I recently went home for a couple of weeks recently.
It’s a bit odd having moved away from Singapore – where I grew up, went to school, studied and worked at – for almost five years now.
You’d think that I would feel like a foreigner when I visit my original home once a year. Many tell me about a “new” building that was already there before I left. That’s how long it felt like I’ve been gone perhaps. Because of that, I put in an extra effort to be as local as possible while I’m there.
Any cultural differences that H points out, I simply brush aside now and the obvious, almost as de facto and everything he knew was weird. I would punctuate my sentences a little more frequently with Singlish, speak in Mandarin with the coffee shop owners, just simply try to fit in.
Actually, I do that while I’m back in Berlin too. I insist in speaking German even though the waiter might’ve taken one look at my face and switched to English. I can’t even remember having ever spoken in English to his best friends – although I had met them before I even started learning German.
I have a strong need to feel a local in both homes.
But the fact that the two homes are so vastly different means that with a simple act of taking a flight back to Berlin, I suddenly didn’t feel like I could cope with the change. It felt a little like my body had arrived but my brain hadn’t.
These old buildings, the ice cold wintery days, the wind and the woods. It was a big change from one to the next.
I guess I’m going to need to start accepting the fact that I will always be a little bit local and a little bit foreign in both countries.