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The trip back home that helped me put my Berlin woes into perspective

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The trip back home that helped me put my Berlin woes into perspective
Glasgow. Photo: DPA
17:01 CEST+02:00
Life moves on without you. This is not a pleasant thing to come to terms with when you move, let alone to another country. But it’s a fact for all of us who have left somewhere and returned to where we came from.

Let’s rewind a few months to when I visited Scotland from Germany in March, desperate for a chippy and the premium experience of staying in a home with a dishwasher and a washing machine.

For the most part, one week in my native country was the perfect break, and I was delighted to be back. I was one plastic cup of wine away from belting out 500 Miles as we flew over my old city of Glasgow.

Yet, the home which existed in my memory was not the one reflected on a quick trip home.

Despite the relatively short amount of time, Glasgow was different. I was entirely out of the loop with new developments in the city, from which new places had opened and which of my beloved haunts had closed.

Sure, these things didn’t affect me; I wasn’t there permanently to feel the impact of a rapidly gentrifying city. But it still made me melancholic to see that I had become simply a visitor.

READ ALSO: Reverse culture shock - the troubles of leaving Germany for home

Then there were the people. Many of them had moved on to pastures new of their own. Whether they were university pals who had new jobs elsewhere or family members juggling their own responsibilities, I couldn’t make plans that smoothly slotted into their lives the way I once did.

More troubling to me was the realization with the same people that many of us had set off on different courses. During one particular catch up, a friend mentioned she had started saving for a house deposit, with a view to becoming engaged soon. With such a prospect so unthinkable to me in my current circumstances in Berlin, it was clear we suddenly had less common ground.

Despite having only relocated a few months prior to visiting, I was baffled by how much life had changed at home, and how I no longer seemed to fit into it.

Such changes that take place while you’re away can feel unsettling, particularly after your first go back. Personally, I was a little disappointed.

But life at home becoming irreversibly different is the inevitable truth which will actually benefit your move abroad. That isn’t to say it doesn’t feel difficult to accept at the time. After all, the difficulties can feel personal, particularly with old friends and family. They all saw your Facebook airport check-in, right?

Yet one of the most positive progressions you can take in your new life is accepting that the life you left behind will never be quite the same. Struggling to adapt to your new surroundings, suspecting that life at home continues to be unflinchingly good without you, probably only makes the situation worse.

In fact, that trip home marked a turning point in my own struggles with adapting to life in Berlin. I love Scotland dearly, but it just wasn’t the same. The trip served as a much-needed reminder to stop pining for my old home and start investing in enjoying my new one.

As I have written before, I struggled with depression when I first moved to the German capital. But when I returned from the UK, I found myself appreciating the parts of Berlin that I’d overlooked. From being able to cycle or rollerblade freely on the streets, to the overall considerably more efficient public transport - that time to experience the less ideal parts of home also gave me a sense of fondness for my new city.

The alcohol licensing laws in Scotland were also a shock to return to (no alcohol can be purchased from supermarkets after 10pm). In Germany, citizens are actually trusted enough to drink their alcohol responsibly at any time of day.

That visit also highlighted just how much German was becoming naturalized into my vocabulary. At the merest touch of shoulders in a cramped train, my first response was a flustered “Entschuldigung!” Is there a better sign that you are more settled in your new country than you realized?

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Besides, Scotland will always be there. That’s why I’m debating making another trip back in the summer (Germany just doesn’t do “chippy chips”). But this time around, I’ll be okay with the fact that the place I left behind won’t be the same one I’m coming back to. It won’t be like old times. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be bad.

After you move abroad, life moves on without you - your friends, family, the street you lived on, the haunts you frequented. And that’s the best outcome you could wish for.

Your life won’t sit at a standstill, restricted of opportunity to evolve and grow. Instead, it’s a sign of the inevitable: life moves onward whether you’re home or away. No matter how your former abode changes in the meantime, your life will no doubt take its own course too.

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Imran - 31 May 2018 19:54
A really nice and nostalgic article.
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