I’ve just left my family and childhood home behind me, and though I’m not quite back in Paris, I’ve been thinking a lot about the stretch of distance, and its effects on me.
I haven’t experienced homesickness in any chronic sense – at least not yet. I seem to miss things most when I have just left them, and then as a pang, rather than a pining. Give me a few days to settle into being away, and I’m invariably fine.
But that doesn’t mean I never think of what lies back across the ocean. Here is a list of the things that I miss most, excluding the obvious ones like friends and family. Any other expats out there, please feel free to add your own in the comments below!
1. Brambles and country lanes
In Paris, walking is my favourite pastime. Pen and paper in bag, sometimes in the company of a good book, I like to wander, on long walks without destination, in no particular direction. I used to do the same thing when I lived in England, but since my local area was semi-rural, my strolls took place on riversides, or through miles of fields, where I would pick blackberries and sit under old trees watching sheep mill over the grass. I miss the British countryside, with the sound of the wind rustling through the hedges, and the blackbirds with their quick bright eyes.
2. The weather
I came home hoping to experience a downpour, and all the other various extremes of the crazy British weather. Paris has been, in spring and summer, the definition of a holiday destination. It has been lusciously warm and sunny, and I can think of only two occasions during my whole four months there in which things have swayed. In short, the weather in Paris is consistent, predictable, and boring. I miss the unpredictable nature of the British skies, and the way they dictate frantic spontaneity on rare days of good weather.
3. The sea
This one came as no surprise to me, because the ocean is one of my great loves. I like to write about it, read about it, be in it, on it and beside it, sucking in lungfuls of brine. In Paris I can tell that I’m further from the shore. The air is different, and the wind less wild. I didn’t visit the beach that often when I had easy access to it, and I regret that as an opportunity wasted. One day, when I’m white-haired and my sight is failing, I envisage that I will take a little cottage on the coast, and listen to the waves every night as I fall asleep.
4. British men
Whaaat? Deanna, you can’t be serious. But for all that I never predicted this, I am. It has taken going away and being surrounded by men from other cultures to make me realise that I value a cultural connection. French humour is not the same, and as diverse the selection of potential lovers in Paris is, it’s not a context in which I enjoy my foreignness. Culture and language create extra walls beyond the many I already struggle to climb when it comes to relationships. Sad, but true, is the admission that I live in the City of Love, but don’t anticipate much romance before I return to the UK.
5. Rubbish food
Sometimes you just want to eat dirt. Not literally, but something of equivalent nutritional value. In Paris, finding something that isn’t beautifully garnished, seasoned and sauced is a challenge. British food is awful, but I do kind of miss that, along with lots of other little things that I didn’t really notice until I’d left them behind.