in touch with family and friends, being just a click away instead being dependent upon the exhorbitant telephone costs of the last century!
My children speak another language plus English and French and are very Eurocritical of the North American way of life.
So, no, it doesn't get easier, but, I believe, my life is much more interesting than I think it would have been had I stayed in Canada. I've learned new languages, been confronted with new cultures, and have a unique view of the world around me due to my Canadian-ness and ways of seeing things. This makes for interesting discussions with the Europeans that I am in daily contact with.
I still fantasize that I will retire in Canada, but the closer that time gets, the more I realize that my family is here in Europe and my Canadian family are further away than just the miles that separate us.
I believe that most of my expat friends here feel similarly. We all moan about how much we miss Canada (or the States or England or Australia), but we love the differentness that living, loving, surviving and flourishing in a foreign country allows us.
This may just add to your confusion, but it certainly has helped me to realize that I'm a Canuck at heart but a global citizen.
don't know how to answer that ExPat. I think alot about the day when three years from know if I will actually apply for Canadian Citizenship, or if maybe after a year or two I will tuck my tail and run back home. The question is where home will be? I'm and American moving to Canada who speaks Greek - where do I fit?
What I can tell you is that I look forward to forming a Canadian Identity. I look forward to learning the quirks and subtleties of Canadiana. I want to make it my home more then anything - and in the end I think that's the only thing that matters...where do you feel at home?
It helps to know that there are others out there who struggling with some of the same issues. I am sad to hear that these things get more complex with time, but in the same breath, I am not surprised. I particularly appreciate your comments, Anonymous. They have given me a sense of what I may encounter in the future. Certainly I had never expected to question my own identity and sense of belonging when I moved here, but, unfortunately, that does seem to be one of the effects of emigrating. I think that I could make peace with being a "Canuck at heart and a global citizen". I quite like that concept.
I hope that your transition to Canadian living comes easily, Niko. By the sound of it, you definitely have the right attitude. When I moved here, I did so with a sense of adventure and did not really analyze what affect it would have on me emotionally. I can honestly say that the transition has been more difficult than what I had expected. Your question of "where do you feel at home?" is actually quite comforting. For now, at least, my home is here, although I would love to go to the Motherland for a visit (and some Canadian products! LOL). ;)
Your coment: "I wonder if "who I have become" will fit into the "Canada that I remember" and a sense of dread overcomes me as I wonder if I will ever truly feel at home anywhere anymore" hit a chord with me. You've accomplished what I've been trying to do for years: sum up what it means to be an ex-pat.
I often wonder if it is worth it- that permanent sense of 'not quite belonging' anywhere anymore. But then I remember how restless I'd become when I was in Canada and I've realised that my restless spirit just wouldn't let me stay put - and I've learnt so much from the people I've travelled with and the people I now co-exist with that I couldn't imagine my life any different.
I too love Canada. I like to continue to believe that I'll eventually move back home, but mostly because I can't fathom never returning, rather than an overwhelming sense of needing to go home.
This comment became far longer than intended, but mostly I wanted to say thank you for summing up what I've been trying to say in what feels like forever.
Thank you for putting my thoughts into words.....we have lived half our lives outside of Canada. It is always troublsome to ask yourself 'where do I belong' or 'where do I fit in'. We are semi retired and we are talking about moving back to Canada.....but we do have children and grandchildren and to leave them behind (although not in the same city) would be painful.
We did finally become citizens of our adopted country, but that only confused us further. Our adult children have yet to make the change in status.
As time has gone by, I am never asked anymore where I come from. No more jokes about Canadians and told to go home to the great white north. I don't say out and about too much, I don't misspell words, and I never did say ay. Does that mean that I now am American?
On the up side of life. I did figure out a few things in my journey. Canadians are not like Americans as they so often say of themselves. I find observing from a distance they are more like the British. That irreverent sense of humor, a real sense of fair play, honesty, a political system and concern for other fellow human beings. Lastly, not everything in Canada seems to be McSized, including the collective ego.
Our roots still call us home several times a year. As time goes by it does get more complex and I do have a greater loss of identity and feel more and more like that man without a country. The real question is do we fit in in either country after all this time?
It's interesting for me to read this now, as we are preparing to go "home". I can't wait to get back to Canada. Every minute that passes while I'm still here in NJ is a little private hell.
I don't always feel so strongly about going back, but I have to admit that as the times has gone by my need to get home has increased. It's been 5 years in the US, and while we enjoyed Connecticut somewhat we just aren't made for rural New Jersey.
I guess that this area is like the opposite of all the bits of me that I like. I am a socialist (liberal minded), Pagan, feminist who wants nothing more than a big warm friendly neighbourhood. I want grocery clerks and fast food servers to smile. I want to see people out and about. I want my kids to learn how to spell with the letter "u" still in its proper place. I also want them to have a school day that isn't interupted with a 20 minute ego-trip/flag ceremony.
I don't know. I mean I've lived places in Canada that I didn't like much (Mississauga, for example) but I've never been anywhere so un-Canadian before. I am thrilled to be going back to live in London, ON, where there will be family all around the kids and friends for me, within driving distance at least.
I couldn't imagine a strict 5 year on/5 year off compromise for ANY aspect of life. It would seem that just when you get settled, it's time to leave, which would add tension to even the best relationship...
We've been in the U.S. seven years and going home in a few months. My husband is a Brit, with triple citizenship, however he identifies himself as Canadian. We lived in Europe in my 20s and had a great time. I never did adjust to life in the U.S., which is most likely due to the fact I was 42 when we were suddenly transferred. Our child moved back within three years of our arrival, so that's been tough. In seven years I have yet to meet the neighbours, made no friends and since 9/11 have heard too much anti-Canadian garbage to feel even remotely comfortable in my surroundings. Maybe 20 years ago things would have been different, but the present political climate is far too frightening and this from a political refugee from QC. Even Lucien Bouchard doesn’t look so bad from here!
I don't expect any problems repatriating whatsoever. I'm just looking to breathe again.
It is so interesting to hear everyone's remarks and I see a piece of myself in all of them. I can certainly relate to everything that was said.
I had been struggling so long with such an overwhelming feeling of loss that I thought the feeling was exclusive to *me*. I am now beginning to recognize that the feeling is more of an unavoidable side effect of immigration than anything else. I am not sure if I can take comfort in that or not. It sure would be nice to have a quick and easy cure for it. LOL
I appreciate all of the comments. This may sound odd, but I think that I found a bit of myself while reading your comments. In fact, I have finally realized that I need to make peace with the "who I was" and the "who I have become". Somehow, I need to figure out a way to bridge that gap in my psyche.
Hello fellow expats. I always felt that I would be an expat as I have the ancestral wanderlust in my family. I always thought I would end up in Europe but here I am married to an American in the States. I sympathize with a lot of you...It is not easy. Fortunately work takes me back to Canada and to Europe at times. I have not made many friends here on my own, but I'm thinking it would not be any better moving to anywhere (even another city) at the age of 40, as I did. As one of your readers said, it's definitely harder after a certain age to adjust. Missing old friends and family is a burden. At the same time I believe life is good and you must bloom wherever you are planted.