Being back


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I had no idea how I was going to feel setting foot on land in my home country. It was the first time I’d been in England for about four years. I touched down in London at about 7 am last Tuesday. The first thing I noticed was the cold. I’d bought myself a coat from Castro in Bangkok the day before, but I was still shivering and couldn’t feel my hands.

The next thing I noticed was how bloody expensive everything is. It cost me almost 20 quid to travel from Gatwick to Heathrow – an hour’s journey between London’s two major airports. You can’t even eat a sandwich for less than three pounds or use a payphone for less than 40 pence. Trains, buses, coaches, taxis: the cost of travel in the UK is ridiculous. Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve been spoilt in Asia. It’s hard to say.

My six days in England went like this: Gatwick, Heathrow, around London, Sheffield, London, Sheffield, Bath, Heathrow. I was on a mission to catch up with as many friends as possible. I didn’t get to see everyone I was hoping to, but I met up with most of the people I’d been thinking of, wondering what they had been doing.

There was no awkwardness. With each group of friends, we slipped into familiar routines, patterns, habits. It was almost as if I hadn’t been away. People haven’t changed much. They’ve moved on and up, found new jobs, rented new places to live, but for the most part it’s same old, same old.

It was depressing to hear how bad a lot of people are doing financially. Many of my friends are working decent jobs, but they’re still struggling to make ends meet. England is very expensive. The flailing global economy certainly isn’t helping people. Everybody seems to be waiting to leave the country, be it for a short holiday or an extended period of traveling.

I was elated to see old friends, but I couldn’t help feeling that England is a depressing place. It was getting dark at about 3 pm. There was no sunlight. It was freezing cold to the point that I was sleeping in my coat most nights.

A little while ago, I wrote that I had made up my mind never to return to live in the UK. After spending a week back there, I’ve never been more certain of my conviction. Perhaps I’ll be lambasted for saying this, but part of the appeal of living abroad is how comparatively cheap everything is. Saying this, if I go through with a move to Dubai, Hong Kong or Japan, I’ll have to go back to a near-Western existence, but still, I’ll be in Asia (or the Middle East).

Europe has lost its shine for me. I love Asia: the people, the food, the climate, the way of living. I’m digressing, anyway. I was really expecting some kind of reverse culture shock when I was in the UK. It didn’t happen.

I couldn’t get used the food, temperature, prices and all, but being back home was like watching an old movie you love that you haven’t seen for years. On the plane over from Bangkok I watched Home Alone and almost cried. It was a similar emotion.

I soon realized that when I’m in Asia, what I miss most is that special kind of conversation that you can only have with people you’ve known for years. No matter how close I become to people in Thailand, Timor or wherever, the feeling is never the same as with people back home.

It was also refreshing to be surrounded by people who had more to talk about than Thailand and Timor. I don’t know why I don’t find much about Western people in Asia to interest me. It might just be that I’m a cynical git.

Although my nostalgia trip has cost me an awful lot, it has been worth every penny, if only to remind myself about the things I’ve left behind. I’m now in the French countryside visiting my mother, her boyfriend and my brother.

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4 thoughts on “Being back

  1. "I don’t know why I don’t find much about Western people in Asia to interest me." I feel the same, I'm hoping it's cause of meeting the wrong people.

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