Before we moved here we had some "cultural training" and we went over the normal stages of adjusting to life as an expat. So I was prepared and fully expected to be homesick while living in France.
However sometimes how I fell and what I miss varies with time and circumstance.
An Ocean Away
Shortly after we arrived in France my parents were in an automobile accident. While the accident was very serious no one was seriously hurt. I Skyped with my parents the next day - but I certainly became aware that I was an entire ocean away from home.
We discussed this in class. Shortly after arriving language issues and frustration set in because tasks that are so easy when you know the language become very difficult when you don't. Going through checkout at the grocery store, setting up phone and internet service, etc. All of these make you wish you were back home where language isn't an issue.
Spending holidays away is hard for everyone. I was able to go home for Thanksgiving and my daughter came to France for Christmas. That helped a lot. But it never really felt like Christmas here. One reason is that southern France gets very little snow so we still had green grass at Christmas. Another reason is that our house here didn't really feel like home. We have spent the last 20 years of holidays in our home in the United States. I missed that a lot this past year.
To be honest we have had very little negative incidents, almost none. When we first came here I thought we may have to deal with people who dislike the United States but for the most part it's a non-issue.
However, in February 2015 I returned to language school to keep improving my French. I really love going to class every day. I'm usually the oldest person in class but have always been accepted and included by the younger students.
During the last week of class we had three new students join our group. One was around my age and he was just rude. It was easy to ignore him when he spouted insults about George W Bush or anything negative at all. But the other two were younger students.
I talked with one for quite some time and he was very passionate about his beliefs that the United States has an agenda in almost everything we do. We shouldn't have entered Iraq after 9-11 and why didn't we help Libya in the 50's. He asked me if I didn't understand WHY the terrorists felt they had to carry out their attacks on 9-11. He was maybe 10 at the time and he was very much against the attacks - but he seemed to feel that there was a reason they were carried out.
The other student didn't give specifics about how she felt about America. But when I asked a different student why he wanted to live in the United States she emphatically stated that she would never do that. The disgust was dripping off her words. She said the only city worth much of anything was New York.
For some reason I couldn't shake this one off. I felt like I had just driven into a brick wall. I asked her if I had done something to offend her and she said no. But the tears came hard and fast. The proverbial "Lump in your throat" was real, and I was physically affected. I left class to try to get control of myself but it didn't help.
When I thought about it, I realized I was Homesick - with a capital H. I knew that no matter how well I represented my country there are always people who are willing to show their disdain for the United States. I instantly wanted to go home and be surrounded by people who love my country. It really knocked the wind right out of me.
I almost skipped class the next day (my last day), but I went. As soon as I walked in the lump returned and I fought back tears the entire morning and left as soon as class was over.
After a couple of days I "got over it" but it was an emotionally tiring couple of days. When I retell the story it sounds so trivial. I an not surprised it happened though. I believe it is just part of the process of being away from home for so long. Especially since we just recently were asked to stay a second year.
How about you? Have you experienced homesickness before? What triggered it and how did you cope? Leave your comments below...