“Sometimes homesickness feels like getting stabbed in the chest.”
That’s a direct quote from me. But let me be very clear – I wrote this in a highly emotional moment when I was throwing the dark thoughts out of my head so I could rid myself of them. I’ve also never been stabbed in the chest and in reality, can’t imagine it would feel similar.
What I was referring to is the homesickness surprise attack. Because when I return to Austria after a few weeks in Oz, or when I wave goodbye to my parents at Vienna airport, or when I get off the phone from a friend enjoying their warm summer on the other side of the world, I expect the homesickness. And because I’m expecting it, and I’m ready for it, it doesn’t seem to hit as hard. I can have a cry, I can get a hug from hubby, or I can sniffle a bit and remind myself that this was my decision.
‘Sneak attack’ home sickness is the one that stabs you out of the blue.
There’s something that happens when someone from Australia comes to visit me in Austria. I’ve observed it myself when other non-Austrians have visitors from their home country. The talking moves quicker, the accent gets thicker and the slang starts rolling out. It’s the same with me. It’s unintentional but almost unavoidable to switch back into Aussie mode.
One of my great childhood memories were our Saturday porridge mornings. It was Dad’s thing. Every Saturday morning he’d make porridge. Generally he’d prepare and cook it, then head out to buy the paper, and on his return it would be the perfect sloppy consistency, ready to be rewarmed and served.
I’ve since discovered there’s heaps of stuff you can put in porridge, but back then, there was only one way – with sultanas, brown sugar and milk. If we were really lucky, there was cream in the fridge, and a dollop added a little bit of heaven to the morning.
I rebelled in my later years and began adding currents instead of sultanas (crazy, I know), but since moving to Austria, the land without brown sugar and currents (at least in obvious places), I had to adapt. So here’s what I do now:
It’s one of those things we only dream about… flying first class. I’ve flown business before, with a free miles upgrade, but first was something that was probably never going to transpire. Yet when I flew to Australia recently, that’s exactly what happened.
We’d initially planned for business class. My back would not have survived 24 hours of economy, so booking something that allowed a fully reclinable seat was an imperative for me to even consider the journey.
The jump in price from economy to business is monstrous… the jump to first is still hard to swallow but comparatively not as hard. So we figured, with the extra benefits of first, why not take the leap. And if you’re going to do it, why not do it properly? So with some trepidation about my back, but a little spring in my step, I boarded an Emirates A380 for my 24 hours of luxury. Was it worth it, you ask? Well read on!
Two years had passed since seeing my friends and family back in Oz… two years since I’d had the searing Aussie sun on my back, since experiencing the feeling of crispy summer-sun-dried grass on the soles of my feet… It’s not an eternity. It’s not impossible to endure. Not when I chose to live so far away.
But it had been a hard two years of lockdowns and back pain and then the joyful but also emotional news of pregnancy. And I yearned with every part of me to get home.
And so eventually, after changing my mind, and changing it back, I did just that.
I’m usually a fairly optimistic person. But I have been a bit down lately, as many of you read in my recent blog posts. But I have to say a big thank you, to everyone that reached out to give me a bit of love and support, and reminded me that it is all going to be ok. Because it is going to be ok.
I was already feeling more positive… the sun was shining, the weather was warming up… and despite the fact that the world was still being super crazy, I was doing ok at letting go of things out of my control.
And then suddenly I found myself on a plane to Australia.
People are always asking me about the differences between living in Austria as opposed to Australia. I always reel off the big, easy ones – the culture, the language, the weather, the fact there’s no ocean and so on. Of course let’s not forget the quirkier ones like the fact that they tend to use foil instead of cling wrap and that you always have to pack your own groceries. If you haven’t already read it, check out my blog on the 25 differences between Austria and Australia.
But there is one other big thing. And it can’t be reconciled – it can’t be learnt, and it’s really hard to get used to. Because it’s the past. It’s the fact that the way I grew up versus the way the people around me grew up is completely different. I’m not saying that it’s bad. I’m just saying that it is.
There are thousands of people all over the world who haven’t been able to get home and see loved ones during the pandemic. They’ve missed births, deaths, weddings, divorces and everything in between. It’s heartbreaking. But what it does demonstrate, is that even though we’ve all gotten used to the fact that the world does not seem so big, it’s still a bloody big world. I’m sad that I haven’t seen my friends and family back home for two years. But the thing is, this is kind of what I signed up for.
When you move to a new country there’s a huge element of adaption that takes place. You might have to speak in a different language, drive on the other side of the road, buy more suitable clothes, or get used to new foods. Change is hard, which I think is why so many of us who move to new countries take things with us and do things the way we used to – even if it makes life more difficult sometimes.
The world is abuzz with the news that it’s actually going to happen… Australia is finally talking about opening its international borders. I’ve been hearing murmurings for a while, but when it hit globally the other day, a number of people got in touch to spread the love. It even made it to Austrian news, so you know it’s big.
Except I can’t help but feel a little bit cynical about the whole thing.