Very soon I shall have lived in the UK for 5 years. FIVE WHOLE YEARS. 6, really, if you count 2014 where I flew back and forth while studying, but generally I don’t.
When you live away from family I think it’s ridiculously easy to become used to living life at a relentless pace. The years tend to be remembered by the immigration paperwork that was filled out in them.
- 2010 was The Year I Arrived, with my Youth Mobility Scheme visa stuck neatly in.
- 2012, The Year of the Returned Unmarried Spouse Visa (I’d used an old form that had been changed the day before I sent it), before getting the actual visa ID card.
- 2013 was The Year of Figuring Out How to Stay in the UK, and more to the point, did I want to?
- 2014 was The Year of Finding Mysterious Paperwork To See If I Can Get Polish Citizenship.
- 2015 was The Year of Day Trips to Calais to Re-Enter on an EU Passport.
What immigration delights will 2016 bring? It may well have something to do with an upcoming Referendum. (Please dear God let them stay in the GD EU – I spent an awful lot of money on this).
I feel as though I can spot an expat at 50 paces these days. We all have the same characteristics:
- You have an intimate knowledge of visa applications.
- You irrationally fear the Border Control at any airport, even when you’re not flying!
- You laugh in the face of people who think they deal with a lot of ‘paperwork’ – they don’t know the meaning of the word until they’ve tried to decipher what in the world the Home Office is actually asking you to prove.
- You smile and nod blandly when friends start reminiscing about a TV program they grew up watching. Absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
- You still think you’re quite good at a quiz but in fact have no clue about 75% of the questions.
- You’re not quite sure if you’re allowed to vote in any of the many elections, but turn up anyway, just in case.
- When you meet another expat, your first 5 minutes of conversation involved working out by which convoluted means have each of you managed to emigrate.
- You’ve forgotten which friends know each other, only to be reminded when you’re greeted with a blank look from your partner.
- You get the guilts from booking any holiday that isn’t back to your country of origin.
- You’re not even annoyed when Skype automatically opens each time you start your computer.
- You never go to School Reunions, choosing instead just to stalk Facebook photos.
- At least once every six months you have a weird few days when you’re pissed off at everyone because they’re not your family and it’s their fault.
There is something quite unique about living in a foreign country that you just don’t experience when you’re travelling through. You end up seeing such a lot of the mundanity of life that you thought you’d escaped when you left home. But somehow it’s different, because you have just a tiny bit more distance – it becomes more quaint mundanity.
You have a marked card as an expat which can sometimes feel awful. Other times it’s a bit of insurance – I can always go home if I want to.
But, all things considered, I don’t want to. 5 years in and my relationship with Ol’ Blighty is stronger than ever. At this point, going home would mean starting all over again, and to be perfectly frank, I can’t really be bothered. I feel settled and while I’m sure the next 5 years will bring plenty of events that make me feel less so, I want to enjoy this feeling while it lasts.