This is something I’m often asked, and I’m sure lots of other people who’ve emigrated are, too. I always find it hard to explain that after so long living abroad there are plenty of things in my own country, the UK, that I’m just not used to any more.
Often, people think I must miss speaking my own language. But these days it’s easy – arguably too easy – to access news and entertainment in any language you want. Besides, you can never escape the English language, and certainly not in the Netherlands.
Also, I left the UK before several major events: three general elections, 7/7, the London Olympics… There have been lots of technological changes since I left, too, and I don’t know my way around British digital TV, Internet providers or mobile phone companies. Catchphrases from new TV programmes mean nothing to me, and large-scale immigration from Poland, for example, began after I left. Even after only two years in this country, I’m already more familiar with the Dutch equivalents of all these things.
In my experience, when you’ve been living outside your own country for a long time you feel as much of an outsider there as in the country you live in. (That’s despite the Internet – I probably listen to BBC Radio 4 more than I should, and I subscribe to a British newspaper.) That’s not a bad thing: knowing another country or countries well means you could can see both your native country and others more objectively.
What it comes down to is that home is much more than a country. It’s the people you live and spend time with, the places you go to, your job, your hobbies and so on. At some point you have to decide whether your priority is where you started out or where you live now, and day to day it’s where you live now that’s more important.