It has been around 8 months since I visited Germany the last time. I miss my home country, especially my family and friends. But I’ve also built a life in America. Has the U.S. become my home? Want to find out what visiting home as an expat is like? Keep on reading!
I’m writing this sitting in the airplane that takes me back to my “old life”. I’m traveling for business, so it was quite a surprise that I get to fly to Germany this year. I didn’t really plan on visiting, as I feel like I should see a lot more of America.
So when I got the news I was really excited, but putting more thought into it, sitting in the airplane by myself, I’m having mixed feelings about this trip.
Don’t get me wrong, of course I’m excited to see my family and friends, but I also feel like I can’t please everyone on these short trips and that leaves me a little stressed and feeling guilty.
Flying to my home country makes we wonder:
Where is my home and what does it mean?
To me the meaning of “home” became more and more fluent, the more I traveled. Of course there’s my parents’ house that I grew up in, which will always be home. But then there’s all the work and energy I put into building my home across the Atlantic Ocean. There’s my boyfriend of almost two years, who I miss dearly when he’s not around. Is he my home now? Maybe home is not as much of a place, but more a warm and comfortable feeling, the feeling of being loved? Fact is I can’t really tell where my number one home is. I guess it can be all over the world, as long as the place makes me happy.
Visiting my hometown makes me excited but also gives me anxiety
There’s no better feeling than seeing my family and friends after such a long time, hang out with them and finally talk face to face again. I also love to see how my hometown has changed. Every time I visit, there are new restaurants, little stores and bars to explore.
The problem is that everyone wants to plan things, everyone asks for appointments and if I want to see a lot of people, I have to plan well in advance. There’s hardly any room to be spontaneous. I quickly feel stressed, because I want to make the people I love happy and I don’t want to let anyone down.
I feel guilty if I don’t get to see everyone
Whenever I visit Germany, I try to avoid making anyone feel left out. This is hard – and I don’t always succeed. Some of my friends live a few hours away, so I’d need lots of time to hang out with them. Of course I could make the time if I really wanted to, but at some point my whole trip would be rushed and stressful – it would take away from the time I get to spend with my family. I can’t make everyone happy, and it’s also not my job to do so. My friends should understand that I’m not able to spend several days away from my family when I’m in Germany. I hope this doesn’t come along as selfish, but I tend to get very protective of the little time I have when I’m visiting.
Spend equal time with family and friends
When I visit Germany, I stay with my parents. This makes it easy to forget scheduling actual quality time with them, as I usually get to see them every day for breakfast and dinner anyway. It’s important to make it a priority and not just make them a “filler” between the other events and visits I have scheduled.
Be well prepared
Since I’ve moved to America, there’s always something that needs to get accomplished when I visit my home country. There’s also lots of shopping to do, of all the delicious food and chocolate that I can’t get in the U.S. I like to write lists before my trip, so I don’t forget anything.
Don’t underestimate the jet-lag
When I travel to Germany for a week, I feel like I need to use every single minute of my trip to do something useful. I always forget to schedule me-time to relax. Especially in the beginning of my visit I tend to plan too much, which leaves me exhausted from my jet-lag and sometimes I even have to cancel my plans because I’m just too tired.
Does a visit to my home country count as an actual vacation?
Now that I live and work in the U.S. I have exactly 12 days of vacation per year. 12. That means every time I visit Germany (except for business), most of those days are gone and I won’t get to take another trip that same year. It’s a real hard decision to make – choosing between seeing your loved ones and visiting a new country or city and going on an actual vacation.
You might miss your loved ones even more
Sometimes, after my visit, I miss my family and friends from Germany even more. Nothing can replace them and spending actual time with them makes me realize how awesome they all are and that it would be really nice if I got to see them a lot more often. I never really felt homesick after I visited my family, but I can understand how some expats might want to stay, living their “old life”, where everything is familiar and seems to be a little easier.
You realize how time passes
Visiting home certainly shows you how all your friends move on with their lives. They buy homes, get married and have babies – and you’re still in the same old place you’ve been years ago, before you moved. It’s up to you to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I know if I had stayed I would always wonder: What if I had moved to America? What would expat life look like for me?
Did I ever regret my decision to move to America? No! I enjoy exploring the world and I’m the happiest person because I have this once in a lifetime opportunity to live in the USA. I have built a beautiful life here and met the coolest guy in the world – my love! If I had stayed in Germany I’d never get to experience how wonderful it is to wake up in the morning, cross the street and spend the whole day on the beach – all summer long!
Life is what we make it!
What are your thoughts on visiting home as an expat? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
Want to read more about expat life? Find more articles here!