I strongly believe that we all experienced travels to a country or city with which we somehow do not “click” or where what “clicks” feels utterly wrong.
Reasons can be plenty-fold and are trivial in many cases. The weather turns bad on the day of visit, the guy bumping into us (which causes our brand new bag to land elegantly in a puddle of water, generously liberating itself from its belongings in the act…), the architecture highlights of the city which cause bewilderment instead of delight. We have all been there, haven’t we? And returning home we tell our friends that we “have seen” it. Chapter closed with no intention to re-open it.
As an Expat – so for someone living outside his or her home country – this might happen just the same way for his guest country. And I am convinced that building an opinion happens just as fast and based on gutt feelings as for any weekend tourist.
My personal experience, which is completely non-representative has been that whenever I change place (and that is just the same within my native Germany: I have never been more Expat than living in Swabia as a Rhinelander) I adjust my radar to the super-sensitive mode. I try to observe and capture as much as I can, understand how to move and act in this undiscovered, new terrain I am in now in. And as much as that is a valid survival instinct it might as well lead to over-interpret small things which does not help. But who has the distance from herself to see that when it happens?
Most prominently for me the “I’ve seen it!” applied for The Hague in The Netherlands. I moved to The Hague in 2008 – in the middle of an emotionally difficult period. The work environment underwent a radical change and some people did doubt their professional future, which had an own dynamic. The political climate was peculiar, too. With right wing politicians on the rise the package was not an ideal one to enjoy the new environment – and that picture, once established stuck. When I left The Hague I was convinced it was for good. Well, hell sometimes seems to freeze over – and in that case it seems we try things in a different way, too.
Now it is 2014 and I am back! And what is more: I enjoy myself massively!
What makes it a different experience for me this time is sure ly as well that I feel better than back in 2008. Glasses appear to be rather “half full” than “half empty”. My working environment ran through a lot of changes and is now taking shape, which is I believe is a fortunate case for me. I enjoy cycling to work a lot as it represents a little journey every time. These 25 minutes lead me through a park which ends at the Peace Palace. I cycle through the labyrinth of little streets of the centre with its equally cosy shops and coffee’s to reach China Town and eventually the train station Holland Spor (the office is just behind the train station).
That makes half an hour delightful cycling each time – and it is simply nicer than the stretch 6 years ago. One of the learnings therefore is, that it makes a big difference to my well-being to live in an area that offers me that, some nice coffee’s and restaurants nearby – an area where I enjoy roaming around. We searched for a flat accordingly.
The unlikely return had a truly great start – to be continued!