When Expats Move “Back Home”

Expat life is living in an international community apart from where you are “originally from”. Eventually we tend to move elsewhere or “back home”. Here is my take on what happens when expats move back home – this happened to me at least.


  1. Are you sure you’re from here?

The way you act, speak, dress, and everything else about you isn’t local. Even if you look like everyone else, there is still something off about you. Are you sure you’re from here?

With that aside are we talking passport – ethnicity – where I grew up – where I was born – … always a complicated question to answer.

  1. People still question where you grew up

Why is it so hard to believe that I grew up in Saudi Arabia in a compound that had absolutely nothing to do with Saudi Arabia? It was more like a mini America made for expats.

It’s like that little piece of information is so hard to believe that people decide against acknowledging its existence.

  1. Your accent is weird

This might not relate to everyone, but when you start speaking your “first language” everyone looks at you strangely because you talk funny.

It could be because you picked up a different accent depending on what you’re talking about, certain words, or the mood you’re in.

And of course those slang terms that you use that originate from at least seven different countries because of the international community you grew up in.

  1. You have weird habits

The little habits and quirks that you have don’t really align with where you’re living. They don’t really align with anywhere except for the bubble you grew up in.

  1. Lost in mainstream media translation

There is this media culture that people from “back home” grew up to – it could be movies, plays, songs, things we probably didn’t have growing up. A majority of the people reference popular movie phrases or actions and we’re left awkwardly giggling along while mentally adding another “classic” movie to add to the list of things we need to watch to catch up to the culture

  1. Food

For years it was a different country’s dish a day. During international day as an expat, we would proudly bring delicacies of our “home” countries, only to move back to find out that there is so much more we have yet to discover!

  1. Define Common Knowledge

Most of the common information we have is of more value “back home” like details of almost every airline and various airports & customs ethics.

Funny, we know places to go in almost every country except for the one we claim to be from.

  1. Am I a snob? Or am I myself?

People think you’re faking it. Yes people, I am actually like this. I am in no way trying to act differently. It’s just who I am, how I was built. It’s in my programming. And yes, this paragraph sounds extremely snobbish, but hey, gotta give people like us a break.

  1. Admit it, you’re foreign

We have a strange sense of belonging – or this strange need to sense belonging, but at the end of the day we’re foreign. No matter what we do, or how we were raised regarding our “original culture” we just can’t compare to the people who were born and bred “back home”.

You’re foreign regardless.

  1. Culture Shock Culture Shock Culture Shock

I thought growing up in an international community would prepare me for anywhere, but moving “back home” was the biggest shock of my life. It’s almost been three years and I’m still trying to figure out this chaotic excuse for a system. But I have to admit; it definitely does have a way of magically working out.

Give it a few more years and I’ll understand how.

-Noor Gharbo