I mean you don’t really have to be living in France to feel a little homesick at the moment right? Or British. You may be living away from your mothership, where you were born and bred and you may well have been in exile for many years. But for some, even those hard core ex-pats/immigrants, who are a dab hand at the living in a different country or countries, rocking the language, culture – even they might want to ‘nip’ back – where ever back is? To see friends and family. But no one is ‘nipping’ back anywhere, anytime soon.
I have not been pining for the UK since we moved to France. The first 8 months were pretty full on and hectic. So much so that if I had had a crystal ball, I probably would have said “yeah, no thanks gonna stay here”. Then I put on an inappropriate amount of weight whereby I needed a shoe horn to get into my jeans – thankfully rectified. If you want to read about how not to get fat in France you can read it here). How, amongst other things by not taking care of myself whilst taking care of everything else.
By that I mean, and by no means an exhaustive list; electrical supply, fosse, telephone pole, kids school/meetings, thinking of a business and setting it up, Carte Vitale, insurances, insurance and more insurances, importing cars and then just cars, cars, cars! That’s just a mini list. I can’t do a bigger list – the scars run deep. So nope. I didn’t have time to think about the UK let alone miss it.
Yes, of course, there are times when I wish I wasn’t living my best panto life. There are times I do ponder what happened to all those lazy lunches, sipping coffee on a sun kissed terrace and walking hand and hand on a deserted beach with a views of Mont St Michel in the background that I had envisaged. Oh yeah, life in France happened. The real edit.
There are times I wish I could just come out with the same rapid fire responses especially in a “hang on I don’t agree with you” kind of way. There are some days I wail to myself about the faff it is to sell a car here, times I want to curl up and stick on BBC Iplayer or SKY. None of which I have by the way. And pretend I can just pop around the corner to see my friend for a cup of tea and a natter. Maybe a cheeky ‘tea time special’ from the best fish n chips take away restaurant in Croydon – McDermotts. But am I normally homesick? No, not at all.
Most days, 98% of the time, I am not homesick. I don’t wish that I still lived in the UK. You can take the gal out of Croydon but where would you put her then? Another country that’s where. I would be fine if I had to return but I would miss France and I have not completed my fluency mission. I am sure there are some more weird and wonderful processes I have not encountered as yet. I have a perverse desire to experience them all. I don’t know what the future holds but it is not in the UK for the time being.
Then Covid happened and going through confinement/lockdown in a different country to that of your friends and families is a bit strange. And I’m not even sure I can very well articulate it, insofar as it’s not a missing the UK as such, or indeed the way in which things are managed by the two governments. It’s wanting to support your friends and family by being physically a bit closer which is hilarious given that you can’t do that in any event!
You just feel so far away and without an end date in sight. Funnily enough, I speak with my family and friends more than I ever did which probably just compounds the problem even more. You feel closer to them. You can off load your thoughts and feelings and pick each other up as everyone has had good and bad days during the confinement. I wrote about the Top 10 way to get through lock down here and it can be regurgitated for reconfinement! My favourite is whatsapp without a shadow of doubt. By the way, I need a new playlist.
The problem is, as I see it, that you can’t go back easily. And when you can’t do something you want to do it even more than perhaps you might ordinarily wanted to in the first place. So for us Brits here in France, it’s not that straight forward to go and visit family and friends in the mothership. Likewise nor is it for them. And as for Americans who weren’t/aren’t even allowed into France at all…..I feel for you.
Travel is restricted insofar as ferry companies (still not accepting foot passengers) are running a limited service. The only two airports that I could fly out of to London have stopped operating and it’s a long old haul up to Calais even if I am a bit partial to the Eurotunnel. As I type Macron has just announced that the borders within the Schengen zone will be tightened due to the recent terrorist attacks. As I type (again) Boris has announced that you can’t go on an international holiday outside of England. That and not being about to protest. That’s now against the law – I can’t even…
Not only that, if you go to the UK, you have to quarantine for 14 days. Last year I didn’t take the kids back for Halloween as we had the whole UK leaving on 31st October. I didn’t fancy sitting in a massive car park on the motorway somewhere in the middle of Kent. I went the week before. Such a shame as, sorry France, Halloween is a bit lame (I know it’s not your thing and you do try) here and my sister’s street is amazing. Alas we missed it.
Actually come to think about it things have been pretty crap in terms of world wide events since 2016. I can’t remember a time where things weren’t pretty dire. Or can I?
There’s always something isn’t there? Be it the Gulf War, terrorist attacks, mass shootings – cheery this one – and if you want to go back further I remember when there were no litter bins on train stations. Why? Well the IRA had a habit of putting bombs in them so you had to take your litter home with you. But they also did, when they felt like it, give you a heads up as to when one was about to go off. I remember I was 14 in Oxford Street with a friend and we had to evacuate due to a bomb scare. Our shopping expedition was cut short.There used to be a lot of disruption in that regard. That was old school terrorism. It’s progressed to hard core. I digress.
Last year, I did all the normal ‘get my UK fix’ in a whistle stop tour of my home town and my adopted town – Croydon. I filled my trolley up like a demented contestant in supermarket sweep – Geroge at Asda, Sainsbury’s, Homebase etc with both me and kids squealing with nostalgia. I marvelled at my ability to have a full on conversation with the check out lady and the general banter and humour you come across. Yes, we do just talk to anyone and strike up a conversation. For example, “are you thirsty?” pipped up a random stranger behind me in the queue of Aldi upon eyeing up 30 bottles of high strength juice in orange and blackcurrant. I laughed and said yeah just a bit – then explained the whole not liking the syrup juice in France and a chat ensued. I had one mission that was to stock up. I had lists to do, to get and a car full of bounty. When you return from the UK with cheap cheddar, various cheeses, back bacon, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce, mixed dried fruit, Chorly cakes, teabags and £5 whopping great tubs of chocolates. You come back a hero (excuse the pun) my friends.
We had a great time whilst Mr Normandy, a UK exile, who is never looking to go back anytime ever (spoil sport) stayed in France. Another post for another time. A visit to London, a proper Chinese take-away and visiting family and friends. They would also make the trip over to France, so I got my fix at least once or twice a year. Now there is no fix.
And even if you did go back ‘home’ or to the mothership – how much fun is 14 days quarantine, with nothing open and nothing to do in real terms? You could end up driving each other nuts and wondering why an earth you missed your people in the first place!
And that’s just it isn’t it? When all is said and done they are ‘your people’ just like when you find the one – “he’s your person/she’s your person” that special someone that top trumps all others. The person that gets you. No explanation needed. Everyone should have a person! And now your people are frustrated for their old lives and the distance in some way magnifies the pandemic homesickness.
So there you have it. Are you homesick during this pandemic? Do you miss your people? Or are your people here right with you? Let me know in the comments below or do come on over to my facebook page of the same name.
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4 thoughts on “Do You Have Pandemic Homesickness?”
I know what you mean! I am a Canadian, and have often either while living in the UK or now France, would go back to Canada for my mother’s birthday in October (she 99 years old this year), but due to Covid I am not able to. I have been living in France for over 3 years now, and while I am proud to be a Canadian, I don’t ever envision living in Canada for any length of time ever again. Yes, it has been hard. The French do things different than Canadians and the British, but I love the culture, the work/life balance, the food, even though I am in the process of shedding the pounds I gained when we moved here. I will never be able to become a French citizen, my language skills I doubt will ever be to the level needed for citizenship, but I am making gains, and am glad to be here. Where we come from has formed us, but France will continue to change us, for the better.
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Hi Thomas, I’m so sorry you haven’t been able to go and see your mother – wow 99 years old that is amazing! Yes they certainly do do things differently and it is sometimes for that reason you feel out of place and especially now! Another person who put on weight – I wish someone would tell you that I would have been more prepared. You need level B1 for nationality which is totally achievable and there is a lot of help available. I am currently in a French 3 hour workshop which is free whilst I wait for the intensive course and it really helps. Thank you so much for your comment. Best wishes Natasha x
Hiya! I haven’t seen my boy and his wife for over a year now .. can’t get out to see them in Normandy so know exactly what you are saying ! Now that Flybe has gone I will have to try and find another way of getting to them (when all this is over.. if ever!) I don’t want to go by ferry and as you say “no foot passengers “ I don’t have a car!! I’m gutted and missing two of MY people. Sending hugs and hope for us both it will soon open up again! Love Glyn Ford ( Pams friend ) x
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Hi Glyn, yes it’s so hard and the whole no foot passengers has affected many that do not have a car. I feel for you? I hope you get to see your people soon. Much love Natasha x